A scribe for justice

May 8, 2017
Workers in field.

Roy Guzmán writes to bring to life the conditions endured by migrant farm workers as they struggle for fair wages, housing, and resources.

Guzmán, a master of fine arts student in creative writing at the University of Minnesota, is the 2016-17 scribe for human rights—a fellowship that enables students to work on their craft with the goal of creating stirring narratives that convey the experience of human struggles.

“The fellowship brings together a very important set of skills, and that is the ability to tell stories,” says Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program in the U of M’s College of Liberal Arts. “Because people are really motivated to make change by the empathy that comes with an understanding of what it feels like to be a person in those stories.”

Guzmán’s main field of writing is poetry. “My writing looks at the violence I see,” he says. “I try to frame thoughts and emotions of people becoming disenfranchised.” As this year’s scribe, he is partnering with the Centro Campesino Initiative in Owatonna, Minnesota, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida to interview workers to better understand their struggles.

At the end of the project, Guzmán will share testimonials and poetry inspired by the workers and will discuss how local communities can help establish sustainable ventures that treat migrant farm workers fairly.