Documentary Writing

A Single Beam of Light: Reflections on SAF Documentary Work

By Charles D. Thompson, Jr.
Imagine you are Enrique. You’ve left your home and family to follow your father to work in Louisburg, North Carolina. You will live for half a year in a trailer on a farm on a back road. You have no transportation of your own. Your life centers on work in tobacco and vegetables. You live with your father and fourteen others from various Mexican states who share this cluster of trailers with you. Once a week you’re bused to town with the other men to buy groceries, do laundry, and send money home. Then you’re back for the rest of the week on the same rancho. This is your first experience away from home; the first time you’ve been away from your mother and sister and little brother. At least you have your father. But everything else is different.
Read the full piece here.

I Could See Myself In Them | Podía verme en ellos


Dissertation by Julie Wilson, 1993 SAF alumni
Excerpts from accounts of college students who interned with SAF between 1995 and 2005. I studied the students’ work in order to understand what they felt as they allied themselves with farmworkers who were trying to secure basic, yet amazingly tenuous, human rights: safe working conditions, livable homes, basic health care, and a meaningful education. I wanted to understand what pushed students to keep going when obstacles to justice loomed large. I wondered whether writing helped them persevere, providing them a forum to commemorate successes and comprehend failures. I share students’ testimonies to help us as readers make greater sense of our own efforts to respond to injustice in our work and daily lives.
Read the full piece here.
 

Las cosas que llevaron | The Things They Carried


By Kyle Warren, 2009 SAF intern
Luis was living in the storage facility where his company would store the old sweet potatoes from last year’s harvest that were due to be cleaned out. His bed was about halfway down the one large “bedroom” where he slept with about 30 other workers.
Read the full piece here.

America the Beautiful, Revisited

By Laura Valencia, 2009 SAF intern
Brown dirt, red juice. Permanent, blood-like splotches stain my hands, radiant against the green, fruited plains – a telltale sign that my summer days are spent in the fields. Though each piece of fruit means a strawberry pie, a strawberry smoothie, a strawberry shortcake to someone else, to me each means a penny towards next year’s tuition, this week’s food, my sister’s wedding dress.
Read the full piece here.
 

Field Notes

Field notes are an integral part of the documentary work that SAF interns and fellows do each year. We believe it’s important to write field notes after each interview in order to remember how you felt, what you saw, said, heard, smelled, tasted and did. These notes not only help to inform the final project, they also serve as a reflection point for students to drink in each experience and form questions and ideas for future meetings. Here are a few excerpts of students’ field notes over the years.