Beyond Beyoncé: Farmworkers Fear the Worst While the Music Plays on
Updated: Jan 14
About seven miles down the road from the scene of Beyoncé’s great triumph, a farmworker family spends a blistering hot afternoon in their double-wide trailer, shades drawn. Gabriel Thompson, a journalist based in Oakland, California, shares this family’s story and the fear that permeates their life in Coachella, Underground, a piece for which I and others at East Coast Migrant Head Start Project were interviewed.
I don’t mean to dis Beyoncé. In fact, I am a huge fan. “Sorry” has been a rallying cry for our project since the song’s release in June of 2016. Our farmworkers celebrate the song’s chorus. It resonates: Why should we apologize for our presence when “rich or poor, what Americans have on their dining room tables is what we are giving them from our hands.” https://vimeo.com/158226128 I also love the video for “Sorry”, with its allusions to farm work, crew buses, and the stark dividing line that often exists between farm labor and farm capital.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of the fear of family separation farmworkers experience each day they leave their children in our care and head to the fields and to the packing houses. When all that stands between our parents and the loss of their American dream is a “broken tail light” and a sheriff’s deputy without a heart. There are no music festivals to draw attention to it, but in Florida, Alabama, and the rural Mid-Atlantic, our farmworker communities remain persecuted as traffic stops lead to immigration holds that too often lead to removal proceedings.
In the face of these attacks, it’s important to support the causes that serve and uplift farmworker families. East Coast Migrant Head Start Project is just one non-profit among many that have built a capacity to help farmworkers involved in immigration removal proceedings. You should support us and you should support our partners.
Meanwhile, our farmworkers will no doubt do what they’ve always done: be resilient, work hard, and have faith that their resilience and hard work will be rewarded. Until then, deuces up.