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.

Media Contact:
David Irwin
Media Relations Manager
(585) 245-5516




Viewing Comments (3)

Jack Bradigan Spula wrote:

I'm happy to see Prof. Kleiman's measured response to Mr. Pawelski's odd, insulting and unjustly accusatory email. By all means, people should attend this fine event and learn more about the plight of farm labor from an actual expert, one who has come by her knowledge and understanding the hard way. We can only hope this email exchange will boost attendance. Beyond that, we should look toward the day when farmworkers attain full legal protections and economic justice, despite the sometimes obsessive exertions of those who defend the status quo.

Posted Oct. 2, 2012 @ 10:16 am

Chris Pawelski wrote:

The organization that Paz has worked for, Rural and Migrant Ministry, has consistently, lied over the years regarding the living and working conditions of farmworkers in NYS and the plethora of laws that govern them. This organization was investigated and fined by the NYS Lobby Commission for significant violations of NYS Lobby Laws. I am a 4th generation family farmer from the Hudson valley that has dealt with this organization for years and have a ton of specific, substantiated information to back up what I state. Take what Paz says about anything with a dumptruck load of salt. If you are truly interested in what the facts are, not opinions, not wishful claims, but cold, hard substantiated facts regarding this issue then please e-mail me at and I will gladly send you a ton of information. The distortions and outright lies told by Paz and her organization are truly disturbing. What is even sadder is how various organizations, including academic organizations, will not properly research this topic and will simply believe what the likes of Paz will spoon feed to them.

Posted Sep. 28, 2012 @ 6:46 am

Jordan Kleiman wrote:

The Rural and Migrant Ministry has had many critics among NYS farmers over the years. This is not surprising, as the issues the RMM raise are controversial and have threatened the financial interests of some farmers. I would strongly urge you to come out and hear for yourself what Librada Paz has to say, and then you will be in a better position to judge the validity of the accusations leveled against her and her organization. At bottom, this is a matter of free speech. The farmer who is making these accusations certainly has a right to voice his opinion, but as a college community we also have the right to hear what Librada Paz has to say about her widely recognized efforts on behalf of rural justice on American farms.

Posted Oct. 1, 2012 @ 11:32 am