Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Still Supporting the South Central Farmers: One Year Later

Still Supporting the South Central Farmers: One Year Later            
Rafu Shimpo column for 6/27/07

Life sure has been busy lately.  But never too busy to slow down and reflect.  I do that every year when I return to Manzanar to visit a place that represents my families’ stories of internment and incarceration.  It is a time of healing and a time to rededicate why I am active in the community.

Two weeks ago today, I took time to remember and reflect when I went with my husband Tony and my 2 1/2 year old daughter Maiya to visit what remains of the South Central Farm on the one year anniversary of the forced evictions of the farm.

I went back to visit a place that I have come to love.  In a community marked by warehouses and urban blight, the South Central Farm was a cherished poem, nurtured and tended lovingly by hundreds of people for 14 years.  It was about people coming together to plant seeds, grow organic fruits, vegetables, indigenous herbs, and to feed their families and the community.  People doing their part to help make this city and our world a greener and healthier place.

But it is no longer there.  What remains is a barren 14-acre piece of land stretching across 41st and Alameda, that has been bulldozed over, not once or twice, but 3 times.  You probably heard about the struggle because of high profile supporters like Joan Baez, Ralph Nader, Willie Nelson and Danny Glover, or you might have seen the evictions on the news with the police in riot gear.

Last year, Tony, Maiya and I went to the farm several times a week from May-July.  Part of why I was so interested in the South Central Farm, is from my experience with the urban gardening movement in Detroit where I spent several summers volunteering with Detroit Summer’s urban gardens.  Here is an entry from my blog on June 1, 2006:

“Tonight, we went to the South Central Farm, for the third time this week.  We went to the Candlelight Vigil on Friday, the Farmer's Market on Sunday, and again tonight for the vigil we went with friends from Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress.

It is a beautiful green oasis amidst warehouse after warehouse. 14 acres of urban farm, the largest in the nation.  350 families, mostly Mexican and Central American, grow fruits, vegetables, herbs and other indigenous medicinal plants.

Tony, his teaching partner Kathy, and their students have been going more frequently, supporting the farmers.  Kathy took a 4 a.m. shift the other day, and one of their students has been staying at the encampment several nights for the last week.

We saw Julia Butterfly Hill and Daryl Hannah, who are up in a walnut tree in protest. You just have to walk the farm and see the beauty of all of the lush green vegetables and fruits, and why it should not be destroyed for the developer to build another lousy warehouse.

The other night, Maiya, Tony and I joined the procession, walking around the perimeter of the farm. Maiya walked about 3/4 of the way around by herself. Tonight's chant was ‘Save the Farm, Si Se Puede.’  I could see Maiya swaying and rocking to the beat.  It's ok that her favorite part was playing in the dirt.  She's getting the seeds of activism from a grassroots perspective, so to speak.”

We had known that the City was going to evict the farmers—that it was just a matter of time.  Police helicopters had been circling over the farm every day and night.  The Farmers had secured commitments for $16 million to purchase the land, but the offer was rejected.  So when it happened, it was heartbreaking.

After the eviction, we continued joining the Candlelight Vigils held nightly around the farm.  No longer able to go inside, we walked around the outside of the farm with a declining number of people.  Eventually, life got busy again and we stopped going.  But the farmers did not quit. 

“Displaced, but not defeated” became their new slogan.  I realize that it was because the farm was about more than just food and gardening, it was about human spirit and the community.  Just like our Japanese American families started life over again after coming back from camp, the farmers have had to start over again. 

In the past year, the farmers have created the South Central Farmers Community Center & Gallery across the street from the farm and hold a South Central Farmers Tianguis marketplace with artisans, local merchants and live music on the first Sunday of every month.  They also sell fresh produce at the Leimert Park Farmer’s Market every Saturday, and at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market and Atwater Village Farmer’s Market every Sunday. 

They continue to challenge and fight legal battles with the City.  They have reorganized and set up a nonprofit health and education fund whose mission is to preserve, maintain and cultivate farm land in urban areas.  They also provide educational programs and activities about urban farming techniques, and healthy living and nutrition.

Going back to what remains of the farm after one year was difficult and emotional for me.  Seeing the barren dirt absent of all the lush green plants and trees in my memory, I couldn’t help but get choked up and teary-eyed.  I thought about my grandfather who was a Cantaloupe farmer before World War II, who never farmed again.  And about all the families who had to start new lives.

But, hearing how the farmers have continued to fight and to grow gave me hope.  And as Tony, Maiya and I walked back to the car, looking at the farm, I saw thousands of tiny bits of green shoots poking through the dry dirt despite the lack of rain this year.  It’s something that bulldozers, police in riot gear, politicians and greed cannot erase: the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.

Jennifer "Emiko" Kuida has been active in the Japanese American community for the last 15 years.  Her web blog can be found at  For more info about the South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund and to support the farmers, see and  Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.   © 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend

Tony's parents Fran and Don stayed at our house this weekend to visit. On Saturday, we went to Tony's Godmother Valerie's 60th Birthday Party. On Sunday morning, Tony and I made a Father's Day's Day Brunch for our families. Then on Sunday night, we went to dinner with Fran's family and long-time family friends.

Maiya and her god-cousin Erin

Fran & Valerie

Fran, Don and Maiya. Maiya's eating ice cream - a rare treat!

Three Monkeys Sitting in a Tree
Maiya with cousins Kevin & Kyle

Tony and Maiya on Father's Day with my parents and his parents

Fran, Maiya, Grandma, Cousin Robin & Aunt Gail

Dinner at Billingsley's in West LA with extended family & friends

Maiya at the end of a busy weekend!

This blog entry is dedicated to blog lurker Cousin Patty.
Come on, click the comment button, you know you want to!

Leo Carrillo Day Trip

Last weekend I took Maiya to Leo Carrillo State Beach for the first time. My brother Darin's family went camping for one night--and we joined them the next morning. We only stayed a few hours but it was fun playing in the sand and running around the beach. It brought back many memories of summers camping at Leo Carrillo. In fact, Tony reminded me it was where I had my first kiss the summer before 9th grade in the caves. I didn't tell Maiya that story, although I did share how much fun playing there with my cousins as a kid.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Celebrate Good Times

Two exciting things yesterday. First, is that Maiya's Bubbe & Zeyde (Grandma Fran & Grandpa Don) are here in town this weekend visiting from Idaho. Maiya the host did her best to entertain them last night (hyper crazy hammy girl). The second exciting thing is that Grace Lee Boggs, our 91 year old friend and mentor from Detroit was on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS yesterday talking about grassroots activism and social change. I was at our Family Literacy Awards Ceremony/Parent Recognition Dinner for work so I missed the beginning.

Ok, folks this is a short blog today, but here is some cute video from dinner the other night with Kool & The Gang (I thought it was The Commodores or Earth, Wind & Fire--and I think Tony might have scoffed at me).

And in case I don't get to blog again this weekend--Happy 3rd Father's Day to my best friend, Maiya's Daddy! You can see from the video how much he enjoys his girl. It warms my heart to see them playing together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mama's Day Off (Photo Blog)

I was off work today. We were up at 7:30 am. For breakfast, we had toast, juice and apples. We watched Sesame Street, played with stickers, and played with a stuffed bear and Maiya's Japanese/English speaking Yumi doll while I vacuumed the house, unloaded the dishwasher and did the dishes.

At 9:30, I made my 4th attempt to go to the gym this week--but my first time to actually work out. (Last night, I got there 10 minutes before closing, last Wednesday, Maiya freaked out at the Y's Childwatch and wouldn't let me leave her, so I didn't get to work out but we did sign up for swim class this summer. Last Tuesday Maiya got upset when I was leaving the house, so instead Maiya, Auntie and I ran errands and went for pizza.) Anyways, Maiya had a lot of fun at Childwatch playing outside on the playground today. We ran into a little boy and his mom who we used to see at the Y a lot. I got in an hour-long workout (first time since January!) and when I went to pick her up, she was so busy with Legos that she didn't want to leave. We shared apple slices, ran around the courtyard at the Y, and watched people swimming.

After the gym, Maiya & I came home for lunch about noon. We had leftover pasta from last night, shared a bean burrito and some soymilk. Daddy got her this hat last night at In-N-Out. That's bean burrito all over her smiling face. I love this picture.

Then, I tried to get Maiya to take a nap (she dozed for 20 minutes in the car before noon), but she wasn't having any of it (it's a new trait this refusing to sleep thing). I went on the computer, nursed her a lot, and Maiya played with playdough and alphabet letters. About 3:30 pm, Auntie Keiko came over and brought Maiya some cute shoes and clothes and did some more alphabet play with Maiya. Then, we met Daddy at Johnnie's Pastrami's for dinner. Auntie and Daddy had pastrami, and Maiya and I shared an apple and a chicken sandwich. Yum.

Then, after dinner we went to Trader Joe's. I went grocery shopping while Daddy and Maiya took a nap in the car. We came home and I put away 3 baskets of clean laundry and straightened up the bedroom. We watched some great insects on PBS, then Daddy took Maiya for a bath--and more alphabet play.

And that's it for today. It's after 10 pm and Maiya is having a tantrum so I better go put her to bed. Tomorrow is a work day. Still to come, more dancing video, pictures of our trips to Leo Carrillo, Sesame Street Live at the Kodak Theater, LA Zoo, and more! Sure would be nice to get some comments once in awhile so I could know if anyone is out there reading.

Backyard surfing with Daddy

Daddy bought a skateboard recently. He'll have to tell you what kind it is. He has been taking Maiya for short rides on his back. Cute pix.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Playing Around

Just monkeying around in our bathroom! Eee ee!
(I got tired of our old shower curtain so this is our new one.)

What do you do with 101 yogurt cups? You can stack them up high...

...Or you could build a pretty wall on a Sunday morning.

Lately, Maiya has been confusing the words "poo poo" and "pee pee." Yesterday, she was wearing 2 cloth pullups (like underpants), one diaper cover, 2 pairs of "Hello Kitty" underwear (her request) and her monkey PJ bottoms (seen above). That was 6 layers, all at the same time. It was a crackup. In other news, we picked 8 strawberries from the backyard today, signed up for swim class and had a big tantrum. Tonight I'm off to the spa with Lily. Peace. Out.