Grade 5 students are studying labor and migrant farmworkers, including the work of Cesar Chavez, and the book, The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez. On February 15, students had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the life of a migrant farmworker. The Hamlin School welcomed attorney Julian Sanchez, a man who picked apricots in California for three years, and now champions the rights of farmworkers.
Mr. Sanchez’s parents are in their mid-fifties, and still work in the fields picking crops. He described a day in their life.
They wake up at 4am; get to the fields around 5am, wearing long sleeves, a hat, and a handkerchief. Depending on the season and the region, they work picking onions, almonds, rice, tomatoes, or watermelons. They work for 12 hours a day with 30 minutes for lunch. They arrive home tired with their bodies hurting. In the summer my mother will work from 6pm to 6am to avoid the heat of the day. They have no sick days and no paid days off for vacation.
Mr. Sanchez asked students to come up with a list of rights for workers. The girls stated:
Sick leave, paid vacation, clean water, bathroom facilities, time for lunch/breaks, a living wage, health insurance, the right to speak up without being fired
I was born in Brooklyn, New York in January 1968. I love New York City. For me, NYC is both a geographical and a spiritual home; it is a place that I navigate easily, where my loud voice, brown skin, and heavy footsteps fall right into place, and where I feel completely in my element. One of the things that native New Yorkers will admit hesitantly is that NYC is not a clean city. Vibrant, yes. Busy, of course. Multicultural and multilingual, certainly. But clean? Not so much. That’s why native New Yorkers secretly love heavy rainfall. Rest assured that it will be nearly impossible to hail a yellow taxi when it rains, but when the cloudy heavens open, the grey concrete streets begin to glisten like hematite crystals. Randomly scattered trash will find its way to the cross-hatch gutters on the street corners, and for a moment NYC will be as clean as Chicago or Seattle.
For the past few years, and more intensely in the last few weeks, I have been hoping and praying that our cities and the entire country be washed clean of the filth of bigotry and intimidation, the toxicity of police brutality, and the pollution of indifference. My fervent prayer has been “Make it rain, down Lord. May justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, as the purest of Kings once said. Make it rain down a fire that will purify our hearts and refine the American dream so that there is truly liberty and justice for all.” I thought about the song “Make it Rain,” written by Foy Vance, a Northern Irish musician, and I thought about the robust conversations that I’ve had in the past with Hamlin girls about diversity and democracy. I then thought about our sacred mission:
“The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time, and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and women of integrity.”