The Harvest/La Cosecha to screen at Thessaloniki Documentary Festival this March!

ThessalonikiThe TDF is a leading European Documentary Festival, carried out every March in Thessaloniki, Greece since 1999 under the artistic direction of Dimitri Eipides. Its main thematic sections are: Recordings of Memory, Portraits-Human Journeys, Stories to Tell, Habitat, Planet in Peril, Music, Views of the World, Greek Panorama. Through its tributes and retrospectives, the TDF focuses on filmmakers with unique cinematic voices, internationally renowned for their contribution to the documentary genre. The Festival’s side events host exhibitions, masterclasses, round table discussions, publications, concerts and parties.
We are very excited to be able to show THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA in Greece and to share the stories of Zulema, Perla, and Victor with a whole new audience. The issues explored in the film extend beyond the borders of the US and we are looking forward to having an impact worldwide.

From Homeless to Harvard

Homeless to HarvardBy Liz Murray
16th January 2011

I was three years old when I first realized that my mother and father shared strange habits. They would retreat into the kitchen of our New York apartment and spread spoons and other objects across the table while communicating in quick, urgent commands. I was not supposed to bother them, but I watched from the hallway.
Water was needed – just a few drops from the tap – and so were shoelaces and belts. Then, at the very last minute, they would shut the door, blocking my view entirely.

One evening, when the door was closed on me again, I didn’t budge but sat and waited outside. When my mother finally emerged, I raised my arms in the air and said, in a singsong voice, ‘Al-l-l do-ne’. Taken off guard, my mother asked disbelievingly, ‘What did you say, pumpkin?’

‘Al-l-l do-ne,’ I repeated. She yelled at my father: ‘Peter, she knows!’ and Daddy laughed while Ma stroked my hair. Thrilled to have found my place in their game, I sat outside the kitchen whenever they spread the spoons from then on. Eventually, they left the door open.

I have just one black and white photograph left of my mother when she was younger. She was 17 when it was taken and beautiful with wispy curls and eyes that shone like dark marbles. But I also know that by then she had been using drugs for four years. The eldest of four children, she was raised by an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother and she had started smoking grass to escape the violence and abuse of her home life. Later, she ran away and, between sleeping rough and earning her living through prostitution, she moved on to speed and heroin.

Daddy was one of her dealers. They began hanging out together when she was 22 and he was 34. Daddy was also the child of a violent, alcoholic father but his middle-class mother had tried to secure her only child’s future by holding down two bookkeeping jobs in order to send him to private school. Midway through a psychology degree, however, he had abandoned his studies for the drug trade.

He and Ma connected immediately, but instead of going on dinner dates they would take cocaine to Central Park, where they would sprawl in the moonlight and get high anchored in each others arms.

A year or so after my parents met in 1977, my elder sister Lisa was born. By the time I followed in September 1980, Daddy was serving a three-year prison sentence for a fraud racket involving prescription painkillers. Amazingly, instead of falling apart, my mother proved to be a sober and houseproud single parent. But once Daddy returned home, dirty dishes sat untouched in the sink for days and we rarely went to the park any more.

Ma was legally blind due to a degenerative eye disease she’d had since birth. This meant she was entitled to welfare and our lives revolved around the first day of every month when her payment was due. On that day, food would be abundant. Lisa and I would dine on Happy Meals in front of the TV to the sound of spoons clanking on the kitchen table. We knew what they were doing.

Within five days, the money would be gone and for the rest of the month we lived on egg and mayonnaise sandwiches. Lisa and I hated them, but they got us through the hours when our stomachs burned with hunger.

I started school in the summer of 1985 and, from the outset, I tried to be a good student. It just didn’t work out that way. Maybe getting more sleep would have helped, but there was too much going on.

At nights, Ma would go to the local bars and beg until she had gathered the five dollars she needed for a hit. Daddy would then slip out to a dealer while Lisa screamed at both of them: ‘We didn’t eat dinner, and you’re going to get high?’ I knew what she was saying made sense. But things weren’t always so clear for me. Ma and Daddy had no intention of hurting us. They simply did not have it in them to be the parents I wanted them to be.

I remember once Ma stole five dollars sent to me from my father’s mother inside a glittery birthday card. I was furious and demanded that she gave me back my money. She responded by flushing the hit she had bought down the loo. ‘I’m not a monster, Lizzy,’ she cried. ‘I can’t stop. Forgive me, pumpkin.’ So I did.

I forgave her again when she sold the Thanksgiving turkey provided by the church so that she could buy another hit. And I forgave her when she attempted to sell Lisa’s winter coat. The drug dealer refused to take a child’s coat on principle, so Ma went back out later the same night and sold the toaster and my bike to get her cocaine instead.

At school I was clearly different. My dirty clothing hung heavily off my body and I was aware of the stench I gave off, so I knew the other pupils must have been aware of it, too.

‘Who cares what people think?’ Daddy said. But the shame gnawed at me. I pleaded with Ma and eventually she allowed me, against what she called her better judgment, to stay at home sometimes.

One morning, on one of the days I didn’t go to school, there was a knock at the door. I was the only one awake. From the hallway, I heard a woman and a man talking. They knocked again before sliding a piece of paper under the door. When they had gone, I picked it up. The letter ordered the parent(s) or guardian of Elizabeth Murray to phone a Mr Doumbia regarding her truancy from school. I ripped it into tiny pieces and shoved it in the bin.

As well as being blind, Ma turned out to have the same mental illness that her mother had had. Between 1986 and 1990, she suffered six schizophrenic bouts, each requiring her to be institutionalised for up to three months. The combination of her illness and her and Daddy’s chronic drug use pushed their relationship to breaking point. As their fights became increasingly bitter, Lisa and I locked ourselves in our rooms, her with her music, and me with my books – or rather Daddy’s ever-growing supply of unreturned library books. Slowly I read through his collection of true crime, biographies and random trivia. Eventually, I began reading fast enough to get through one of his books in a little over a week.

Just after my 11th birthday, I woke in the early hours to find Ma sitting at the end of my bed, a beer bottle in her hand. ‘I love you, pumpkin,’ she was saying as tears streamed down her face.

‘Ma, please, what’s wrong?’

‘Lizzy, I’m sick, I have Aids.’

A hot quiver shot up from my stomach. ‘Are you going to die, Ma?’

Abruptly, Ma stood up and reached for the door.

‘Forget it, Lizzy. We’ll be just fine,’ she said before walking out. I cried to her to come back. But she didn’t reappear.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1346184/From-homelessness-Harvard-University-How-Liz-Murray-turned-life-around.html#ixzz1BPDCOQR4

2011 is “Year of the Farmworker Child”

Washington, D.C.(Vocus/PRWEB)The Harvest/La Cosecha
January 13, 2011

Today the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) announced they have designated 2011 the “Year of the Farmworker Child.” Starting in January, AFOP will devote twelve months to raising awareness about the hardships faced by migrant farmworker youth. In addition, AFOP and other supporters of the “Year of the Farmworker Child” will seek to increase public knowledge concerning the discriminatory agricultural exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which regulates child labor in the U.S.

“Children in agriculture labor longer and under more hazardous conditions than they are permitted to do in almost any other American industry,” said AFOP Executive Director David Strauss. “In 2011, we will work with our members, other organizations, and communities to help promote a greater understanding of the impact this kind of life has on children’s safety, health and education, as part of our ongoing effort to help today’s farmworker youth create better futures for themselves.”

Agriculture is currently the third-most dangerous industry in the United States, in terms of injuries and fatalities recorded on the job. For children, it is the most dangerous. Boys and girls as young as 12 years old are legally allowed to labor in agriculture for an unlimited amount of hours outside of school, using dangerous farm equipment and working in an environment that continually exposes them to pesticides-conditions deemed illegal in every other industry and that can lead to serious injury or even death. Farmworker youth are also excluded from the “hazardous work” protections imposed in all other industries, allowing children as young as 16 to operate heavy machinery and perform other dangerous functions that are strictly reserved for adults in every employment field except in agriculture.

Migrant farmworker youth working long days in the fields frequently see their educational opportunities curtailed as a result. The migratory nature of farm work means that parts of the school curriculum often have to be repeated or skipped. We have evidence that more than half of these children will not finish high school and fewer still will go on to college, forcing them to continue the cycle of poverty.

AFOP will begin the “Year of the Farmworker Child” by seeking assistance from supporters to help illuminate the issues raised by the campaign. Among the activities slated to increase awareness is AFOP’s Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children’s Essay & Art Contest, which will begin accepting entries next month. AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign will conduct a variety of regional activities in support of the initiative, starting in February at the “From Harvest to Harvard” migrant student conference in Texas. AFOP’s Health and Safety Programs will also be releasing their annual publication focused on the effects of pesticides on children. For additional information on how you can become a supporter of the “Year of the Farmworker Child,” please contact Ayrianne Parks at parks[at]afop.org.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/01/13/prweb8063763.DTL#ixzz1B389gyH8

Sudan elections going well!

From David McKenzie, CNN
January 10, 2011 11:17 a.m. ESTVoting in Sudan

Juba, Sudan (CNN) — Tens of thousands of people across Southern Sudan went to the polls Sunday in a historic referendum that an international election observer said appeared to have been well-handled.

“There were very, very large numbers from the early hours of this morning all day long,” said David Carroll, director of the Democracy Program at the Carter Center, in a telephone interview from Juba. “They were waiting patiently, they were in a happy, celebratory mood. They went through the process in an orderly way, largely. We saw a very meaningful, important process that the southern Sudanese are engaging in with a lot of passion.”

By the time polls opened at 8 a.m., many Sudanese had already been standing on line for hours to cast their ballots on whether the south should declare independence or remain part of a unified Sudan.

Those who were still on line at 5 p.m. were allowed to remain there until they were able to vote, he said. “It’s something that is clearly very, very important to the people of Southern Sudan.”

he Atlanta-based Carter Center has about 70 observers in Sudan and 30 observers in eight other countries where Southern Sudanese are living and voting, Carroll said.

More important than the voting, he said, is what it represents. “This is really moving Sudan into an entirely new future, and it’s meaning that the Sudanese are ready to move into a new era.”

…..Mary Dennis arrived at a polling place at 4:30 a.m. to secure her spot near the front of the line. “I had to come early,” she said. “This is a vote for our country.”

Edwina Loria, 18, was determined to cast her ballot. “I want to be a first-class citizen,” she said, “I want independence.”

John Baptiste and his friend showed up before 4 a.m. They sat on the ground with a radio to monitor news of the day’s events.

“I am on a mission,” Baptiste said. “My mission is to vote. We have waited for 50 years, and we want to be separate. We have planned for many days to be here first.”

To read the full article and to see the video reports please visit http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/09/sudan.vote/index.html?hpt=C1

Be President of Nickelodeon for a Day and support Shine Global!

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