Sunday, December 30, 2007

Personal Stories Behind Products

My blog readers may remember my December 26, 2007 post, ShopDropping. I provided a link to PeopleProducts123. The site links to improved packaging pdf files. Well, I decided to move from talking and thinking into ACTION and started making black and white copies of their product labels. My plan is to take them, along with coloring instruments, to a New Year's party that I am going to tomorrow.

I was struggling with some of the labels because I find that many of the liberal people I know where I live are still rather, I am forgetting the word, basically limited in their understanding of other cultures and races (besides the dominant white culture here.) I have a hard time talking about international issues here and find that I am usually the one to bring up controversial topics like race, Native American sovereignty, and immigration. How will these labels make people in this town open their eyes when even the liberal ones are myopic????

Two labels that I have posted below hit a huge nerve with me. I lived on the Texas border. I knew children just like this boy and Yesenia.

This anonymous boy is most likely between the ages of 10 and 13. He rises before dawn and works cutting onions, work that is illegal for children below the age of 16. He and his family are also at risk of truancy charges, since he is a school age minor and is not enrolled in school in any of the Texas towns where he works with his family, helping them to fulfill quotas for harvesting vegetables like onions, which bring in a profit of a penny a pound. However, he and his peers constitute a growing part of the workforce in a state that supplies 60% of onion seed and 25% of onions consumed in the USA.

Yesenia, 12, and her brother, 13, begin work before dawn, cutting onions in Eagle Pass, Texas. They left school several years ago to work with their families, moving with the harvests, living transitionally to earn what amounts to a penny a pound for the buckets of onions they haul in at nightfall, when their work day ends. They are among the estimated 400,000 to 500,000 children, many of them citizens, like Yesenia and her brother, working in the agricultural and food industries before the legal age of 16.

My mind is whirling again. How can I make sure that the stories that I have heard like these are passed on? I am thinking about talking to a local organic store that we have that tries to buy as much locally as possible. When this isn't possible, the owner does buy from further away but does what she can to ensure that the products are not only organic but produced in just conditions. Plus, she gives a 20% discount to people on food stamps. She is trying to make a difference locally and globally.

I wonder if I could help her in any way. Perhaps I could help with researching products. I would even be willing to gather stories of the people behind products. I have managed to ensure that most in my life consume fair trade coffee because of my time in Guatemala, what else can I do???

Hmmm.... a newsletter on where products come from, a 5-minute blurb on the women's public affairs show that four of us are planning on our community radio station?

Some additional personalized labels a la PeopleProducts123 representing the people I have met during my journey and the products they have produced???

Many of those that read this blog live or have lived in other countries. What are the stories you have heard? I challenge you to make labels with these stories or, if that seems overwhelming to you, send me your stories. I will make labels out of them. I will post the pdfs of my labels, distribute them in this conservative area where I live, and send them on to PeopleProducts123.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I've taken a look at your last few bloggings (and the comments), and here's what I think!

1. "Ethnocentric", maybe?

2. Seeping out from between the lines of your recent posts is the question that activists always confront—the EFFECTIVENESS QUESTION. It always seems to be a boulder thrown in our path, and distracts us for a while. And it's really unnecessary. Here are some things to consider:

I think the "effectiveness question" is, in a way, posed by the very culture that we want to change. Think about it! And, of course, we should either ignore, transform, undermine, etc., such questions.

Sometimes the idea of activism as a socially and politically "effective" practice (keep paying attention to what I said in the last paragraph . . .) gets mixed up with activism as an ethical practice, which is what activism essentially is. After all, Gandhi didn't say "Let's storm the palace!"—he said "Be the change you want to see in the world".

Finally, if you still long for effectiveness, remember what Margaret Mead said, or read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, or something like that.

I like what you're doing. Stay fierce, M!