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April, 2006

Spirit of the Revolution:
Journey for Justice through California's Central Valley begins April 13

BY SALVADOR SANDOVAL, MD

Editor's note: Spirit of the Revolution is printed monthly, and depends on articles, comments, and criticisms from readers. If you have something to contribute, feel free.

Contact us: c/o Boxholder, P.O. Box 720821 o San Jose, California 95172 or by e-mail at spirit@lrna.org

This year, commencing near the end of the traditional Lent period of penitence and atonement and continuing through the usual celebrations commemorating the renewal of Easter, the California Central Valley Journey for Justice will take place. The Journey will occur between April 12 and April 19. Originally conceived as a spiritual and moral journey, the idea grew out of conversations between the San Jose based Community Homeless Alliance Ministry and the Merced based Just Health Care Committee of the Merced Labor Party.

This Journey comes at an important time in our history. In the midst of the growing despair, imposed divisions and hostility, and sense of abandonment by our elected officials, it was felt necessary to get back to the basics of what makes us human, and that is our moral sense of brotherhood, compassion, and community.

We saw that we have to look for what we have in common as humans, and unite our efforts for our common good. Furthermore, we saw that we can no longer continue to rely just on the good will of leaders who continue to tolerate, either by their direct actions or by inaction, this worsening situation.

With this in mind, we embarked on a strategic and historically based plan to make the San Joaquin Valley the focus of a march to draw attention to the poverty and not so benign neglect that exists here in the Valley. Five of the poorest counties in California are in the San Joaquin Valley. The region receives on average $2000 less per capita in government funding for public services than the rest of the country. According to a San Jose Mercury News article, if this 300 mile long region were a state, it would be 30th in population and second poorest after Mississippi.

It is a region that abounds in contradictions. Despite being the most productive agricultural region of the world, poverty and hunger are endemic. Fresno County is the most productive agricultural county in the U.S., and it is also second in terms of need for food kitchens. Despite being in a rural area, Fresno city has the highest urban poverty concentration in the country. Fresno County also rivals other areas for air pollution and childhood asthma, at times of the year being the worst in the country. The Valley is also a low wage, low unionization region where lower living standards are accepted. Immigrants have historically flocked to this area for the chance to work for dirt cheap wages so as not to starve, starting from before the Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, refugees from the Mexican Revolution, Chinese Coolies, Japanese, Filipinos, East Indians, the current Mexican undocumented, and now refugees of all nationalities from the Bay Area and Southern California fleeing the higher cost of living.

In the spirit of Martin Luther King's historic March on Washington DC in the 1960's and the 1966 Cesar Chavez' United Farm Workers March from Delano to Sacramento, the Journey for Justice seeks to shine a moral spotlight on poverty in America. This not to say that only the Central Valley has needs. The Journey for Justice points to the fact that we have to unite around our common interests, and make certain that no one is excluded this time. More than that it strives to show that we have to unite as a class of people who have to struggle and work in order to survive. We have common interests that those who represent and support the moneyed and powerful do not respect.

A kickoff to the Journey was the February 4 Sacred Run of Native Americans who honored our Journey with a ceremony and talking circle in Merced, as well as endorsing the Journey. Merced was the first leg of their cross country journey celebrating the sacredness of life. Please look for them on www.sacred.run as they run through the South and particularly New Orleans on their way to Washington DC. They will be ending their run about the time we end the Journey here in the Central Valley.

The following is the tentative itinerary of the Journey for Justice: It begins Thursday April 13 in Visalia, and continues as follows: Friday April 14 Reedley; Saturday April 15 Fresno; Sunday April 16 Madera; Monday April 17 Merced; Tuesday April 18 Modesto; Wednesday April 19 Stockton; and Thursday April 20 Sacramento.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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