Kenneth Turan, Times Movie Critic says in his review (August 28, 2008) “‘The Garden’ is a case study in how hardball politics is played and why it is so difficult to take on the system. Not that anyone has given up the fight. As a story in the L.A. Times this week pointed out, the battle over this piece of land is far from over. What ‘The Garden’ does is demonstrate what it’s all about and why it’s important.” Turan’s title of this piece on The Garden, a 2008 academy award nominated documentary on the 6-year struggle of the South Central Farmers is “The Garden, Turf wars flourish in South-Central L.A.” Ouch! Here we go again—diminished from urban ecological pioneers and community healers to gang banging discontents. (sigh)
I haven’t seen The Garden yet, but have heard many good things about it and the director, Scott Hamilton Kennedy, especially from friends involved in the film, Gabriel Tenorio and Domingo 7 of East LA who co-wrote the musical score with seasoned soundtrack composer Doug DeAngelis. One of the reasons the film has been difficult to catch up with for me is that it seems to be on tour, rather than part of the usual distribution schedules in local movie houses. Daryl Hannah even hosted a screening of The Garden as part of the National Democratic Convention programming.
In the back of my mind, I find it sort of like a counter-struggle juxtaposition to think of the farmers sipping champagne at this year’s gathering of blowhards called the academy awards. So I asked the South Central Farmers, who are my friends on myspace how the movie being nominated has impacted them and if the South Central Farmers will attend the Academy Awards this Sunday.
They responded with the following: “The South Central Farmers have joined forces with student groups California Statewide MEChA and D-Q Unity to force the international teen clothing corporation Forever 21 to end plans for construction on the site of the South Central Farm and demand fair wages for its workers. The SCF Action Committee will lead a rally to kickoff a national boycott until the Farm is restored and stop worker abuse ended on Saturday, December 13, at noon at the Forever 21 “superstore” at 35 N. De Lacey Avenue in Pasadena, one block north of Colorado Avenue.
Forever 21 is the proposed tenant for the Farm land. A mammoth warehouse is planned for the company, moving 2500 trucks daily in and out the over-industrialized neighborhood. Forever 21 has a history of underpaying workers and violating workers’ safety, concerns workers still have in spite of a 2006 settlement against the retail and manufacturing giant.
The rise of the South Central Farmers began nearly three years ago when their raucous and playful street protests, with oversized cardboard corn and a multicultural blend of young people, gave voice to 350 families being thrown out of a public garden they had cultivated into a hidden paradise in the middle of L.A.’s industrial district.
Developer Ralph Horowitz bulldozed the site of the South Central Farm, the nation’s largest urban farm, in June of 2006 after negotiations between the Mayor’s office and Horowitz failed. Four months later, executives from Forever 21 accompanied Mayor Villaraigosa on a trade mission to Asia. In June of this year, the Mayor named Forever 21′s vice president, Christopher Lee, to the influential seven-member Industrial Development Authority. A month later, the Farmers and area residents were forced back to City Hall to stop construction of the warehouse. They temporarily halted Horowitz’s planned construction of a mammoth-shipping center for Forever 21, forcing Horowitz to agree to an Environmental Impact Report before construction could go forward on the warehouse.
In August, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Forever 21 had donated nearly $1.3M to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s election campaign and initiatives. In spite of warehouses emptied by a twenty percent downturn in imports to the Port of Los Angeles, Lee has threatened to pull Forever 21 out of Los Angeles if the company cannot build their plant on the Farm site.
Meanwhile, the South Central Farmers continue to claim the right to cultivate the land at 41st and Alameda and are spearheading a growing coalition of organizations to demand food rights, ecological justice, and a green agenda for Los Angelinos.”
The struggle to Save the Farm continues—this story is not over and no one will be riding into the sunset anytime soon.
Join the South Central Farmers’ fight for ecology and justice this Saturday, February 21 at 35 N. De Lacy Ave in Pasadena (1 block north of Colorado). Gather at 11:30am, Rally is from noon to 3pm. For more information, to endorse, or to get in communication with Boycott Forever 21 Coalition, email them at boyc...@yahoo.com and go to www.myspace.com/boycottf21
SEE THE GARDEN THIS WEEKEND!!
Academy Award Nominee – Best Documentary Feature
Screening and Q&A to follow with Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy
DocuDayTM Los Angeles
Saturday, February 21st, 3:15 PM
Writers Guild of America Theatre
135 S. Doheny Dr.
Beverly Hills , CA 90211
Get all the screening details at http://docuday.eventbrite.com/
Parking is free!!!