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Collection of more than 10,000 photos taken in 1960s and 70s features Yakima Valley farmworkers. Curators need help identifying them
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The woman at the edge of the black and white photo looks overwhelmed, but the seven young children clustered near her are beaming.

Seattle photographer Irwin Nash captured that moment, titled “An Elderly Woman Poses with Children,” at a migrant housing camp in the Yakima Valley sometime from 1967 to 1976. Nash spent those years documenting the labor and life of farmworkers in the Valley.

The collection of more than 10,000 Nash images at Washington State University also shows demonstrations and labor activists leading and supporting farmworkers in their fight for better pay and working conditions, adequate housing and more. Cesar Chavez visited the Valley and Nash was there, on one occasion photographing Chavez arriving and speaking at the packed Escuelita in Granger. The emotion of the meeting comes across clearly in an intense Chavez and the somber faces of a priest and others crowded near him.

That struggle and the challenges of agricultural work comprise the big picture of the negatives, prints and contact prints officially known as the Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection. Nash also documented everyday life for the Latino and Indigenous farmworkers, their families and communities.

He photographed a bathroom sink in public housing in Sunnyside and a church outside Granger. An infant playing with two sticks and a band performing at a tavern in Toppenish. Eight agricultural workers in Sunnyside. A young Native woman from Canada, smiling as she stands in a doorway with a toddler in her arms.

They are among the people and places that inspire Lipi Turner-Rahman, manager of the Kimble Digitization Center at WSU Libraries. She needs the help of the people in the photos and those who knew them. She wants to know who they are and more about the moment when Nash stood nearby and pressed the camera’s shutter button.

“I’m really interested in the storytelling. If they remember this is me, and I remember that day, and we were doing this. This is my life story. This is how I came to be in this photo,” Turner-Rahman said.

“That is the end result we’re looking for.”

Courtesy of Kimble Digitization Center / Washington State University Libraries 

Washington State University students pose for a portrait at the Kimble Digitization Center at WSU Libraries. These students have been hired with a grant and donations to digitize around 5,000 images of the Irwin Nash Images of Migrant Labor Digital Collection.

Students hired with a grant and donations have already digitized 6,271 of the images and work to add a few hundred more every week. They hope to have all of them uploaded by the end of June, if not sooner, so the collection becomes an accessible resource for everyone. Efforts to make it a more complete collection by identifying people and providing context for the photos will continue.

“It’s our mission to extend the narrative of the stories of the people of Washington,” Turner-Rahman said.

Awareness of history

Laura Solis, who grew up in Granger in a family of farmworkers, moved away years ago and lives in Seattle with her partner, Mike Fong. In their online search for a historical photo of one of her relatives, Fong came across the Nash collection early last year. At that point, WSU had digitized only 100 of the images.

Nash sold the collection to the university in April 1991 for $5,950, according to the collection guide. It came as 319 rolls of 35 mm film. Staff then created contact sheets, providing them to researchers or printing out specific photos as requested.

Though it started slowly, digitizing the collection has become an important goal. “For us, for me, it’s all about access. I just want to get the photographs out there,” Turner-Rahman said.

Irwin Nash Collection Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts Archives and Special Collections 

The interior of an Escuelita in Granger, Wash., is filled with farm workers and supporters of Cesar Chavez. They're waiting for the arrival of Chavez, and the inauguration to begin. Groups of people are gathered together, both men and women in the small room, conversing with one another. There's an open archway that separates the crowds of people in the room. The center of the room is cleared out, so that an open space in the shape of a circle is formed.

Born in the 1970s, Solis didn’t know Chavez had come to the Yakima Valley. By the time she was in school, none of that history was available to her, she said. She sees the Nash collection as another way of educating people about what happened in the years activists and workers united for important goals.

“We’re getting so much further removed from that time period now” and should bring that history back to the people who live there, Solis said. “I really would like that awareness for the people in the Yakima Valley.”

‘He was everywhere we went’

Lupe Gamboa of Seattle, an activist and organizer for farmworkers, was with Nash during the wildcat hop strikes in the Lower Yakima Valley that began in 1970. Gamboa grew up in Yakima County; his family, originally from Texas, came here for farm work and stayed for the higher wages, and he went to Sunnyside schools.

After attending what was then Yakima Valley Community College, Gamboa went to the University of Washington, where he became involved with the Black Student Union and activism to bring more professors and students of color to the campus. He also worked with other students to get California grapes banned from campus as part of the five-year Delano grape strike and boycott.

In the summer of 1970, some of the Yakima Valley students who had been involved in activism at UW went back home and heard from friends who were working on hops farms and wanted to quit because of the low pay. Instead they decided go on strike, inspired by Chavez’ success in California. Eventually the strike spread to 15 hop farms in the Yakima Valley and more outside the Valley, Gamboa said, adding that he probably met Nash during those strikes.

“He showed up and started taking photos of everybody,” Gamboa said. “Irwin Nash was our secret weapon. ... He was taking pictures of everything going on. It was pretty incredible.”

Nash was in the background but seemingly everywhere. At the time, he didn’t speak any Spanish, though he took courses since then and speaks it fluently.

“He was everywhere we went. He had an old car and he’d follow us around or come with us,” Gamboa said. His passion for his work came from his Jewish background and strong sense of justice. He had heard stories of pogroms in Poland, where his parents were from.

“It wasn’t just a task. It was a mission he was on,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa and Seattle attorney Michael J. Fox, who provided legal representation for the United Farm Workers union during the strikes and after, had lunch with Nash a couple weeks ago. Nash is 86 and living in an assisted living facility, said Gamboa, who has helped with fundraising for digitizing the collection.

“The sense of seeking justice has never left him,” he said. “These photos need to be publicized in the Latino community and the general public, to (show) the role that farmworkers have played in making this county and this state up in the top tier of agricultural producers in the country.”

Help needed

Solis shared some of the photos on her Facebook page, and got in touch with Turner-Rahman. The women and Fong began talking about expanding the digital collection and ways they and others could support it.

“This is just a truly personal project for us,” Solis said, adding that she and Fong have met Nash. “But we’re also trying to figure out the best way to get these photos out.”

“There’s so much potential here.”

Courtesy of Laura Solis and Mike Fong 

Laura Solis poses for a portrait with Seattle photographer Irwin Nash.

Like Solis, people who have seen the photos and know more about them have contacted Turner-Rahman, which she welcomes. She’s trying to get information about the photos in multiple ways.

“The other way we are working to identify people is to allow people on the actual (digital) platform. We’re working to see if people ... will be able to type any information about individual photos,” she said. “That will come to me and my colleagues, and then we’ll be able to add that information in. It’s much more an organic thing.

“A two-pronged approach would be the best. Definitely there are people in the community who are still living there. If we can advertise and they can go in and look at it, the more ways we can identify individual community members.”

Seattle writer Sandeep Kaushik told the story earlier this year in an article on the Post Alley website.

Turner-Rahman also is interested in finding ways to get the photos out to those who might not have reliable internet service or computers.

“We’ve played around a lot of with a lot of different ideas,” she said, noting that people can also call or email her if they hope to contribute.

Though the digitization work was delayed by the pandemic, which required some creative approaches, it’s moving along nicely these days. Students are making two copies of each image — one for the website and the other a much higher resolution for preservation in the collection’s database.

It’s ongoing work, Turner-Rahman said. Once the collection is completely digitized, staff will go back in and revamp the landing page, then start collecting narratives in earnest and potentially go out into communities to talk directly to Yakima Valley residents about the website and how they can fill in its stories.

She looks forward to that and enjoys seeing the collection move into its future.

“For me, it’s really fascinating to see our students that are working with the collection ... to see their faces when they actually are digitizing those negatives,” Turner-Rahman said. “When (the image) hits their computers, they’re so enthralled by it.

“That’s amazing. They’re looking at history and this is great,” she said.


Andrew Duggins tosses pizza dough at Gus's Pizza Wednesday, April 14, 2021 in Yakima, Wash.


International
AP
Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

RIO DE JANEIRO — The global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering 3 million people Saturday amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France.

The number of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; or metropolitan Lisbon, Portugal. It is bigger than Chicago (2.7 million) and equivalent to Philadelphia and Dallas combined.

And the true number is believed to be significantly higher because of possible government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.

When the world back in January passed the bleak threshold of 2 million deaths, immunization drives had just started in Europe and the United States. Today, they are underway in more than 190 countries, though progress in bringing the virus under control varies widely.

While the campaigns in the U.S. and Britain have hit their stride and people and businesses there are beginning to contemplate life after the pandemic, other places, mostly poorer countries but some rich ones as well, are lagging behind in putting shots in arms and have imposed new lockdowns and other restrictions as virus cases soar.

Worldwide, deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day.

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organization’s leaders on COVID-19.

In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official. A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country.

As cases surge, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what supplies remain and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats.

The slow vaccine rollout has crushed Brazilians’ pride in their own history of carrying out huge immunization campaigns that were the envy of the developing world.

Taking cues from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than a flu, his Health Ministry for months bet big on a single vaccine, ignoring other producers. When bottlenecks emerged, it was too late to get large quantities in time.

Watching so many patients suffer and die alone at her Rio de Janeiro hospital impelled nurse Lidiane Melo to take desperate measures.

In the early days of the pandemic, as sufferers were calling out for comfort that she was too busy to provide, Melo filled two rubber gloves with warm water, knotted them shut, and sandwiched them around a patient’s hand to simulate a loving touch.

Some have christened the practice the “hand of God,” and it is now the searing image of a nation roiled by a medical emergency with no end in sight.

“Patients can’t receive visitors. Sadly, there’s no way. So it’s a way to provide psychological support, to be there together with the patient holding their hand,” Melo said. She added: “And this year it’s worse, the seriousness of patients is 1,000 times greater.”

This situation is similarly dire in India, where cases spiked in February after weeks of steady decline, taking authorities by surprise. In a surge driven by variants of the virus, India saw over 180,000 new infections in one 24-hour span during the past week, bringing the total number of cases to over 13.9 million.

Problems that India had overcome last year are coming back to haunt health officials. Only 178 ventilators were free Wednesday afternoon in New Delhi, a city of 29 million, where 13,000 new infections were reported the previous day.

The challenges facing India reverberate beyond its borders since the country is the biggest supplier of shots to COVAX, the U.N.-sponsored program to distribute vaccines to poorer parts of the world. Last month, India said it would suspend vaccine exports until the virus’s spread inside the country slows.

The WHO recently described the supply situation as precarious. Up to 60 countries might not receive any more shots until June, by one estimate. To date, COVAX has delivered about 40 million doses to more than 100 countries, enough to cover barely 0.25% of the world’s population.

Globally, about 87% of the 700 million doses dispensed have been given out in rich countries. While 1 in 4 people in wealthy nations have received a vaccine, in poor countries the figure is 1 in more than 500.

In recent days, the U.S. and some European countries put the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on hold while authorities investigate extremely rare but dangerous blood clots. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has likewise been hit with delays and restrictions because of a clotting scare.

Another concern: Poorer countries are relying on vaccines made by China and Russia, which some scientists believe provide less protection than those made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Last week, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the country’s vaccines offer low protection and said officials are considering mixing them with other shots to improve their effectiveness.

In the U.S., where over 560,000 lives have been lost, accounting for more than 1 in 6 of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped, businesses are reopening, and life is beginning to return to something approaching normalcy in several states. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID-19 low.

But progress has been patchy, and new hot spots — most notably Michigan — have flared up in recent weeks. Still, deaths in the U.S. are down to about 700 per day on average, plummeting from a mid-January peak of about 3,400.

In Europe, countries are feeling the brunt of a more contagious variant that first ravaged Britain and has pushed the continent’s COVID-19-related death toll beyond 1 million.

Close to 6,000 gravely ill patients are being treated in French critical care units, numbers not seen since the first wave a year ago.

Dr. Marc Leone, head of intensive care at the North Hospital in Marseille, said exhausted front-line staff members who were feted as heroes at the start of the pandemic now feel alone and are clinging to hope that renewed school closings and other restrictions will help curb the virus in the coming weeks.

“There’s exhaustion, more bad tempers. You have to tread carefully because there are a lot of conflicts,” he said. “We’ll give everything we have to get through these 15 days as best we can.”

———

Goodman reported from Miami and Cheng reported from London. AP Writers John Leicester in Paris and Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi contributed to this report.


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