The Garden, a Film on the South Central Farmers Nominated for an Academy Award

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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!!!

13 thoughts on “The Garden, a Film on the South Central Farmers Nominated for an Academy Award

  1. damn as much as I wanna see the movie, I’m not going all the way out there to Beverly Hills. Chale, can’t they screen somewhere closer ? Ohh yeah I forgot we don’t have theaters like that here in East Los. There’s another documentary that chronicles Forever 21 being the ass hole store that is called Made in L.A. It’s a great movie and I highly recommend anyone interested in stopping Forever 21.

  2. “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.” Victoria

    This is some insanity, it just amazes me what people can get away with and just go around sipping coffee like nothing happened.

    Browne

  3. “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)” –Victoria

    Good catch! These are the daily indignities, the small cuts by which they diminish a community and mold it into what they perceive it to be. If they were charging $50 bucks to teach a class on canning warty jam, that’d be an eco-action!

  4. Thanks for a heads up on the Forever 21-Villaraigosa connection. Sad to see Villaraigosa’s agenda move from ecological “green” to dollar “green.” Our city leaders are so damn short-sighted.

  5. Ok I’m about to make an unpopular comment in the progressive set, why is Forever 21 the symbol? In my head I always sort of think it’s because its person of color owned, Korean-American owned. Yes I agree with all of the bad things they say about Forever 21, but on the other had what about the other shops that have been doing this for years. Why this one? And in my head I can’t help but think that this Forever 21 is satan thing is fueled by people who are in field of retail doing the exact same thing who are jealous of their success, but I could be wrong.

  6. I didn’t understand the connection between Forever 21 and SC Farm until today even though I received an email about this earlier this week.

    Anyway, I’m glad there’s still pressure on F21 and the SC Farmers are still going strong.

  7. Man, it’s one of my greatest shames that I shop at Forever 21. I’m a broke-ass punk, I guess. Browne makes a good point, why is no one targeting, uh, Target? Or any other “too cheap to be true” store. White people love Target. I’m sure Target’s suppliers would NEVER exploit ANYONE EVER.

    Come to think of it, they should add Target to the Stuff White People Like blog: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

  8. That stuff white people like blog is funny, but, also weak. When I suggested they add things like nascar and calling themselves “rednecks”, it got no response. When I suggested “the big lebowsky” it got a response.

    I get the feeling that the writer(s) are a bunch of Rush Limbaugh types figuring out ways to make fun of middle class white liberals. They went to USC.

    (@erh – maybe you can bug the theater in Commerce to show it.)

  9. Yeah, it certainly is selecting a very small section of the “white people” demographic. Honestly it should be changed to “stuff hipsters like.”

  10. What these farmers are doing is clearly an attack on this man’s personal property rights given to him by the Constitution. These people where squating on someone else’s land, so they feel entitled to it even though it doesn’t belong to them. What happened to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These “farmers” are trying to encroach on someone else’s liberties. If they want a farm they should buy their own land, not try to steal someone else’s.

  11. Actually, NO Bill—you have your facts wrong. That’s why it is good to investigate, before responding. I believe that is called ‘ being reactionary’.

    The farm was part of a community healing project by the city to help settle the community of South Central after the Rodney King beating civil upraising. At that time, this land was public property—yes, belonging to everyone. Here are the facts:

    The city of Los Angeles acquired the land, by eminent domain, in 1986 for the purpose of building a waste to energy incinerator known as the Los Angeles City Energy Recovery Project (LANCER). This idea was abandoned because of community opposition, led by Juanita Tate and Concerned Citizens of South-Central Los Angeles. The city paid $4,786,372 for the property.

    The final order of condemnation under eminent domain included a right to repurchase the land should the city sell it for non-public or non-housing purposes within ten years of the condemnation for the largest land owner, Alameda-Barbara Investment Company. The City sold the property to the L.A. Harbor Department in 1994.

    In July 1994 the Harbor Department granted a revocable permit to the L.A. Regional Food Bank – a private, nonprofit food-distribution network housed across the street from the Lancer incinerator site – to occupy and use the site as a community garden.

    In 2001, Ralph Horowitz, a partner in former property owner Alameda-Barbara sued the City for breach of contract, for failure to honor the original right of repurchase. The City denied his claim.

    In 2003, the City of L.A. settled with Horowitz, in a closed door session. The sale was for $5,050,000, slightly above the $4.8 million the city paid for it in the eminent domain seizure. The settlement was done to comply with the repurchase clause as the court had mandated. Horowitz agreed to donate 2.6 acres (11,000 m2) of the site, valued at nearly $3,000,000, for a public soccer field, as part of the settlement. The City Council discussed and approved the terms of the settlement in closed session. The South Central Farm’s Lawyer, Patrick Dunlevy, claims that despite repeated requests, negotiation documents relating to the session, have never been released.

    Shortly thereafter the Los Angeles regional Foodbank abandoned the project. In response the farmers formed an organization calling themselves the ‘South Central Farmers Feeding Families’.

    On January 8, 2004, Horowitz issued a notice to the gardeners setting February 29, 2004, as the termination date for the community garden. In response members of the South Central Farmers Feeding Families obtained legal counsel (Hadsell & Stormer, Inc., and Kaye, Mclane & Bednarski LLP) and filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the sale of the property. The Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order and later a preliminary injunction halting development of the property until the lawsuit could be settled. The farmers lost the lawsuit and the court raised the injunction, freeing Horowitz to evict the farmers.

    Initially, Horowitz sought $16.3 million for the property, more than three times the 1986 eminent domain valuation. In a deal brokered in cooperation by The Trust for Public Land, the South Central Farmers have successfully raised a little over six million dollars. Fundraising efforts continued as farmers and celebrities have begun both a tree sitting campaign and occupation of the land, while under the threat of forced eviction by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.

    On June 7, 2006, the Annenberg Foundation announced that they would donate the money to buy the farm. Horowitz, however, did not respond to the offer, since it came after his May 22 deadline. Horowitz has told the Los Angeles Times that he would not sell the land to them even if they offered him $100 million, due to the picketing of his house and anti-Semitic remarks directed towards him. This is a ridiculous accusation since some of the legal team for the South Central Farmers and many of the protesters are Jewish.

    Since 2008 Horowitz, wants to sell the property to Forever 21 as a factory and distribution center, instead of having an urban green area in the city.

  12. ..Just saw THE GARDEN and I loved it.
    These people had the written law on their side. Politicians and law enforcement do not always follow the law as it is written. In this case I believe a Public Notice should have been given and there was none given. In fact the transaction occurred behind closed doors and the farmers were informed by an eviction notice. I hope they some day win their battle.

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