Celebrity, Technology & Social Activism

Last week American actor Danny Glover was arrested with 11 other activists for participating in a nonviolent protest against Sodexo.

From Huliq:

...The group was arrested after crossing a police line outside the company's offices, refusing to step back.

The twelve, including Danny Glover, were issued citations for trespassing and released. Police stated that the dozen could face a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail.

Actions like the one involving Danny Glover have taken place at 11 sites across the U.S. The actions were reportedly taken after 16 Sodexo workers, including Shelly, were laid off after trying to unionize or becoming involved in union activities. Sodexo said it was not against unionization, per se. Instead, it accused the SEIU of inciting the Sodexo employees...

From AFP:

..."We're here today to say no more to deplorable pay and working conditions," Glover told the crowd of around 300 as they shouted "No Justice, No Pizza", a reference to cafeteria workers who claim they are underpaid and receive few benefits from Sodexo.

"This is a global corporation with global responsibility and we are going to hold them accountable to that responsibility," said Glover...

Two things I like about this protest:

There are so many celebrities these days that only take on causes as a publicity stunt to help further their own careers. But then you have people like Glover who are serious about their activism. I know from covering a few workers' rights protests in the past that Glover and his involvement in these issues are very sincere.

With that said, as more social activists move to using technology, having a dedicated high profile person on board helps to give an important cause an added boast that would otherwise not get the attention it deserves.

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Earth Day: Food Injustices on Celluloid

Earth Day turns 40 years old today. In today's post, I want to focus on various food injustices happening right here in the United States. While there have been many great food films recently making their way into mainstream cinemas like Food Inc and Super Size Me, there are other lesser known films and short videos on the topic you should know about, such as a couple of films from the YouTube Project:Report initiative.

Take a look at this film about the "modern day slavery" of undocumented Haitian immigrants in Florida. It is reminiscent of Stephanie Black's H-2 Worker.

Then I found this great short video on metal-contaminated waters in a rural Michigan town caused by food processing factory runoff.

Finally, another great film explores food insecurity in New York City.

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Natural Disasters and Food Security

The Icelandic volcano eruption has wreaked havoc on the worldwide air traffic system. Not only are airline travelers throughout Europe grounded, but food and other basic essentials are not being flown in, highlighting why we need to seriously rethink the local food idea.

From the Guardian:

Britain's supermarkets could soon run short of perishable goods including exotic fruits and Kenyan roses as the ongoing ban on UK air travel brought Britain's largest perishable air freight handling centre to a standstill today...

The UK imports about 90% of its fruit and 60% of its vegetables. While the vast majority come by sea – Fair Trade bananas from the West Indies, for instance, are regularly delivered to Southampton and Portsmouth – some of the more exotic inhabitants of the UK's shops come by air. Air freight makes up about 25% of all British imports by value, but just 0.5% of all imports by weight.

It is quite disturbing that any country is so dependent on another country for its food security. Meanwhile in Kenya...

...Kenyan farms have laid off 5,000 staff, and growers have warned thousands more workers could be told to stay at home if flights did not resume by Tuesday, which would deal a serious blow to the country's economy...

...Kenya's flower council says the country is haemorrhaging $1.3m a day in lost shipments to Europe. Kenya normally exports up to 500 tonnes of flowers daily – 97% of which is delivered to Europe. Horticulture earned Kenya 71 billion shillings (£594m) in 2009 and is the country's top foreign exchange earner...

...Farmers say they have been able to avoid avoided major losses since flights from Kenya were suspended early Thursday morning. But if they can't start shipping in earnest in the next day or two, they will have to dump much of their product...

A question to the multinationals: How is that new African food colonialism going for you?

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Spring into Books 2010

Spring is here again!

It's time to think positively about the nice aspects of spring - warmer weather, flowers blooming (like the ones above from my yard last year), more jogging in the park and best of all, great, new and not so new books to read outdoors.

Here are some books I hope to read in the new season:

The Long Song: A Novel by Andrea Levy

It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower
by Michela Wrong

Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It
by Anne Lappe

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway

A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe

Black Power: Three Books from Exile: Black Power; The Color Curtain; and White Man, Listen! by Richard Wright

What books are you reading?



Post-Racial South Africa? - Nope

While this media attention seems to revolve around the recent murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche, racial tension has been brewing in South Africa for a long time. A lot of people I have been speaking to about this problem - mostly white liberals with good intentions - are actually shocked to hear that blacks and whites there aren't living harmoniously in "post-racial" South Africa.

I think this false view of that society comes from this belief in America that when apartheid officially ended in South Africa in 1993, somehow racism and segregation also ended at the same time. In addition, because of the dismal coverage in the U.S. media of international news and especially fair and balanced news about Africa, Americans have very little knowledge about race relations in post apartheid South Africa.

Twenty years ago, rock stars were putting on benefit concerts and college students rallied in support of a free South Africa. Today the country barely gets any attention unless it has something to do with the high crime rate and the upcoming Fifa World Cup. Interestingly enough, one would think that Zimbabwe is the only African country dealing with racial strife, when in fact, both that country and South Africa have the same shared history of apartheid. Of course, the ongoing madness of Robert Mugabe and his campaign to rid the nation of its white farmers make for intriguing news bits internationally.

I was last in South Africa about two years ago, and I can tell you that the racial hostility being exhibited prominently now has always been simmering at the surface, waiting to overflow. It is still generally a segregated society. For example, in Johannesburg blacks for the most part live in the poorer townships, while the whites live in highly secured communities in the suburbs. Cape Town is mostly white and black and brown folks venture into the city if they have to work there, otherwise they stay in their own communities.

Even in casual conversations with both South Africans, race is always a central topic. While in the country, I always hear constant complaining from both races about the other group. I would argue that South Africans today talk and argue about race more than Americans, and Americans are usually the ones accused of always race-baiting.

So it seems like the murder of Terre’Blanche may have tipped over the boiling racial pot. It will be interesting to see how the country copes in the next few days.