Artist: David Solnit
Medium: Poster, Visual Art
Project: We Cry Justice
We Cry Justice – Chapter 15: We Are Not Tractors
Conciencia+Compromiso=Cambio was created for the Coalition of Immokalee Worker’s 2022 March to End Modern Slavery in the Fields. In his artist statement, David explains that, “When I asked CIW members for a poster design to celebrate their work and raise funds to support it, they suggested the Statue of Liberty reimagined as a tomato picker, which was a paper mache statue created by CIW two decades ago and is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian.
Because of CIW’s important role in fighting modern day farmworker slavery, I included the broken shackles and chains at the feet of of the Statue, which I had never known about before, but are a reminder that the Statue of Liberty was initiated by French slavery abolitionists at the end of the U.S .Civil War to celebrate the end of slavery.
I was invited to make art with CIW 20 years ago, and I learned so much from witnessing the way they organized, often using the phrase, “Consciousness plus Commitment equals Change.” After their major victory in getting Taco Bell to sign on to the Fair Food Program in 2005, I interviewed CIW members about their organizing methods. I asked, “Can you explain the CIW slogan “Consciousness plus Commitment equals Change”?
CIW responded: A base of informed and conscious workers is the foundation for all the work we do. As a community we start by reflecting on the situation that we face as workers and then come up with what action is necessary to make the change we seek. As one of our members said, “One who does not analyze continues to be a slave.” By looking at the roots of the agricultural industry’s problem, we were able to come up with a strategy to change the problems that we face in our community. We do this through popular education: flyers, drawings, theater, videos, weekly meetings, and visits to the camps. We draw on the innate leader that exists in every worker.
From this consciousness comes the commitment of individuals to participate in the struggle. Workers commit to taking part in actions, to missing days and weeks of work and pay, to going on hunger strikes, to marching endless miles. It is this consciousness and commitment that has led us to the changes that we’ve been able to create in our community.
But creating consciousness in the worker community is just one part of our work. Through the boycott we were also able to build a base of conscious and responsible consumers who will now make more conscious and responsible choices whenever they go out to eat or to shop. Now they’ll think about the people behind the products they are consuming.”
David Solnit is an arts organizer who has worked with social change movements over the last 25 years to use arts (from street murals to art builds to giant puppets and theater pageants) as a key element in successful campaigns and powerful mass actions. He was a lead organizer using arts to shut down the WTO in Seattle in 1999, has supported farmworkers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to win dignity in the fields to the last decade popularizing arts in the climate justice movement, including working as 350.org’s arts organizer for 5 years. He is currently working with the Poor People’s Campaign and grassroots climate justice, and social justice campaigns.