It’s a few minutes after 6pm when I near the South Central Farm via the Blue Line train. As my car passes the farm in its current barren state, I try to avoid looking out the window.
As I near the farm on foot, the first thing I notice is commercial ads hanging on the chain link fence. Also on the fence, I see dead vines. Green ribbons, symbolizing solidarity with the farm, have been tied to the fence on all sides of the land. Behind the fence, in the middle of the vast dirt plain, I see some plant life, including what appears to be young banana trees.
At the site of tonight’s event, a loyal activist, who was arrested on the day of the eviction, tells me that the land continues to be bulldozed by develop Ralph Horowitz because plants keep coming up. This is being done, I’m told, to “squash hope. No pun intended.” Indeed, I notice fresh tracks about the “property.”
This person furthers notes that even though the last bulldozing was about a week ago (so s/he believes), a few plants are already springing up. In addition to the ones I’ve already noticed, there are corn plants nearby.
On another subject, this activist tells me that s/he is running into people that s/he hasn’t seen in a long time.
I then see Tezozomoc, an organizer of the farm, who recognizes me and is jovial. I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed when I see him—I was involved with the Sierra Club’s Central Group in 2005 when his request for their endorsement of the farm was turned down. I’m happy to report to Tezozomoc that I’ve since left the Sierra Club in disgust (over a variety of issues). He says the Sierra Club’s failure to endorse the farm didn’t make a difference anyway.
As additional farmers and supporters gradually arrived, I’m impressed and gladdened to see a person picking up a piece of plastic trash (i.e., binding for a six pack) from the street and trying to find a place to deposit it.
Many people embrace as they’re reunited.
Across the street from the farm is a company called Solar Integrated. Later, Rufina Juarez, another farm organizer, tells me that she’s unfamiliar with the company. However, “one time we got a call from them, and they said that if we were to stay that they would put solar panels. I said, ‘I would love to have them, but it wasn’t a permanent thing.’ In other words, I couldn’t tell them, ‘Yeah, the land is permanent.’”
The event officially begins. Tezozomoc takes the floor and describes the “naked” land as “culturally castrated and spiritually raped.” His own father was one of the original farmers here in the early 1990s. “I’m not going to tell you that it doesn’t hurt me because it does hurt me. When I go around this place, I see the fence--I cannot see inside the fence. In that area over there is where my father left me a guava tree. That was the only thing that he left me, and he passed away this same last year that the farm was evicted.
“. . . [P]utting all that aside, we have to continue. The needs of people, the needs of the community don’t go away because you get evicted. They don’t go away because they shove a baton in front of your face.
“In the last year we’ve kept this together, we’ve kept the spirit of the farm together. We continue to do positive things in the community. We continue to have farmer’s’ market the first Sunday of the month. We have chosen to continue to fight for this piece of land. We are still legally fighting for this piece of land. [W]e continue to farm, not here: we’ve chose to lease land as we figure this struggle out because the needs of the community don’t go away.
". . . We’re going to build it again [even] if it takes another three or four years. We’re committed to this."
Rufina then speaks. “We believe that in order to be liberated, you have to control where your food comes from,” she says.
Another speaker, an activist/rapper, later expresses a similar line of thinking: “We’re part of this community, and I think it’s going to continue to grow and build and construct alternatives means and, hopefully soon, independence from the rest of these folks.
“When we talk about struggle a lot of things are very interconnected. One of the things that we work on a lot is the Zapatista struggle, The Zapatistas teach autonomy, self-sufficiency, self-sustainability. I think that the South Central Farm is no different. [T]hey teach the same exact things.”
Music is pervasive throughout the night. Centuries-old music handed down from strugglers of long ago is performed; as well as rap; and This Land is Your Land, including lyrics said to be commonly omitted from Woody Guthrie’s original song(1).
As we prepare for the vigil, candles are distributed. Rufina tells us to keep these candles after tonight because “the next time we use these candles, we’ll be in a better place and a better position. So keep those candles in a special place.”
Most people remain in the performance area with their lighted candle, while a handful of people circle the farm with candles in hand.
Meanwhile, speeches and music continue.
Linda Piera-Avila describes a resolution that she and others presented to the City Council earlier today. The resolution would designate every June 13 (the anniversary of the eviction,) as recognition of the South Central Farm. “The response was overall favorable,” she reports. “Councilmember Reyes indicated that he felt we should pursue this matter and work together.”
Throughout the evening there are repeated verbal attacks on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmember Jan Perry and calls for the end of their political careers. One speaker lumps Villaraigosa and Perry together with George W. Bush as promoters of globalization.
One of the latter speeches, delivered spontaneously, calls on all of us to “to live in revolution every single day of your life, to be willing to give it all up—your freedom, and your right, and your culpability--for something you know is not just right but you know is needed. . . It doesn’t matter what descent you are either, but if you don’t work to make revolution in your daily lives, then everything that we shout, wear, promote, support is in vain and doesn’t mean as much as we say it does. We have a permit tonight [to be here], but mark my words: someday we will need no permits, because it will be ours.”
(1)These lyrics are:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.