"The cows don't milk themselves"
Earlier this year, Migrant Justice leader Enrique “Kike” Balcazar took the stage in Gainesville, Florida to deliver a talk on the founding and growth of Migrant Justice -- and of his own journey from farmworker to human rights leader. The video from this inspiring and emotional story has just been made available.
Kike spoke at the annual frank gathering, hosted by the University of Florida’s Center for Public Interest Communications. Migrant Justice was honored to share the center stage over several days with journalists, researchers, and activists, all luminaries in their fields.
Entitled “The cows don’t milk themselves,” Kike’s presentation charts the course of Migrant Justice’s nearly ten year history, from the tragic death of a young farmworker to groundbreaking, community-led human rights victories. Paralleling the organization’s development, Kike recounts his own transformation.
After coming to Vermont as a teenager to join his parents working on a dairy farm, Kike joined Migrant Justice and became a leader in the community, organizing to pass laws allowing immigrant drivers to obtain licenses and preventing local police from acting like federal deportation agents. He helped design the Milk with Dignity program and became a spokesperson in the successful campaign calling on Ben & Jerry’s to join the worker-driven human rights program. At the height of the campaign, Kike and fellow leader Zully Palacios were detained by ICE agents as they left the Migrant Justice office.
“Thanks to the mobilization of our community in Vermont and around the country -- with more than 10,000 petition signatures and protests outside of ICE offices -- we were freed. Though our deportation proceedings continue, I am still here, inspired to tell my story and show that we will not be silenced. During the three years of the campaign, immigration agents detained more than 20 members of the organization. But despite these attacks, my community continues to fight. We are changing the system of oppression at its roots, and we demand that ICE leave us in peace, so we can organize for our rights. We will not live in the shadows and will not be forced to accept abuse and discrimination.”