|Sweatshop documentary featured in International Human Rights Film Festival
By Shawnee Becker
The Sociology Department held a showing of the Emmy award-winning documentary “Made in L.A.” this past Wednesday, September 15 in room 101 of the Sullivan Science Building. Lori Khamala of the American Friends Service Committee and Stephen Sills, an assistant professor of UNCG’s Department of Sociology, organized the event, which was the second film shown as a part of the Third International Human Rights Film Festival.
Made in L.A. documents the stories of three Latina immigrants during their three-year battle against the well-known clothing company Forever 21. María Pineda, Maura Colorado, and Lupe Hernandez had all come to the United States in hopes of bettering their lives. “I thought I’d be happy here. I’d study, I’d have a career,” said María during the film. Having left their home countries, unable to speak English and without the proper papers, the only work made available to any of them was as garment workers in an L.A. sweatshop. Working 12 hours a day for less than minimum wage, all three women became tired of their treatment and joined the Garment Worker Center in an attempt to fight for their rights.
A question and answers session was held after the film. “This isn’t only an immigrant story- this is a labor story. It’s a story that is universal. Fair wages, rights, to be respected,” says Stephen J. Sills. “Human rights issues, social issues affect everyone.” Many in attendance were able to express the incredible impression the women in Made in L.A. had left on them. Not only were the three able to succeed in calling the attention of a major corporation and gain their rights but they were also able to make some personal revelations. Lupe Hernandez reflects at the end of the film “The more I learn, the lonelier I feel. Ignorance somehow protects you. But then I say, I’ve come this far, and nothing can take that away from me.”
Stephen Sills and Lori Khamala both stressed the importance of getting involved in the community and Human Rights. “What keeps me going is to be in personal contact with these people,” says Khamala “to be involved with a community fuels your spirit. There are so many ways to plug in. I highly recommend getting involved on a personal level.” As Sills has made clear, human rights are rights that inevitably have an effect on everyone, but they are also rights that are challenged more than they should be. Information on Khamala’s organization, the American Friends Service Committee, can be found at www.afsc.org.
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