When I first learned about the farm, and it’s risk of destruction, I immediately rushed down from Canada to join the encampment, recognizing just how important it is. I am honoured to have experienced what is at it’s essence, an outpouring of love - love for humanity, love for the planet, love for all that is sacred. A luminous example of ‘love in action’ as Martin Luther King would call it. A community rising up, committed to non-violence, peace and life.
Like many, I thought I would be there for a few days, and like many, once I was there, I was captured by the magic, and didn’t want to leave. The days of the ‘habitation’ turned into weeks, beautiful weeks, in which a new community was formed, the farmers coming together with a brilliantly diverse human ecosytem that cut across lines of race, class and gender, drawn to the shining example that is South Central Farms.
After about three weeks of staying on the farm, 24 hours a day, I reluctantly had to return home to Canada, but my heart has remained in South Central. And like you, my heart was broken this week as the bulldozers moved in and so brutally ripped apart this sacred garden of eden. I sat here in Canada, editing the footage I shot of this green jewel in a concrete desert, bawling like a baby. What I felt was not anger, but anguish.
Slowly, my anguish turned to empathy. Empathy for all the precious oases that are being destroyed by the crumbling old paradigm of the industrial growth society. Empathy for Atenco, in Mexico, South Central Farms brothers and sisters in the struggle; empathy for the disappearing forests of the Amazon; empathy for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan; empathy for all the children of war and hunger around the world; empathy for all the people who are getting sick from the toxic air, water and land, from the junk food that is being crammed down our throats, sick from the junk that is being crammed into our minds and hearts by a corrupt media, a corrupt establishment. Empathy for all of us who, know it or not, are in the gunsights of a sick society.
My deep sadness brought me back to a great loss in my own life - the loss of my brother, Randy, last year, from cancer. And I remembered the lessons of hope and love that was my brother’s parting gift to his family. He taught us to never give up. Randy was determined to die at home, despite the doctors wanting to keep him in a sterile hospital, and together we suceeded in making that possible. He loved to sit in this backyard garden, with a huge bucket of peanuts, feeding the squirrels and birds. That garden was always filled with birds, hummingbirds, jays, woodpeckers, you name it. He fed them, and they fed his soul. Even when he was no longer able to sit in his wheelchair, we could still wheel him out into his beloved garden on his hospital bed. He was out there the day before he died, wearing an inspirational t-shirt that I had sent him from India, years ago, when I was shooting ScaredSacred. It was the last shirt he wore. On the front it said, 'Never Give Up', and on the back was a long quote from the Dalai Lama:
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
In your country too much work is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Not just to your friends
But to everyone
Work for peace
In your heart and in the world
Work for peace
And I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up.
-The Dalai Lama
On the day the bulldozers moved in and began their cruel attack on the farm, I found Randy’s t-shirt, and I put it on, something I had never done before. I put it on, and walked the few blocks to the community garden that grows in my own neighbourhood, the Strathcona Gardens. And I walked through this intact oasis, past the lovingly tended garden plots, and I cried behind my sunglasses. But my tears did not drain away my power. They watered it, like the rain waters the fresh new seedlings, only strengthening my resolve, my determination to dedicate my life to working towards a world that recognizes and fosters all life, towards a world that embraces the vision embodied by South Central Farms. They may have bulldozed the land, but the spirit can never be destroyed. It may be veiled in tears right now, but it is still there, still shining. Try as they might to crush us, we will rise, again and again, like the farm first rose from the fires of Los Angeles, like the phoenix rises from the ashes. The spirit of the people will prevail. Aqui estamos!
~in solidarity, Velcrow Ripper
Velcrow Ripper is a two time winner of the Canadian Academy Award. His feature documentary, FierceLight, about Sacred Activism around the world, will feature the story of South Central Farms. It is part two of the acclaimed ScaredSacred Trilogy. www.scaredsacred.org