CDS Undergraduates Create Videos for National Farmworker Awareness Week 2013

Still from the video "Is Cheap Food Good Food?" by CDS undergraduate Melissa Benn

Still from the video “Is Cheap Food Good Food?” by CDS undergraduate Melissa Benn

Working in collaboration with Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) and other farmworker organizations nationwide, ten undergraduate students at CDS have created a series of short videos to be used as part of the media campaign for the 14th annual National Farmworker Awareness Week, to be held March 24-31, 2013.

The students are enrolled in DOCST 332S “Farmworkers in North Carolina: Roots of Poverty, Roots of Change,” taught in the spring 2013 semester by CDS instructor Christopher Sims and Service-Learning Graduate Assistant Elizabeth Landesberg. The videos they have created will be used by SAF and dozens of other participating organizations during a weeklong campaign on the Web, through social media, and in e-newsletters. Each video is based on a segment of a large mural created in the summer of 2013 by migrant and farmworker youth who participate in SAF’s Levante Leadership Institute Youth Program in rural North Carolina and the Beehive Design Collective. The Levante youth members choose the themes—such as “Child Labor,” “Pesticides, Health, and Safety,” and “Access to Education”—that were ultimately the topics for the undergraduates’ videos. The undergraduates mined still photographs and video from SAF’s extensive archive, mixing in research from class readings and guest speakers, as well as original video they shot.

“Given the format of the videos they were going to make—geared towards the Web, and to their peers—the students in the class expressed an interest in making clear, personal connections that showed how their own lives and choices intersected with the livelihoods of migrant farmworkers in North Carolina,” said Christopher Sims. “For example, Rebecca Cray’s video Food for Our Families, Families for Our Food relates Duke students talking about family food traditions in the context of migrant farmworkers who have traveled to the U.S. and have left their families in their country of origin. Another student, Simardeep Nagyal created a fictive office worker persona in Durham and contrasts her with a migrant laborer who works long hours in the field without overtime and many workplace protections.”


View all the videos on the CDS Vimeo site.

Some of the student videos will also be shown as part of the panel discussion “Building Solidarity: Farmworker Justice in the South” hosted by Alianza held on March 28 at 7 p.m. in Murphy Room 166 on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, which will feature Christopher Sims and organizers from the AFL-CIO and Farm Labor Organizing Committee as respondents.

The class receives support from the Service-Learning Program at Duke University.


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    3 Responses to “CDS Undergraduates Create Videos for National Farmworker Awareness Week 2013”

    1. I have been a Biology Professor for 19 years at Duke.

      In 1983, in between undergrad and grad school, I worked with migrant workers in Watsonville California through the Head Start program. This was long before many were interested in the desperate lives of these wonderful, hard working people. I joined a group called “Migrant Media Education Project” that used film to augment activism in the community. I spoke Spanish well, and wrote a “protest” song against the treatment of undocumented workers. Through the documentary work of MMEP, a record exists of one of my performances at a 1983 rally at the Watsonville City Council. If you are curious, I give you the link to this video!

      The first song is a traditional Mexican Song that was modified by Gabino Palomares to give it a radical bent.

      The second song is the one I wrote, based on Phil Ochs’ song “Bracero”, but it works much better in Spanish!

      I am happy to see Duke students involved with migrant workers here in the US instead of always going abroad to do good works. I remember in 1983 we used to say that U.C. Santa Cruz students knew more about El Salvador and Nicaragua than they did about the Beach Flats neighborhood in Santa Cruz! So not that much has changed.

      Cliff Cunningham
      Professor of Biology

    2. Liz says:

      Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing that video…so great that it was documented. We appreciate your interest in the Center for Documentary Studies and in the work we do and projects we promote and support.

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