Monday, January 14, 2019

Decolonizing Hispaniola

By Dalila Frías

In Cultured Company hosted their second Decolonizing Hispaniola: The Sancocho and Soup Joumou Edition at the First Spanish Methodist Church on 163rd E 111st in New York City on November 30, 2018.  The facilitators consisted of: Alexis Francisco (Spirituality Role in Healing Historical Trauma), France Fancois (Imagining Haitian History and Identity), Saudi Garcia (Imagining Dominican History and Identity), and Cassandre Theano (Justice and Social Movements for Human Rights). Sancocho which is a Dominican soup consisting of meat (chicken or beef) with plantains, yucca, carrots, potatoes, etc. and Haitian soup Joumou consisting of winter squash with beef, potato, carrots, celery, etc. (beef and vegan option) were served for everyone to enjoy.  The organizations’ website describes the event as

An intimate gathering for people of Haitian and Dominican descent to deconstruct the divisions that define Hispaniola and discuss how to move past the current narrative to reshape our future. Break bread with us and share the soups that embody the strength and resilience of these two people.
The discussions will center around evaluating our ideas of nationality, nationhood, ethnicity, race, color, class, colonial identity, historical memory and trauma, spirituality and economic inequality in the context of DR & Haiti. Honest questions and dialog will be encouraged as expert facilitators provide the tools, knowledge, and provocation to deconstruct our collective histories, identities, and examine the power dynamics that support and sustain the current status quo.

The event consisted of presentations of the history from both Dominican Republic and Haiti, past and current political, economic and social conflicts, and issues surrounding citizenship for Dominicans of Haitian descent.  Facilitators Saudi, France, and Cassandre gave an in-depth relationship between the two countries which share the same land.  Some of the issues Saudi and France spoke on were the issue concerning Haitian migrants and Dominicans of Haitian descent. In short, Dominicans of Haitian descent are children to Haitian migrants.  Some of these individuals have had their citizenship stripped from them due to the TC-168-13 ruling which is a result of their parents being undocumented and living in the Dominican Republic since 1929. A table below provided by In Cultured Company further explains the circumstances surrounding both Dominicans of Haitian descent and Haitian migrants.

Dominicans of Haitian Descent
Haitian Migrants
Children of the migrants BORN in the Dominican Republic (DR). They are DOMINICAN citizens.
The migrants were born in Haiti. They are HAITIAN citizens. Most of these individuals are great/grandparents and parents of those born in the country.
Born in the country. Some were registered in the Civil Registry. Most were not. TC-168-13, the Constitutional Court decision stripped them of citizenship (meaning DENATIONALIZED) because their parents’ were undocumented when these children were born in the DR. The court decision held that this applies to everyone born to undocumented parents in the DR since 1929.
1929 majority came into the country as labor pool for sugar companies legally under treaties entered into by the DR and Haiti governments. Over time to help facilitate the flow and ease of laborers, bureaucratic niceties such as worker ID cards were not bothered with. Today, most work in agriculture and construction or are cleaning persons, nannies, etc.
Now denationalized, these individuals are not recognized as citizens by any country-not by the DR (country of their birth) and not by Haiti (the country of their parents). So, this is why they are STATELESS.
The migrants came from Haiti. They are Haitian nationals. They are not stateless.
In 2005, Inter-American court of Human Rights held in a decision brought against the DR that- a parent’s immigration status CANNOT determine the citizenship of the child. So TC-168-13 is illegal under international law.

Being kicked out of the country from which you are born is EXPULSION, not deportation. So, when discussing the Dominicans of Haitian descent being forcibly removed from the DR, it is correct to say they are being EXPELLED from their homeland.
DEPORTATION is when a person is kicked out of the country that is not his or her place of birth (foreigner).
LAW 169-14- after international outcry, DR passed this law to give a path to citizenship to those who were denationalized. Law treats them as foreigners (although they were born there). They will have to register (if not already listed in the civil registry) and in 2 years are able to apply for NATURALIZED citizenship. (This is like getting US green card).

The deadline to apply was February 1, 2015.
REGULARIZATION PLAN- applies to Haitian nationals who emigrated to the DR before 2011 without proper documentation. Regularization does not grant nationality to anyone, it simply provides for RESIDENT status to undocumented migrants in the country. (This is like getting a temporary visa).

The deadline to apply was June 17, 2015. This is the date everyone feared. If you are UNDOCUMENTED (whether you were born in the country or are foreigner) the government said you will be kicked out.
Out of 110,000 eligible to register under law 169-14, only about 8,755 actually did. Tens of thousands remain undocumented and can be expelled.
Regularization Plan: About 288,466 have applied by June 17, 2015 (23 nationalities represented in this number, but predominately Haitian migrants). A 2012 government survey indicated there were about 458,223 Haitian immigrants in the country.
What are we ASKING for? Return of citizenship to this group and do not expel them from their country.
What are ASKING for? Calling for a MORATORIUM on all deportations until all migrants have been regularized under the plan. If deportations happen, must be in accordance with international law and due process standards (e.g., give people notice of when deportations going to happen, don’t round them up like cattle, don’t separate parents from children, protect women and children from abuse and trafficking, inform them where in Haiti they will be dropped off, etc.)
Dominican constitution- a distraction the DR government likes to argue is that these individuals are not stateless because they have Haitian citizenship. This is a red herring. The issue is about the DOMINICAN CONSTITUTION which at the time these individuals were born granted them citizenship because they were born in the DR (jus soli). It is illegal to now say that even though the state granted you citizenship, the state is now taking citizenship away from you because you can get it from another country.

HAITIAN CONSTITUTION- to be a Haitian national you need to be the child of a native-born Haitian (either mother or father) AND cannot have renounced Haitian citizenship. So, if you were born in the DR in 1929 to Haitian migrant parents, you are now 86 years old. You lived your whole life as a Dominican and identified as a Dominican, you cannot now claim Haitian citizenship. Also, you grandchildren and great grandchildren cannot have Haitian citizenship because their parents are not native-born Haitians.

Issues Related to Both Groups
Dominican government argues it has a right to its SOVEREIGNTY and to regulate its borders. No one disputes that. However, (1) violations of human rights have no borders. The Dominican government agreed with its principle when it entered into international treaties which it promised to follow. So, we are asking DR to keep in line with sovereign obligations. (2) We are asking DR to follow its own laws. The 2010 Constitution says explicitly that it is NOT RETROACTIVE. So the Court decision TC 168-13 improperly included those born in the country since 1929. (3) DR entered into a protocol with Haiti in 1999 on REPATRATING the Haitian migrants. There is talk of both countries negotiating a new protocol. In the absence of that, at a minimum DR should uphold its end of the agreement.
Haitian migrants flooded DR after earthquake of 2010: while there was an increase of migrants’ present in the country post-earthquake, the government has said 3 million Haitians came over to the DR. For simplicity, let’s put it this way: Haiti has a rough population of 9 million people. If 3 million got up and left, it would’ve been noticed. By everybody. Also, the government’s own figure says there is only about 458,000 or so as 2012.
Table provided by In Cultured Company.

In between presentations, the groups of Dominicans and Haitians at each tables spoke on different topics provided by In Cultured Company while non-Dominican/Haitian individuals sat back to listen to what was on everyone’s minds. Each table also had sheets with more contexts between Dominican and Haitian relations, “DR Human Rights Crisis Fact Sheets,” and a “Make Power Dynamics Visible” sheet which gave a better understanding of what dynamics held power over the other (i.e light skin over dark skin, rich over poor, cis gender over transgender, etc.).

Make Power Dynamics Visible

Light Skin
Dark Skin

College Educated


English First
English Second
Cis Gender
US Citizen/Green Card Holder
Foreign National

Able Bodied
Differently Abled
Non Christian
White/White Passing
Non-White Passing

The facilitators presented a short audio of an interview with Parsley Massacre survivor, Francisco Pierre.  In the interview, Pierre described how he had to gather his things on his donkey and run away from the Dominican army troops who killed men, women and children.  The massacre occurred in October 1937, under the Dominican of Haitian descent dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The act took place in the DR’s northwestern frontier and in some parts of the Cibao region against Haitians living in these parts of the country.  Stemming from conflicts between the two nations as far back from the 19th century, Dominican army troops were ordered by Trujillo to murder Haitians who he believed were stealing cattle from Dominican residents near the “border.”  The Parsley Massacre was named due to Dominican soldiers carrying sprigs of parsley, asking Haitians and Dominicans (ones who had Haitian “features”) to pronounce the word parsley (perejil in Spanish).  The reason behind this was to distinguish who was Dominican and who was Haitian from the way it is pronounced.  

The last facilitator, Alexis, practiced breathing techniques with everyone where with both feet planted on the ground, took a deep breath in and then out while projecting a unique sound noise. Alexis then spoke of the similarities in spirituality between both the Haitian and Dominican communities. The presentation concluded with the sounds of Afro-Caribbean drums from percussionist’s Dasky Menesky and Bembesito.  Although Dasky is from Haiti and Bembesito from the DR, explained the similarities in the sounds and the practice of Dominican Vudu/Haitian Vodou (also known as 21 Divisions), which was banned by Trujillo due to its belief of devil worship/black magic.

Ms. Delah Bee’s Herbal Remedies sold homemade honey’s blended with herbs like moringa, sage, and matcha.  Other honey’s had spices like turmeric and one consisted of charcoal.  The vendor also sold homemade tea bags for anxiety and for lucid dreams (which help with remembering ones dreams). 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Nuns on the Bus Arrive to Hope

Networks’ Nuns on the Bus ( arrived to Hope CommUnity Center (South) in Apopka, FL on Wednesday, October 31, 2018.  For the first time in two years, since their tour in 2016 (, the Nuns got back on the road. This time, their goal is to advocate for Tax Justice on what they are calling their “Tax Justice Truth Tour.” The purpose of the tour is to highlight the injustices to everyday working people that are built into the Tax Bill passed by Congress in 2017, and to call out the many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act that would strip health care coverage from millions of Americans.  The Tax Bill is a giveaway to big corporations on the backs of working people throughout the country, though it was touted as being a boon for the middle class. Carrying the message from people they meet all around the country, the Nuns will conclude their tour at Mar-a-Lago in South Florida, to contrast the realities of grassroots communities with the opulence of the wealthy.

The Sisters got off the bus in Apopka (near Orlando in Central Florida) to be greeted by the Hope CommUnity Center youth group with beautifully handmade posters and cardboard butterflies to share the solidarity in the movement.  Inside HCC, members of the community surrounded the Nuns who encouraged them to vote in this upcoming midterm election.
Everyone then went outside to bask in the warm Florida sunshine. With the magnificently painted “Nuns on the Bus” in the background, those gathered together listened to words of hope in these troubling times, led by the inspirational words of Apopka’s own, Sister Ann Kendrick.  Before sending the nuns off on their next leg of their journey, those who had come together filled out pledge cards and added their signatures to so many others on the side of the bus, in their own way, traveling with the Nuns in spirit on their important mission and message.

Thank you to Nuns on the Bus for spreading love and hope throughout the country.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Interview with Luckner Millien

Luckner Millien at the FWAF Agroecology Meeting in April.
Jean Millien, better known as Luckner, has been working with the Vocational Rehabilitation program since 2006, and has been an active member of the Farmworker Ministry since 1980. He is of Haitian Descent, has one daughter and extended family in another state. In June of this year, Genesis Martinez then part of the Farmworker Association sat down with Luckner for a conversation about the work that he does. The text below is part of the conversation that took place between them on June 18, 2018.

GM: What do you do in your role? Can you recall a memorable case you had?
Luckner: VR [Vocational Rehabilitation] is a kind of job where you have to be dedicated. You come across many different people; some are nice some are not. You might encounter a very complicated case.

In 1991, I had a case that was a huge headache. It was a woman from Haiti who was suffering from fibroids; she came here with no insurance or anything. She was in severe pain. She was a nursery worker. I did the application for her to received help and the counselor in the interview sent her to a doctor. The doctor had decided to do surgery on her to remove the fibroids. He completed the surgery (cut off the fibroids) but something went wrong.  As her recruiter, I had to be there to face all of the difficulties. The doctor could not explain why she was having these issues.The counselor sent her to another doctor, the doctor said she still had some fibroid left and clearly something had gone wrong in the first surgery. This doctor then corrected the mess and she was no longer in pain. I carried a lot of the weight and pressure of this case; I thought about it day and night and couldn’t sleep.

Another case was a Haitian man in 2012-2013. He used to be a farmworker in his country and then switched to restaurant work when he arrived in the U.S. A while after he found out he had prostate cancer. He came to me and we were able to get him radiation for his cancer and he healed from the cancer.

GM: Can you tell me about a case that was very difficult for you?
Luckner: Yes, a Polk County client came to me one day. This woman had cataracts and they had to operate her to remove them in both her eyes. When they did the first eye everything went well, when they did the second one she caught an infection. She started getting ulcers right inside her eye. We could not get an answer as to what happened to her eye and what was going wrong. They did not even tell us it was an infection right away we had to go to several people. Eventually the doctor prescribed her medication and we helped her get it, she felt so much better. She went back to Haiti and they continued with the same medicine. The only thing is she could not continue work in citrus because of the bending. This case was a great success but it was difficult because she was in so much pain and we could not find answers right away.

GM: What makes the work you do important?
 Luckner: The VR program is a very very important program here in our community, especially farmworker populations. Who most likely do not speak English and do not understand the system. They do not know their way around, VR is vital. They don’t have anything, no money to pay. Even transportation, translation, sometimes I go out of my way to assist folks with their other needs outside of VR. You as the outreach person you carry the weight for them; you are helping them find a solution to their problems. Not everyone understands the weight of our program.

Luckner Millien

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Declaración de Tegucigalpa: Más Allá de la Frontera

The following statement is from La Vía Campesina Centroamérica regarding the migrant caravan walking from Honduras and seeking refuge in the United States against the conditions that have created that situation, demands that guarantee their safety, and policies that make these conditions and situations unnecessary. The Farmworker Association of Florida is a North America member of La Vía Campesina.

“Más allá de la frontera”

Reunidos en Tegucigalpa Honduras América Central los días 23 y 24 de octubre 2018, con delegados de Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá  y Honduras. En Via Campesina representamos millones de familias campesinas, Trabajadores del Campo, Pueblos Originarios y Pescadores, estamos conscientes de que es el sistema capitalista quien por sus acciones causa la movilidad humana de miles de familias que son desplazados de sus lugares de origen a migrar en busca de mejores condiciones de vida.

Desde hace nueve 9 años, el pueblo hondureño vive una crisis humanitaria, económica, social y política que ya tocó fondo, la única influencia externa son las políticas del Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial, quienes junto a las transnacionales provocan la extrema pobreza, sufre de una galopante inseguridad ciudadana, miles de familias campesinas sin acceso a la tierra, criminalización de la lucha social, inestabilidad política de las fuerzas de gobierno quien ejerce la represión a un pueblo indignado por el régimen que representa Juan Orlando Hernández, quien paso a Honduras de la Democracia a la Barbarie.

Expresamos nuestra solidaridad con miles de familias que van en una caravana, defendemos la migración como un hecho de la historia humana que se remonta a miles de años, la migración del pueblo hondureño, es la movilidad humana, expulsados de sus comunidades de origen por la falta de tierras para la producción de alimentos, por las políticas agresivas que impone un modelo de desarrollo basado en la explotación de recursos, refugiados climáticos, la captación de bienes comunes, la criminalización y la explotación de campesinas y campesinos, así como de trabajadoras y trabajadores de la tierra y pueblos originarios.

La actual caravana que ya está en tierras mexicanas y que recibió la solidaridad de Guatemala, El Salvador y México, mientras el gobierno de Honduras y Estados Unidos están dispuestos a un genocidio contra miles de familias campesinas que están obligados a vender su fuerza de trabajo lejos de sus lugares de origen.

Ante esta crisis social, política y económica al que se enfrentan nuestros hermanos hondureños desde La Via Campesina exigimos:

  1. Facilitar la libre movilidad de miles de familias campesinas hacia los Estados Unidos
  2. La inmigración debe dejar de ser confundida con las amenazas contra la seguridad nacional (o doméstica), puesto que son dos cosas muy diferentes.
  3. Exigimos la no separación de las familias indocumentadas, ni deportarlos o encerrarlos en centros de detención. Solicitamos la protección de las grandes organizaciones internacionales, como la ONU e identidades que apoyan la libre movilización humana y la humanitaria atención de los flujos migratorios.
  4. Es urgente un programa amplio de mejores condiciones de vida, salud, educación y vivienda digna, mas políticas que brinden condiciones aptas para que quienes aún están en el campo y la ciudad permanezcan y los que salieron regresen a mejorar sus condiciones de vida con el respaldo del gobierno y toda la sociedad.
  5. Que los Estados respetan las convenciones internacionales, a adherirse a la Convención por la protección de los derechos de los emigrantes y sus familias y a modificar sus políticas y sus intervenciones públicas para asegurar la buena ejecución de las convenciones mencionadas.
  6. Permitir o garantizar a los emigrantes el acceso al mercado de trabajo en unas condiciones equivalentes a las de los trabajadores y trabajadoras nacionales.
  7. Derribar todos los muros: Estados Unidos/México ya que no solo representan una bárbara agresión contra la humanidad y dividen los pueblos, sino que atentan contra la naturaleza. Las fronteras geográficas actuales contribuyen ya fuertemente a las catástrofes ecológicas y estos muros solo agravan la situación.
  8. Desarrollar acciones de protección para las personas migrantes, que se resisten a desaparecer desafiando al sistema capitalista; acto de resistencia que debe ser incorporado a la lucha contra las causas de la debacle ambiental y climática, que debe convertirse en un eje de trabajo permanente.
  9. Es urgente reconocer que desde La Vía Campesina, logramos que el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas aprobó la Declaración sobre los derechos de las y los campesinos/as en Ginebra, esta declaración nos garantiza la estabilidad de las familias que hoy sufren desalojos forzosos, criminalización, racismo y xenofobia.
  10. Solo mediante una Reforma Agraria Integral y Popular, mejoraremos las condiciones de vida de miles de familias que son expulsados, de sus territorios, a través de terratenientes, empresarios, trasnacionales, Extractivismo y depredadores de los bienes comunes quienes promueven el agro negocio y quitan la producción de alimentos de campesinos que ahora salieron de sus territorios a vivir en la travesía. 

El éxodo en búsqueda del sueño americano no es nuevo, un centenar de Hondureños parten diariamente hacia Estados Unidos, una caravana salió en la semana del 13 de octubre desde San Pedro Sula. Este hecho histórico muestra al mundo el fin de un régimen sin capacidad de gobernar y mejorar las condiciones de vida de un pueblo aguerrido que hoy sufre las malas políticas del tirano Juan Orlando Hernández, quien se aferra al poder dejando una estela de dolor, luto y desesperación por la expulsión de miles de familias buscando salir de su mal gobierno y del apoyo del gran capital internacional.

Dado en la ciudad de Honduras a los veinte y cuatro días del mes de octubre del dos mil dieciocho.
¡Globalicemos la lucha, globalicemos la esperanza!

Monday, October 15, 2018

FWAF Statement on Proposed Rule Targeting Low-Income Immigrants in the U.S.

The Farmworker Association of Florida shares the following call to action to highlight the recent Trump Administration proposal expanding “public charge” for immigrants, making it essentially difficult for immigrants earning a certain percentage of the poverty level to enter the country or adjust their immigration status. Read more below on how you can get involved. 

On September 24, the Trump Administration issued its proposal to expand the definition of “public charge” for immigrants, such that it would in effect penalize those who receive SNAP, Medicaid and housing assistance during their process of meeting permanent residence and citizenship requirements. This rule change would also make it more difficult, if not impossible, for immigrants earning 125% of the poverty level to enter the country or to adjust their immigration status.  This does not apply to undocumented immigrants as they do not qualify for any of these benefits.
The Farmworker Association of Florida roundly condemns this newest assault on the rights and dignity of the immigrant population in the U.S. that, if passed, would deny visas, permanent resident status, and even eventual U.S. citizenship to low-wage immigrant workers. Farmworkers’ wages are among the lowest of any occupation and their poverty rates are substantially higher than the national average. This proposal has a direct and cruel impact on their lives – the families and the communities with whom our staff interact on a daily basis. Instead of accessing programs that they and their families are already eligible for, this rule change would force farmworkers to make impossible choices about their health and well-being and would drive them further into the margins of the economy.
This kind of attack on immigrants and immigration are not just hurting the immigrant population.  It is hurting all of us, and it is hurting us as a country.  Together with our allies and partners, the Farmworker Association of Florida will continue to fight unceasingly for the rights and dignity of immigrants and all people, and for a more just, humane, compassionate and unified country.
A public comment period will open up soon in which the public will have 60 days to submit their thoughts and comments to the federal government. We encourage everyone to get involved. Once the notice has been published, we will reach out to all our supporters with sample comments and with the link where you can submit them. We need everyone on board. Your voice is more important now than ever before! We are all part of the Solution!
The public comment period regarding the Trump administrations “public charge” regulation has opened and will be available for 60 days, ending Dec. 10, 2018. At Protecting Immigrants Families, impacted individuals and community members will be able to submit unique comments directly to the federal website and learn the basics of “public charge” and why this fight matters for communities across the country. For more information on how you can get involved, click here.


This text was first published on Equal Voice Action's page. We thank them for their help in getting some of our communications out.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Agroecology Learning Exchange in Hawai’i

Ivan Vazquez, part of the FWAF team, went to Hawai'i in July as part of a learning exchange to learn about the archipelago's past and present struggles. Below, Ivan with the help of Magha García of the Asociación Borícua and Anne Fredrick, relates his experiences in Hawai'i and what he learned from them. We hope you will enjoy reading this account.

Agroecology Learning Exchange in Hawai'i

By Ivan Vazquez, Co- Author Magha Garcia with a special Contribution by Anne Frederick
History and Context

Hawaii's diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of pristine beaches, oceanic surroundings, breathtaking landscapes and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. But above all the natural beauty Hawaii has to offer, its people are what stand out for me, for they are warm, welcoming and resilient and they are the representation of Aloha Spirit,  which is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. This spirit brings each person to the self. In this spirit, each person must think and emote good feelings to others. These  attributes constitute the Hawaiian identity.

Hawaii is a volcanic archipelago situated in the north Pacific Ocean approximately 2200 miles away from the U.S main land. Hawaii has a rich history, culture and traditions and its people have a strong connection to the land. Historically, Hawaiians shared the stewardship of the land and it was everyone’s responsibility to care for it, just as it is the case for many other island inhabitants whose resources are limited.  That changed in the 17th century, when Europeans began to settle in the islands and spread their ideas and philosophies and religion.
Kalalea Mountain, Kaua (Photo by Magha)

The state of Hawaii was the last state to join the union in August 21, 1959.  However, this annexation still is seen with resentment by most native Hawaiians, since US troops invaded the sovereign kingdom of Hawaii, kidnapped their queen, banned the natives from speaking their native tongue, disrupted their farming practices, and almost wiped out their culture.
Hawaiians are wise and lovin, and proud of the culture and traditions. during our visit there, Magha Garcia and I felt very welcomed and embraced by all the people we met. the locals proudly showed us their traditional foods such as, Poi and Ulu. Poi is a Hawaiian dish made from the fermented root of the taro, which is boiled then pounded to a paste. Ulu is Hawaiian variety of breadfruit. The traditional methods for preparing breadfruit is peeled then steamed or boiled, then pounded into paste that has the consistency and texture of mashed potatoes.

Last August, my colleague Magha  and I participated in a learning exchange visit to Hawaii to understand the island's past and present struggles. Also, this visit had the purpose to build and strengthen the relationships between the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) and  organizations in the hawaiian islands such as HAPA.

Illima ‘Sidax fallax’  (Photo by Magha)
Native Hawaiian plant/UHWO Student’s Garden

July 26th, 2018
This trip to Hawaii began July 26, 2018. This day was mostly for traveling, sleeping accommodations, registrations and general details of the conference. For more information of the agenda please visit:

July 27th, 2018/ Day 1
In Camp Pālehua, our day started at 5:30 am as Magha and I, along with a very diverse group composed of around thirty-two people from different parts of the country, of various age groups, gender orientations, ethnicities and countries of origin gathered, together facing the the east as instructed by Dr. Manulani Aluli Meyer  or Manu, as she likes to be called, to receive the sun as it rose from the horizon with the traditional Hawaiian sunrise chant called “E Ala E”. Manu beautifully directed the chanting in a harmonious way.
Ho'opuka E-Ka-La Ma Ka Hikina
 Ai, Ai, Ai.
Ho'opuka e-ka-la ma ka hikina e
Kahua ka'i hele no tumutahi
Ha'a mai na'i wa me Hi'iaka
Tapo Laka ika ulu wehiwehi
Nee mai na'i wa ma ku'u alo
Ho'i no'o e te tapu me na'ali'i e
E ola makou a mau loa lae
Eala, eala, ea. A ie ilei ie ie ie.
He inoa no ma ka hikina

While singing this powerful chant, we were honoring  the indigenous Hawaiians roots, acknowledging their ancestral lands and their connection to the  natural elements. While we were singing, I instantly felt a strong connection and appreciation of the ancient indigenous traditions. It is no surprise that native Hawaiians were so attuned with nature. As we participated in this ceremony, we were convinced that this conference would be memorable.

Sunrise chant with Prof. Manulani Mayer (Photo by UHWO)

After the chating and the the offering ceremony, Manu talked about the importance of indigenizing the school system as an important step to phase out different aspects in our modern society, but primarily to affirm our current relationship with the land (Aina) as the source that supports all life. For a more detailed explanation, please click these following links here Mobilizing Sustainability in Education .

Once the sun was out, we were asked to walk to the dining room, which faced directly toward the Pacific  Ocean. There we were served a lovely breakfast before heading to the  University of Hawai‘i - West O‘ahu to participate in the 2018 Sustainable Agriculture Education Conference.  

The Themes for this conference were:

Theme I -Decolonizing the Food System: Feeding ourselves
 Theme II – Indigenous Knowledge, Power and Pedagogy
Theme III – Living Traditions, Living Economies: Towards Self- Determination, Resilience and Equity in our Food Systems

SAEA Conference opening at UHWO

The official opening of this conference started with students, aunties and uncles (terms of endearment to the elderly) singing E Hō Mai . This chant is used as a way to enter the mind into a state of sacred ceremony, thanking mother earth for its boundless supply of food for our body and appreciating the spirits of the elders for guiding us through this journey that we call life.

The chant (oli) is translated as:
"Grant us knowledge from above
The knowledge hidden in the chants
Grant us these things.”

E Hō Mai
Ka ‘ike mai luna mai ē
I nā mea huna no'eau
O nā mele ē
E hō mai, e hō mai, e hō mai ē

In a sense, this chant is calling upon their Hawaiian spirit guides, angels, and ancestors above to share their wisdom with the people to guide humankind on their path. This chant is a bridge to connect us and root us with our ancestors and our history.

Workshop “Ho’okua’āina” an educational project for children in Kailua, Hawaii (Photo by Magha)
July 28th/ Day 2
On this day,  we visited a fascinating farm called  Ka’ala Farm which serves a multipurpose complex: as an ancient agricultural farm, restoring and producing kalo as their Hawaiian ancestors did for centuries and as a Cultural Learning Center, where learning comes alive for thousands of school children in their hands-on science programs every year. It is a cultural kipuka, where Hawaiian traditions are practiced daily to make people and communities stronger.
Group at Ka’ala Farm in Wai’anae (Photo by Ivan)

Kalo “Palauan-Lehua” in UHWO/Student’s Garden (Photo by Magha)

Later in the afternoon, we presented our workshop entitled Political Education and the People’s Agroecology Process.  Around 25 people participated in our workshop, where Magha and I explained the two most important components for USFSA’s movement:  agroecology and  food sovereignty. Most of our audience was familiar with those two terms. I explained how we as the USFSA and The Farmworkers Association of Florida (FWAF) are fighting to change the food system; FWAF at the grassroot level and the USFSA as a national level. Both organizations are working in one accord to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system in order for people to have the right  and access to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. We also illustrated how political education helps us shape our Alliance and amplifies our work.

Iván & Magha presenting ‘People’s Agroecology workshop

July 29th/ Day 3
Ivan & Magha promoting the USFSA

Sunday was the closing day. We began this day as it is traditional in Hawaii  - with a chant. We participated in plenary sessions, where the speakers summarized the highlights of the conference. All the speakers reiterated the main goals of this convening which are: first, to strengthen our communication between Hawaii and the mainland USA; second, to amplify the urgency of indigenizing our agriculture system in a way that creates a symbiotic relationship with the environment, meaning to protect our planet by becoming more self-sustainable; and lastly, to recognize the need to respect and honor farm workers, including by not exposing them to harmful chemicals and to adequately monetarily compensate their arduous labor with living wages that reflect their effort.

Later that day, we headed to the airport to fly to Kauai, as it was part of our visit to stay with our host Anne Frederick, Executive Director of the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA). Magha, Anne and I introduced ourselves we briefly stated who we are, what organization/alliances we represent and the type of work that we are  involved in. We also engaged in meaningful conversations about agriculture, pesticides regulation, immigration, labor exploitation and among many other subjects.

July 30th/ Day 4
We visited and volunteered at Kumano I Ke Ala,   a nonprofit taro farm located in Waimea on the west side of Kauai. There we met the program director, Kaina Makua, who explained to us the history of the organization and its mission. Kaina introduced us to his interns, a mixed group of around 12 boys and girls. The young people were eager to share their knowledge and experiences as Magha, Anne and I helped pull and cut vegetation to clear the water channel. 

Kalo production pool at Kumano I Ke Ala in Makaweli Valley
Kalo production pool at Kumano I Ke Ala in Makaweli Valley
Taro is locally known in Hawai’i as kalo. Kaina also explained to us that to Native Hawaiians, kalo is supreme in importance—it is defined in the Kumulipo, or Hawaiian Creation Chant, as the plant from which Hawaiians were formed. When the first voyagers arrived on the shores of the Hawaiian Islands many centuries years ago, kalo was one of the few sacred plants they carried with them.

Ivan and Anne getting ready to work with the student crew (Photo by Magha)

Fresh water channel to feed the growing Kalo (Photo by Magha)

July 31st / Day 5
On Tuesday, Magha and I met with Jeri DiPietro from Hawaii Seed. Jeri drove us around in her pickup truck to the west side of the island to witness the devastation that agrochemical test fields have made on the people’s health and the environment. Magha and I were shocked and indignant to see that the test fields are literally steps away from a school’s backyard where kids play during recess. Parents were in a difficult situation; they had to make a tough decision whether send the kids to school to learn or deprive them from their education. That is when the people began to organize themselves to demand the companies to cease operations. After a many meeting, rallies, marches and call the people won this battle and the rescued their children from the long lasting neurological effects that exposure to this chemical causes.

Fresh water channel to feed the growing Kalo (Photo by Magha)

In the evening, Jeri, Magha and I met at a local restaurant where we met up with the HAPA (Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action) Kauai team, including Fern Holland, Anne Frederick and HAPA’s board director, Gary Hooser. Jeri, Fern and Anne shared with us some important details on how they were able to mobilize people to take a stand against Monsanto to be able to win their latest policy victory, banning the neurotoxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos. Gary Hooser spent 8 years in the Hawaiʻi State Senate. Gary gave us some useful and insightful information about ways to maximize the advocacy work on pesticides and food sovereignty that we are doing in our particular areas and how to leverage our state legislature to gain political victories.

Magha, Ivan and our lovely guide, Jeri DiPietro in the “Makauwahi Cave Reserve”

August 1st/Day 6
Moloa'a Organic'a Kale and other greens (Photo by Ivan)

Magha, Anne and I visited Moloa'a Organica'a one of the largest organic farms in Kaua’i run by Ned Whitlock and his Marta Whitlock. Ned has always been a farmer even before moving to Hawaii from the continental US more than 20 years ago. Ned grew up in a farm in the midwest and he always had a passion for farming which is shown in the quality of produce they harvest. Marta is originally from Chile, she migrated to the US over 20 years ago.

Moloa’a Organic’a
Diversity of greens (Photo by Ivan)

Ned and Martha happily shared the story of how they met and how after after visiting Hawai’i they fell in love with the beautiful landscape  and the decided to leave everything behind and embark in a new journey in Hawai’i  to fulfill their dream of  farming. They facey many difficulties and adversity when they arrived but they were persistent and now their hard work is paying off, Ned and Martha are one of the largest organic growers for the islands of Hawai’i, where unfortunately most of the food is being imported but Ned and Martha are dedicated to make Hawai’i more self sustainable. They were both  was very glad to show us around their family’s farm. They eagerly explained to us the process of how they  make anaerobic compost which is sunmergine the food scraps in a covered water barrels and letting them decompose until the liquid is odorless and full of nutrients.

The Whitlocks  certainly take great pride and responsibility for the food they grow and the stewardship of the land that is why they use agro ecological methods and they are committed to produce zero waste and provide locals with fresh ecologically responsible food has been their their farm’s mission.

Far back left-right Martha, Ned, Ivan; front left -right Anne and Magha
August 2nd/Day 7
On Thursday, Magha, Anne and I visited Waipa Foundation. Waipa Foundation, for over 20 years, has worked with the community to manage the 1,600 acre ahupua'a of Waipa, located on the north shore of Kaua'i. Waipa is a place where folks can connect with the ‘aina (that which feeds us - the land and resources), and learn about Hawaiian local values and lifestyle through laulima (many hands working together). Waipa’s long history and commitment to connect people with the ‘aina has made this organization so successful and greatly treasured by the community. 
Volunteers at Waipa Foundation (Photo by Ivan)
The three of us had the pleasure to make poi alongside the locals and visitors that came from as far away as France and Japan and the United Kingdom. Poi is a Hawaiian dish made from the fermented root of the taro, which has been boiled and pounded to a paste. This dish is believed to have healing properties because of the high content of probiotics. In Hawaiian mythology Poi is sacred and it is believed to have been created as a result of the story of Hāloa that brings us to the beginnings of the Hawaiian people. Wākea, the skyfather, and Ho’ohōkūkalani, descendent of the celestial bodies, fell in love and together had a child. But the baby was stillborn, so the deities buried him on the side of their home – the side of the morning sunrise.
From that very spot where the gods buried their baby boy, a plant began to grow. This plant, whose heart-shaped leaf trembled in the breeze was the first kalo (taro) plant. The kalo plant was given the name “Haloanakalaukapalili” and he was loved.

Machinery to produce Poi (Photo by Ivan)
Native Hawaiians are very protective of their Kalo they each family typically will only grow one variety of Kalo which most  has been passed down from generation to generation. Native Hawaiians take pride in their kalo plant because it represent the knowledge that their ancestors have passed down from generation to generation.

August 3rd/ Day 8
For out last day in Kaua’i, Anne took Magha and me to a fish pond restoration project called  Mālama Hulē‘ia. This project is run by a voluntary non-profit organization dedicated to improving key parts of the Nawiliwili Bay Watershed on Kaua‘i by eliminating an alien and highly invasive plant species and the reintroduction of native plants. We witnessed first hand the devastation that causes to the environment and the livelihood of natives occurred as a result of the irresponsible actions of corporations and the lack of government enforcement of environmental protections.

Camp site at Mālama Halē’ia (Photo by Magha)
We commend this organization for endeavouring in the enormous task. We are very thankful for their commitment to the service of their community by restoring their ancestral way of life.   
Invasive alien specie of  Rhizophora mangle, a mangrove from Florida (Photo by Magha)


During our time in Hawai’i, we had the privilege to meet some of the most incredible people who are doing some some terrific work in their communities. Whether their work is through popular education, advocacy, grassroots organizing and civic engagement all those people have been necessary for Hawaii’s victory in banning chlorpyrifos. These people are brave warriors who are the resistance against capitalist agrobusiness that prefer profit over people. These corporations are negligent about the negative impact that their bad agricultural practices have in the environment and the farmworkers. In addition to their mismanagement of the land farmworkers too often are not able make ends meet.

We commend Hawaiians for their extensive work  and constant dedication to restore Hawai’i’s food sovereignty and ancient agroecological farming after centuries of colonialism. We are thankful for their bravery and we admire them as pioneers in the quest for a better world where farmworkers are treated with dignity not being forcibly exposed to deadly chemicals and poor working conditions; a world where mother earth is treated, honored, and revered, and not coerced to produce food that lacks nutritional value and where most of the food ends up being wasted, instead of going in the bellies of those who need it the most.

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