– Celeste Ortega-Felix, 2021 SAF intern
NC Community Health Care Association
“Love is profoundly political. Our deepest revolution will come when we understand this truth. Only love can give us the strength to go forward in the midst of heartbreak and misery. Only love can give us the power to reconcile, to redeem, the power to renew weary spirits and save lost souls. The transformative power of love is the foundation of all meaningful social change. Without love, our lives are without meaning. Love is the heart of the matter. When all else has fallen away, love sustains." – Bell Hooks
It is a humid day. The wood beneath me feels damp and the air is thick and heavy with the approaching rain. We have just finished our first day of SAF’s 2021 Into the Fields mid-retreat and the other interns and I have gathered around the camp bonfire site after celebrating the SAF birthdays of June with cupcakes, music, and dancing. The energy in the campsite is vibrating with the laughs and voices of my fellow interns dancing to the Latin beats from a small portable speaker and swinging on the campsite’s wooden benches. It’s been a long and muggy day, and I’m feeling mildly tired and sweaty.
However, there is a blooming sensation in my chest. One that has ever slowly grown with each glance and meeting of the eyes between my peers and I – eyes filled with understanding, with determination, with sadness and frustration, and hope all the same. Eyes are the window to the soul, they say, and at this mid-retreat, ours are reflections of what we have seen, heard, and felt throughout our experience as allies, friends, and family members to agricultural workers.
As one of two virtual interns of the program this summer, I have not been able to spend my daily routine walking through organization offices, clinics, courthouses, or the fields themselves. The few times that I have been able to travel to the fields, however, I have been able to meet the agricultural workers who are the drive and foundation of my work with the NC Community Health Care Association (NCCHCA). I have seen the injustices, the ugly truths of what it means to be exploited and have your voice drowned out by a society that prioritizes profits over people. I have also seen the brief moments of warmth and trust between the farmworkers and my peers who have known them for much longer. These brief memories have taken root in my chest and would later grow into the blooming sensation that would arise at the mid-retreat.
This blooming sensation. Love. Love of our community, of those who we have met, those who we have yet to meet, and those who we may never meet. It is this love that drives our will and ability to challenge both ourselves and the myriad of oppressive systems operating in our world today.
Love is usually seen as apolitical and trivial. It is often seen as a commodity that benefits one’s own personal value, or even corporations themselves. Some individuals simply “write off love,” arguing that it has only impeded them in their own lives. This cynicism of love within social and political communities is a tragedy. Love is often downplayed because it is understood in abstract terms within monogamous relationships rather than as a practice within communities.
If there is one thing I have taken away from my time with SAF this summer so far, it is that love is a concrete revolutionary practice. It is only with love that we can prevail, overcome, and achieve justice for not only farmworkers, but also marginalized communities all over the world.