Once upon a time, in a strange land full of concrete, congestion and pollution, a low-income neighborhood manages to create an oasis. The neighborhood was given a plot of dirt, full of trash, junk and other debris. A group of about 350 families transformed it into a thriving garden, with about 150 different species of plants, among the sea of warehouses that surround it. The neighborhood used this garden to feed their families since food is expensive and there are few grocery stores in the area.
Sounds like a modern, real-life fairy tale right?
It was like a fairy tale until Forever 21 and L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped in.
Forever 21 acquired the right to use the land to build a warehouse from the developer, Ralph Horowitz, who bulldozed the farm in 2006. According to the L.A. Times, Forever 21 formed close ties with mayor Villaraigosa, who once publicly supported the farm. From the L.A. Times article:
He has received nearly $1.3 million in contributions and commitments from Forever 21 and its executives over the past two years for initiatives ranging from tree plantings to his own reelection campaign.
It is no secret that Forever 21 is a sponsor and supporter of mayor Villaraigosa. Tom Philpott, a political commentator and writer, exposed just how closely Forever 21 and mayor Villaraigosa are connected in his 2008 article in L.A. Progressive:
Lee [VP of Forever 21] and founder Don Chang were two of several business leaders who accompanied Villaraigosa on his trade mission to Asia in 2006. Six months later, Forever 21 gave $100,000 to Villaraigosa’ s successful campaign to elect three new school board members. In recent months, the company agreed to give $1 million to Villaraigosa’ s Million Trees L.A. initiative, which encourages residents to plant more trees
However, Forever 21 supported the destruction of South Central Farm? Interesting.
The company also gave $150,000 to Villaraigosa’ s staging of the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Century City last year, a donation so significant that Lee was given a speaking role at the event’s closing reception at the Griffith Park Observatory.
With that information, I’ll let you be the judge on if Forever 21 “bought off” the right to use the land by giving donations to the proper people.
For videos with more background information regarding South Central Farm:
For a video from the protests, see below or click here.
Photos from the protests:
Flyers about mayor Villaraigosa’s involvement:
Forever 21’s response to the protests:
My response to Forever 21: Why would a indigenous people who are content farming want to work in a warehouse for a company known to abuse sweatshop regulations?
For a blog with more information about Mayor Villaraigosa, please follow this link: Home Sweet Home?