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News briefs 9.3.03 

Labor Day off the farm

Despite their vital role in our lives, locally employed migrant farmworkers --- the people who pick the fruits and vegetables we eat every day --- seem to be the great unknown. Many of them spend the summer working on area farms, isolated from the people who benefit from their labor. And then they leave, without much acknowledgement from the communities they serve.

            So, in an effort to put a few faces on our produce, a group of about 100 farmworkers and supporters marched in the Rochester Labor Day parade. It was their largest turnout to date.

            The parade was a rare opportunity for the Anglo community to learn something about farmworkers. "People need to know there are thousands of farmworkers in this area," said Aspacio Alcantara of the Independent Center for Farmworkers (known by its Spanish acronym, CITA). "All of the fruits and vegetables people eat are picked by the hands of farmworkers." For Juan Carlos, who has been a farmworker for five years, educating people about farmwork is vital. "People watching this parade need to understand that we're important in all kinds of farmwork," he says. "I'm here to raise awareness of this contribution."

            The lack of any consistent interaction between farmworkers and the community remains a major topic of discussion. "There needs to be more interaction with the community," said Rural Opportunities representative Velma Smith. "Because camps are so isolated, farmworkers are really unknown and people tend to fear the unknown. This march is part of letting people know who farmworkers are."

            Labor Day celebrates American workers, particularly unions. Bill Abom of Rural and Migrant Ministries found it "kind of odd" that farmworkers were marching. "We're here with other unions," he said, "yet by law farmworkers can't unionize." Salvador Solis of CITA added, "We're here because we want the right to have a union."

            The march was not just about the difficulties farmworkers face. "This march also celebrates the lives of farmworkers," says Marilu Aguilar, of RMM. Following the march, there was a picnic in Ellison Park with Mexican music and plenty of Mexican food. The workers there seemed to enjoy their short break and fiesta. Tomorrow they'll get up early to continue picking the food the rest of us will eat.

--- Joseph Sorrentino

Hip-hop whodunit

A mid-August hip-hop festival scheduled to take place at the Record Archive on East Avenue was cancelled. But the event didn't go out with a whimper. In the days following the cancellation, City Newspaper began receiving letters from local hip-hop fans alleging that the show was stopped because Rochester city officials were concerned about the potential for the event to end in violence. Another widespread allegation had city officials concerned about a hip-hop festival tarnishing Rochester's image during the PGA.

            Ink tracked down the rumors and learned that the hip-hop shutdown was legit. Record Archive managers, by their own admission, failed to obtain the necessary permits for holding the event. The Archive plans to re-schedule the show, probably for the spring. And it promises to have its paperwork in order this time.

Leading the dance

The Rochester City Ballet has chosen Jamey Leverett, longtime company member, as their new artistic director. Leverett will replace Timothy Draper, who founded the company 16 years ago and left a hole in the Rochester arts scene with his sudden death last February.

            Leverett beat out a 27-candidate, international pool to get the job. She is a former principal dancer with the company and danced the lead, choreographed for her, in RCB's signature ballet, Firebird. Leverett has been acting as artistic director since Draper's death.

Correcting ourselves

Due to a production error, last week's Primary Election coverage included a photo of Penfield with an article on Hamlin. Also, our "Primary Facts" section stated that you must be a city resident to vote in a primary. This is not true. You must be a resident of the city or town for which the primary is being held.

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