Sep. 27, 2012

RFK Human Rights Laureate to Address Farmworker Rights


GENESEO, N.Y. - Librada Paz, who in November will receive the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, is coming to SUNY Geneseo Oct. 3 to discuss farmworker human rights as part of an alternative food system course at Geneseo.

Her address, titled "Sowing the Seeds of Justice: The Farmworker Struggle for Human Rights in New York State and Beyond," begins at 4 p.m. in Newton Hall Room 202. The event is free and open to the public.

Paz's visit grew out of the experimental course being taught by Jordan Kleiman, associate professor of history, titled "Building an Alternative Food System in the Greater Rochester Area: Past, Present, & Future."

"Librada Paz's visit to Geneseo is a real boon both for my students and the campus as a whole," said Kleiman. "Paz is an influential figure in the struggle for justice in the farm fields of the United States. Her work is directly relevant to the movement for an alternative food system emphasizing social justice, environmental sustainability, and local production for local consumption. As part of the social justice theme in my course, students are studying the harsh labor conditions endured by migrant and seasonal farm workers in the prevailing industrial food system, including right here in New York state. This will serve as a prelude to our exploration of the alternative food movement's efforts to establish fairer and more humane labor standards."

Paz will be the 29th recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Born to family of farmworkers in the village of San Juan Mixtepec in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, Paz and her sister emigrated to the United States at age 15 to join their brothers as migrant farmworkers in the fields of California, New York and Florida. She settled in New York state 15 years later, obtained her immigration status and left the fields to pursue a college degree and devote her life to the struggle to end the systemic violence and human rights violations faced by America's migrant farmworkers. Paz will discuss her own experiences as a seasonal migrant farmworker as well as her role in the rural justice movement.

RFK Center Board Member Martin Sheen said Paz has demonstrated "undaunted courage in the face of overwhelming difficulty. She endured the 14-hour work days and endemic sexual assault, abuse and racism that run rampant in our agricultural fields. Against all odds, she graduated from college and has devoted herself to reversing these human rights violations."

Paz's address is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Department of History and Geneseo Amnesty International.

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