Center for Worker Justice hosts fundraising dance Tuesday at The Mill

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Dance with the Center for Worker Justice and Tropicante

The Mill — Tuesday, June 27 at 7 p.m.

Members of Tropicante, including, from left to right, Ed East, Karin Stein, Marcelo Arévalo and Edwin Colón. Paul Cunliffe and Joel Conrad will play instead of Arévalo and Colón, respectively) — photo provided by Tropicante

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) will host a fundraiser Tuesday at The Mill in the name of social justice and set to a Latin beat.

The CWJ’s first fundraiser at The Mill will feature musical entertainment from the Kellogg, Iowa-based quartet Tropicante, with musical stylings originating from south of the global border, including (but not limited to): samba (Brazil), merengue and bachata (Dominican Republic), cumbia (Colombia), salsa music and Latin jazz.

Tickets for the event are $10 with a Johnson County community ID or $15 without one and are available online, at CWJ’s office or at the door. Attendees must be 19 years or older after 10 p.m. All proceeds from the evening will go to CWJ and their campaigns for workers and immigrant rights.

Tropicante’s line-up features co-founders Ed East (congas, guitar, flute and lead vocals) and Karin Stein (guitar and lead vocals), who will perform with Iowa natives Paul Cunliffe (drums) and Joel Conrad (bass). East was born in Panama and is well-known in Iowa for his band Orquesta Alto Maiz, which has been playing for over 30 years. Stein was born in Colombia, where she was raised on a farm located on the eastern plains. East and Stein have performed in several groups over the years, starting as a duo over 17 years ago.

Band members were first contacted by the CWJ for an event last year, which was the beginning of their partnership. The evening will be the first of three summertime CWJ fundraisers featuring Tropicante. Future events are scheduled for July 25 and Aug. 22.

Stein told Little Village that Tropicante’s members were honored to have been invited to perform.

While Tropicante does not have an official political or socio-economic stance, Stein said: “I personally believe strongly that protecting worker’s rights — whether national or foreign-born, whether documented or undocumented — is very important. We all benefit as a society from the work everyone does, and if everyone is treated fairly, society is healthier.”

The CWJ was founded in 2012 in Iowa City with an eye towards addressing discrimination and ensuring that people have equal access to community services. As noted in CWJ’s mission statement, they “seek to improve Eastern Iowa communities by coordinating projects to address injustices in areas such as: workplace conditions, civil rights, access to education and the need for affordable housing.”

The CWJ works with local labor and inter-religious allies and is part of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), a national network founded in 1996 and based in Washington, D.C. CWJ members have continued to champion a $10.10 minimum wage and the rights of refugees in Johnson County, among other community causes.

The Mill has established a reputation as a center for artists and musicians. Alexi Schlesinger, The Mill’s event and production manager (who is responsible for booking talent) said the venue hosts “a number of different styles of programming but we are excited to have a [Latin-based] evening with instructive dancing.”

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