BOB FITCH - BIOGRAPHY Link to Photo Archives
Part 1: Organizer Activities -- Doing Non Violence…in My Back Yard”
Bob Fitch’s 48 years or peace and justice work started during his teen years growing up in Berkeley, CA around Socialist and CP organizer families. Youthful apprenticeships included working with the southern Black Civil Right Movement (Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC) and the United Farmworker Union (AFL-CIO).
Less known experiences are active labor movement membership (United Food and Commercial Workers, The Operating Engineers 3E, SEIU 1000), community activities (environment, schools, homeless) and a lifetime of draft resistance and GI Rights organizing.
For the CA Dept. of Housing Bob developed, managed and entitled the award winning state-wide multi-million dollar Emergency Housing Shelter Program (ESP, now EHAP).
Bob organized the Viet Nam era west coast Sanctuary church movement (the foundation for the Sanctuary movement serving the Central and Latin American underground) and was a founder (with April Burns, Carl Stancil, and Joe Williams) of the model CA Central Coast GI Rights counselling team which is currently associated with the Santa Cruz Resource Center for Nonviolence. He was also Co-Chair of the successful Santa Cruz County Living Wage campaign.
Bob Lives in Watsonville, CA where he manages photo archives he produced during his various adventures and where he remains active in community empowerment programs.
Recommended reading: THE LONG HAUL, Myles Horton; WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE, Martin Luther King Jr.; RULES FOR RADICALS, Saul Alinsky; TO THE MOUNTAINTOP, Stewart Burns; LABOR’S UNTOLD STORY, Richard Goyer & Herbert Morais; AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOM X, Alex Haley; WRETCHED OF THE EARTH, Franz Fanon; THE UNKNOWN STORY – MAO, Jung Chang & Jon Halliday; AFORCE MORE POWERFUL, Peter Ackerman & Jack Duvall.
Part 2: Photojournalism Activities – “What’s a 6‘ Blue-Eyed Gringo Like You Doing Here…Are You A Cop?"
While working as a community organizer Bob Fitch began his photography and writing career in the mid-1960s as a photographer for San Francisco’s fledgling Glide (Foundation) Press.
Initially trained to be an engineer, and then a Protestant minister, he says, “Photojournalism seduced me. It is a compelling combination of visual aesthetics, potent communication and story telling. It is a way to effectively support the organizing for social justice that is transforming our lives and future.”
Shortly after working for Glide, he became the staff photographer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), of which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was president. Traveling throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia Bob documented day-to-day Civil Rights Movement events -- local community organizing, violence against Afro American citizens, numerous demonstrations, voter registration and Afro American political campaigns.
His stories and images were shipped to national Afro American publishing outlets that could neither afford nor risk sending reporters to the south. “Those communities, workers and their families,” says Fitch, “are still my heroes.” Many of his best images document the courageous contribution made to the Civil Rights movement by the men, women, and children who organized the cause for freedom in their local communities.
Bob is also recognized for his extensive documentation of numerous peace and social justice activities in the 1960 and 70s including Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality, the first congressional campaign of Congressman Ron Dellums, the war resistance activities of Fathers Dan and Phillip Berrigan and the Draft Resistance work of David and Joan Baez-Harris.
For seven years Bob documented the organizing efforts of Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers Union. The Chavez stamp issued by the U.S. Post office in 2002 is a rendering of one of Bob’s photos. “The stamp is an honor, but also a disappointment,” says Fitch. “The stamp rendering replaces the original background, a vivid red and black United Farmworker Union huelga flag, with an agricultural field. I guess the US Post Office is not yet ready to put a union label on a stamp.”
Bob’s photographs have been featured in two Smithsonian traveling exhibits. They are reproduced globally in print, film and electronic media. He is currently represented by the Take Stock photographic agency which is managed by fellow photojournalist Matt Heron.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Bob immersed himself in variety of human services programs. He was photographing less, but continued to actively “use any media necessary” to support organizing efforts.
During the last fifteen years his aesthetic pursuits have expanded to music. He is an accomplished folk musician, songwriter and rally song leader. He has organized numerous family song circles. For a decade he sang with the Sacramento Labor Chorus contributing baritone vigor and clever rally song lyrics to innumerable Sacramento capitol steps rallies.
After leaving state service, Bob traversed the West Coast for three years finally settling in Santa Cruz, CA where he works for the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), a 30-year-old community-based non-profit that supports various local and national peace and social justice programs.
Bob also reinvigorated his interest in photojournalism by documenting local peace & justice actions and special projects in Vietnam (Friendship Village), Brazil (alcohol fuel), Sri Lanka (International Peaceforce) the 2006 241 mile Guerrero Azteca Tijuana-to-San Francisco march with Fernando Suarez del Solar, Camillo Mejia and Pablo Paredez, and the successful State Assembly campaign of Watsonville, CA "home boy" mayor Luis Alejo.
Travels journies include every county in CA, most of the U.S.. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Bahamas, England, New Zealand, China, Palestine, Israel, Vietnam, Brazil and Sri Lanka.
Bob lives in Watsonville,California where he is involved in local political justice empowerment campaigns and continues to photograph for nonviolent organized labor, peace & justice campaigns.
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