I am extremely proud of receiving the John A. Penrod “Brigadas” Award for Peace and Justice. John Penrod was a great activist and humanitarian, who continues to inspire us to follow his example of a decent, intentional life. There are many activists and groups who work on causes in the Alachua County community. I would like to highlight the work of two of those groups that I have worked with, to point out the importance of group solidarity.
The 130 Meal Limit campaign sought to end the limit on the number of hungry folks who could eat at St. Francis. It was a beautiful effort that needed the many people, some of them first time activists who worked on this campaign. The ISO and ISO members like Katie Walters, a past Penrod winner, were instrumental in ending this inhumane practice of not providing food for more than 130 people per day.
I got involved because I volunteer in the kitchen at St. Francis, and it dehumanized not only those who were turned away, but was dispiriting to all who saw hungry people turned away. Members of the Central Labor Council, Veterans for Peace and the Labor Party also kept the pressure on those who had the power to overturn this inhumane ordinance.
I got involved in the Labor Party because of my friend Kimberly Hunter, another Penrod winner, who was a staff person for the Labor Party and a fierce, driven member of another group I work with, the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice. I joined the Labor Party because I wanted to support Kimberly and also I liked that the Labor Party had become actively involved in supporting labor issues such as the teacher’s demonstrations against cuts to education funding.
The Labor Party is now putting their resources into helping pass the Wage Theft Ordinance in Alachua County, which was another example of a group of committed folks who came together, used the different skills they had to wage a beautiful campaign. Victory is sweet.
Decades ago when I was organizing during an eight-year farm worker-led boycott campaign in rainy Washington State, we all came out twice a week for boycott activities because we knew that our friends were getting soaked in the freezing cold. We didn’t want them to be out there by themselves. This is what organizing means to me, standing with my comrades in the struggle, together.
I am so honored to be the Penrod Award winner this year, but really I can think of dozens of folks that I have worked with in the last five years who I believe are collectively being honored by this award for all of our grinding, focused advocacy work. I accept this honor on behalf of all of us.
Thank you to the Labor Party, Veterans for Peace and United Faculty of Florida for sponsoring this award.
Don’t give up, don’t give in, love and support each other, we can do it together.
Sheila Payne, 2013 Penrod Award Winner