Reflections of FLOC President and Founder Baldemar Velasquez on Black History Month and the importance of Black Brown Unity for social change.
FLOC has a history of collaborating with the Black community every where we have been active. As early as 1969 we supported the community work of the Black Panthers in Toledo, they reciprocated by bringing a food caravan to 70 farm worker members of FLOC that had taken over a Catholic youth retreat camp in Luna Pier, MI after the tomato crop rotted due to heavy rains. The Rev. Floyd Rose who spoke at one of the FLOC Conventions in Toledo and was a prominent civil rights leader supported the Campbell Soup boycott and help send off the “March for Justice” from Toledo to Camden, NJ in 1983 during that period. When we started organizing in North Carolina we teamed up with Black Workers for Justice and marched through the streets in Raleigh.
One of the honored positions I hold is to sit on the Shapiro Lecture Series Committee at the University of Toledo. I initiated the invitation to Andrew Young whom you know was one of Dr. KIng’s confidants and went on to become UN ambassador under President Clinton. I met Andy in 1968 in Atlanta when after receiving a telegram from Dr. King at Bluffton College where I was attending inviting me to come to Atlanta to plan the Poor People’s Campaign. After a two-hour meeting with Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and Andy along with a young Jesse Jackson, Andy stayed with us until almost midnight listening to 30 of us Latino and Indian leaders. I was able to track Andy down through my friends from the A. Phillip Randolph Institute. After a first long conversation, I made the invitation and agreed to come. Seeing how important this visit was to me and the FLOC work with our alliance with a number of Black groups we were working with, I asked him to stay an extra day to help launch our Black/Brown Unity Coalition (BBUC). Our small FLOC union hall was packed as he made an electric entry and spent the next hour and a half telling stories of Dr. Kings last days and the Memphis sanitation workers strike! In the picture from left to right is Bishop Robert Culp, Dave Fleetwood from LIUNA, Andy and myself. There were other members of the BBUC steering committee present that are not in this photo from the NAACP, Latins United and the FLOC homies youth program. Just about everyone there had participated in the Mt. Olive boycott and made NW Ohio and SE Mi the most successful boycott in the US. We got Kroger in NW Ohio region, Meijers and Foodtown to remove Mt. Olive pickles from their shelves! Andy help solidify the ongoing work with the BBUC to this day and ended up negotiating a Code of Conduct with the Toledo Police Dept.
I was also very proud to help receive Toni Morrison Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 through the same Shapiro Committee in the other picture.
We in FLOC understand the our histories are intertwined by the same forces that have marginalized us historically and must make every attempt to collaborate in overcoming common obstacles together rather than alone.