Arts & Entertainment

Loyola Alumna Walks the Red Carpet With Laura Dern

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This year’s Golden Globes exchanged its usual celebration of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for a more serious confrontation of sexual harassment within a seemingly patriarchal industry.

Some of cinema’s finest actresses brought leading women’s rights activists with them to the ceremony, including Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), whose guest has roots at Loyola University. Dern brought Loyola alumna Mónica Ramírez to walk the red carpet alongside her.

Ramírez is best known as the president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an organization that fights for the rights of migrant farm workers across the country, with a specific focus on the women in the community.

The PHOENIX spoke over the phone with Ramírez about her experience at the Golden Globes and her activist mission.

Ramírez’s passion for social justice started with her family’s roots long before college.

“Both sides of my family migrated to Ohio as migrant farmworkers. So when I was growing up, my parents really wanted me to remember our roots and committed to assuring I understood the reality of migrant farmworkers,” Ramírez said. “[They] really helped orient me to the fact that I need to give back to the community and stay engaged and aware of what the community is facing.”

As Ramírez went through school, her interest in social justice grew. From a young age she enjoyed learning about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This interest led her to pursue activism during her time at Loyola in the mid-90s.

Linda HayMonica Ramirez on the Today show.

Ramírez received a degree in communication, but tried to focus it on social justice as much as she could. While on campus, she was a student activist, participating in and even starting many different events and activities during her time at Loyola.

One social issue, however, remained close to Ramírez’s heart — the plight of migrant farmworkers. She set out to bring awareness to the issue on Loyola’s campus.

“I created a farmworker justice-oriented group while I was at Loyola and held events on campus to educate students about farmworkers’ rights,” Ramírez said. “I’ve just always advocated on behalf of farmworkers, specifically against gender discrimination and sexual violence in their workplace.”

Catherine Nichols, a lecturer of anthropology at Loyola, sees the reality of migrant farm labor as a larger representation of our country’s economic and political problems.

“The U.S. agricultural industry — from the farmers to the supermarket — is highly dependent on the extraction of cheap labor from vulnerable populations,” Nichols said in an email to The PHOENIX. “Hardworking migrants from neighboring countries like Mexico are continuing to seek wage opportunities in the United States, as they have done — and been encouraged to do — for over a century. The commodity chains that link producers and consumers are brilliantly orchestrated to mask the actual conditions of human labor that make the patterns and expectations of consumption that U.S. consumers enjoy possible.”

In objection to this, Ramírez said one of her larger accomplishments at Loyola was getting the school to join the GardenBurger boycott, a protest of the vegetarian burger company owned by Kellogg’s. Ramírez explained that after it was discovered the company had ties to the political action committee NORPAC Foods, Inc (NORPAC) — which allegedly refused to negotiate working conditions with its unionized workers — protests began to emerge, including across college campuses. After walking up to the chefs in the cafeteria and making her argument, Ramírez said she convinced Loyola to become the first school to officially join the boycott.

After graduating the same year, Ramírez remained involved in activist groups.

In 2011, Ramírez co-founded her dream organization, the ANDC. Made up of 17 separate member organizations led by or affiliated with members of the ANDC, Ramírez’s organization listens and adheres to the needs of female migrant farmworkers all over the the United States.

“I really wanted to focus on the policy priorities and work of migrant farmworker women specifically,” Ramírez said. “I didn’t want it to be part of another organization that might decide that [these] issues aren’t a priority and kick them to the backburner.”

The ANDC garnered some popularity when Ramírez decided to write a letter to TIME Magazine in support of the women in Hollywood speaking out against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. The magazine published the letter Nov. 10.

Ramírez’s work didn’t go unnoticed, as she said she soon received a phone call from Tarana Burke — the mind behind the viral #MeToo campaign — who asked if she could share Ramírez’s contact information with actress Laura Dern.

Monica Ramirez
Monica RamirezLaura Dern and Monica Ramirez on their way to the Golden Globes.

According to Ramírez, the “gracious, kind and amazing” Dern said she was aware of Ramírez’s work and had read her letter in TIME Magazine. Soon after, Dern offered her an invitation to the 2018 Golden Globes.

“She helped me to lift up the experiences of farmworker women using her platform, which was extremely generous of her,” Ramírez said. “She certainly didn’t have to do that.”

Despite having never attended the Golden Globes before, Ramírez said she was struck by the unique and electric energy in the air that night.

“There was a lot of excitement in the air, because you could feel there was something different about being there — the solidarity was clear,” Ramírez said. “As far as you could look, everyone was wearing black.”

Black was the dominant fashion choice during the ceremony — a visual statement protesting Hollywood’s long history of sexual harassment. The idea was conceived by the women’s activist group, Time’s Up, whose presence was strong throughout the night. Despite the striking display, fashion wasn’t at the forefront during red carpet interviews.

“We were focusing on substance,” Ramírez said. “We were talking about issues, not what we were wearing.”

Throughout the awards ceremony, the discussion continued with actresses such as Dern, Frances McDormand (“Fargo”) and Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) using their platform to repeatedly address sexual harassment in their industry.

“It was beautiful to see award-winner after award-winner get up and make sure they talked about [sexual harassment] during their limited time,” Ramírez said. “It showed a true desire to make a shift that would be long lasting.”

The women responsible for what transpired at the Golden Globes are to be commended, Ramírez said; if students are to learn anything from the brave actions of activists around the globe, it’s that their voices matter.

“[Young people] are going to be the ones who make the world better,” Ramírez said. “Activists understand that we’re the ones ‘clearing the forest’ to make a path for the people who come behind us and do [things] better.”

Ramírez encourages Loyola students to hold the university accountable regarding the businesses it’s involved with, if any of those businesses violate any code of workers’ rights. She insisted that students have a real power to make Loyola do things differently.

“My life’s work — including my time at Loyola — demonstrates that [young people] don’t have to wait until [they’ve] graduated from college or gotten an advanced degree or worked for 10 years,” Ramírez said. “[They] can make a difference from where [they] are in the world right now.”

To learn more about or support Alianza Nacional De Campesinas, visit https://www.alianzanacionaldecampesinas.org.

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A&E Editor

Luke Hyland is a senior at Loyola and the A&E editor for The PHOENIX.

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