Generating Radical Kinship: WLI 2017

This past weekend on President’s Day was the 2nd Rooted In Community Winter Leadership Institute held in Boston/Sandwich, MA at Camp Burgess from Friday February 17th-Monday February 20th. The format was a mix of pre-planned workshops and open space time. The goal of the Winter Leadership Institute was to give adults that work with youth an opportunity to share experiences, get questions answered, and build relationships. RIC defines “adult” based on the leadership role that they have – not based on age. This training was specifically for people who lead youth programs for their organization and not for program participants (even if they are 18 or over).

Once people got to camp a few people had arrived by car and the first batch of folks were dropped off by Ari Rosenberg. Ayisah Yusuf helped everyone with registration and had them make name tags. She did that through out the day as John Wang and folks finished dinner. Later more and more people came in until dinner was ready. That night we had Indian food with our Kale Paneer, Bangnan Bharta, Dal, Curry Chicken, Roasted Cauliflower, Conchigle, Peas & Chile, Cucumbers and Raita, Spinach, Date, Onion Salad, and Steamed Rice with Coconut Milk Rice Pudding for dinner which was so delicious.

After dinner Travis McKenzie did the opening blessing while Ayisah passed around some sweet grass to cleanse the space. Then she did a little bit of an opening on what RIC is and then we played some cool ice breakers like Move Your But (a game where a person is in the middle of a circle and then they “move your but if…” and we say a true statement that applies to us and if it applies to you too you get up out of your seat and have to find a different seat and who ever ends up in the middle it’s there turn), The Biggest Fan (a giant game of rock, paper, scissors but when you loose you become a hype person for the person you lost to until the last two people stand) and Elbows to Elbows (a game were you mingle with folks while music is playing until the music stops then you grab a partner you don’t know and then you link a body part together like elbow to your partners elbow while a question is asked and you and your partner answer the questions). In between ice beakers we had people share a little intro about themselves and then once we were done we helped to create some safe space agreements which are really important in spaces like this when touchy subjects can come up. Once we were finished with our opening we all went to bed in our cabins which were pretty nice.

The next day we got up some folks did yoga with Charlyn and ate breakfast which was oatmeal, bagels & cold cereal before our first workshop started. Before starting we had someone do a cultural offering then the first workshop started which was called Larger Movement Buildings where we explored what the monster is, where it was and where it is going. Starting off the workshop we did a quick check in with Travis’s chili where we passed it around the circle and said a one word check in on how we are feeling. Once the workshop started we went over the group agreements and then looked at a couple quotes that would frame our discussion of the workshop.

Once we analyzed these quotes we went over what we think the monster is and how it makes us feel. We broke up into groups based on the monster of the past, present and future then did a free write where we combined our writings with sound and movement and then shared them with the group. Once we were finished with this workshop lead by Beatriz Beckford we had a quick break, and an energizer led by Wade from GRUB and then John and Ayisah did our workshop.

The purpose of their workshop called Building Power & Intersectionality was we wanted to get some feedback from the folks that are doing the work across the country to help inform how we can best leverage the resource of this national network of young people to support food justice work across the country. We started off with people in the room reading the history of RIC and then I tried to explain it a little bit more and why she come to RIC. John then went over the proposal for their RIC regional structure and then had folks in the room get into groups and take a look at it and see if they liked it, would change it, how they wanted to see it, ect. Basically we had set it up as regions and then having a fellowship program were we split it up quarterly. Each quarter the fellows and adult ally would meet twice by video and one in person (or more if needed) in their region and then nationally each quarter the adult ally and fellows would meet at a RIC event or an event in their region. At the Rooted In Community Summer Summit the youth from each region would get to meet each other and also see what others are up too.

Other cool things that they thought of that the regions can do is newsletters/zines, helping with the national conference work & regional conference work, contributing to the toolshed, sharing local actions and do some fundraising.

Most people had trouble with with this proposal was the fact that a lot of folks were new to RIC and this was their first time being at one of our gatherings so They just need a little bit more information about who we are and what we do. We got a lot of great feedback from the participants. After our workshop it was lunch which was catered by Fresh Food Generation which is a food truck company run by two former Food Project (a national model for youth development and sustainable agriculture) youth.

Following lunch we went over to one of the bigger cabins to do our next workshop. This workshop was also facilitated by Beatriz Beckford with some help from the RICocracy members Ari, Travis and John as well.

To start off this workshop as a group we went over our group agreements we had done the night before with a few other agreements thrown in. Afterwords individually we went over to these definitions of different kinds of oppression that came from this Anti-Oppression Reader by Global Exchange that Ari and Beatriz wrote up on butcher paper. These definitions where flawed in most cases and we were suppose to look at them over and see what worked or what we thought needed to change and then write what we would put as the definition of this word.

After we had a discussion on what these definitions meant to us then we did this activity that Ari lead that she learned from Erika Allen where in each corner of the room she put a piece of paper that said White, POC or Mixed. Depending on where your organization falls with in the spectrum you would go to one corner or another. She asked what good questions of us like who do you serve?, the make up of your staff is? and who are the decision makers? A lot of people when who do you serve was asked it was mostly POC but when it came to the make up of your staff and who are the decision makers it was mostly white. Once we finished that we got into groups to discuss this activity and to see how our organizations run on the Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization scale.

Following that activity Beatriz, Ari and Travis facilitated this very fun activity called the Fish Bowl. A small group of people (as many as half the circle) arrange themselves in a circle in the center of a room. This small group will conduct a discussion together while the rest of the folks watch, take notes, and later pose questions and give comments about what they observed. The facilitator can be part of either the inner “fishbowl” circle or the outer circle. To begin, facilitators might select people for the fishbowl who are fairly skilled at group discussion — or might deliberately choose one or two who are new to it so that the fishbowl doesn’t seem too “perfect” for those who are observing. Once the group is established, the facilitator should set some ground rules. These guidelines ensure that group members practice particular discussion skills, such as taking turns, building upon a previous person’s comments, and asking questions to extend thinking. Ground rules might include: People should only state supported ideas, agree with a speaker and add supporting information, disagree with a speaker and offer refuting information, or connect contributions. No one may interrupt a speaker. No one may speak a second time until everyone has had a chance.

The guidelines for the outside circle may include listening quietly, taking notes on discussion skills, and noting nonverbal communication. Each “outside” student might be assigned an “inside” student to observe specifically, or the “outside” students can be asked to observe everyone. In general, the silent, observing students attend to aspects of group discussion that generally aren’t noticed in classroom discussions. To begin the discussion, the facilitatoroffers an open-ended question, and the fishbowl group discusses it. People might initially be self-conscious as part of the group “on stage,” but they generally grow comfortable as the conversation flows. Now the way we did it was that people on the outside could tap people in the fishbowl if they had something to add to the conversation. We also through in some wild cards where who ever was givin a card could go into the fishbowl and change the topic of the conversation. The point that the group was suppose to get out of this activity was to get each other mad about the topics and stir up emotion.

Later once this activity was over we did one last activity that day called the Graph Activity. Basically it’s like that typical activity where you stand on the line if the question applies to you. The difference in this one was that there was two lines going vertically and horizontally the floor and on horizontally sides of the room there were signs that said would do and wouldn’t do and on the vertical side the signs said effective and ineffective. Questions like wither voting or using your body as a blockade is something people would do or not do and if they think it’s effective or not.

The best part of the day was an activity called taps. Taps is were you have half of the group sitting down and the other half behind them. The group sitting down has their eyes closed and the facilitator asks questions of the people standing up and then they have to tap the people who apply to this. Questions such as tap the person if they pushed you today or tap the person if they taught you something today then you go down the line of people and tap their shoulder if that applied to them. Once all the questions were done then we switched. The best part of this activity was some people were giving messages when they went down the line which felt great. It was awesome to this and feel the love of others and feel you were appreciated.

Next was free time before dinner which was catered by the local YMCA which so was breakfast and lunch on Sunday. After dinner people went to start a bonfire outside by the cabins and The Food Project brought s’mores making stuff. Brotha Rob showed a documentary that his friend made while he was in Standing Rock. It was a really well done documentary just under 30 mins.

A lot of amazing music happen with Travis who brought his instruments like his flutes and melodica along. People also played these big trash cans as drums and others spit dope rhymes.

In the morning some people went to do yoga with Rebekah and then went to have breakfast which was waffles. Thereafter we went into the room we were in yesterday had a person give a cultural offering and then did our group commitments. Travis lead this and brought up our commitments or Kuleana that we did with our Hawaiian family at the summit in Olympia. There were a lot of amazing commitments said and the RIC folks were the last to do ours. Later once our commitments were done then people went into their workshops. On Sunday the participants facilitated different workshop conversations on all different kinds of topics.

Sadly after the first workshop it was time for Beatriz, Travis and Roy to leave after lunch so we said our goodbye and took a group picture outside in the snow as well as spelled RIC with our bodies in the snow as Daquan Washington who brought his drone with him and filmed us waving to the camera.

Following dinner we were suppose to have a BAM BAM or Talent Show/Dance Party but nothing really came of that until we went to the bonfire down by the lake which was so much fun. Like the prier night incredible music and rhymes came out of the night as well as amazing conversation.

The last meal we had was Congee a Chinese breakfast dish. John who is Chinese showed us how to make it with Furikake, Tamari, Bean Paste, Sambal, Fried Shallots, Cilantro, Scallions, and a Soft Boiled Egg on top of it all with soy sauce. It’s a very good dish. After breakfast we did our closing ceremony where we had someone in the group give a cultural offering and then John had everyone give a quick report back from the workshops on Sunday. I sounded like people had really great conversations on their topics. Next John and Ari went over the RIC Toolshed. This website is a resource provided by RIC to facilitate lesson, program, and resource sharing. Any RIC member can submit a lesson and make it available to other members. Here you can search for that perfect food justice lesson for your group or submit that stellar lesson that you just created.  You can share that website that gave you inspiration and guidance and check out where others got theirs.

It was then Ayisah’s turn to explain the pros and grows process and split people into small groups. Pros and Grows are basically a list of things people liked about the gathering and things they didn’t like or would have changed. Once we did a report back we then did our famous RIC spiral hug. One of people’s favorite parts of the gathering was the seed/swag swap. People brought seeds from all over and as plant people everyone was so excited to go plant these seeds. There was also some really awesome swag as well including t-shirts, hats, buttons, you name it. Once that was over it was time for people to get ready to leave and the two shuttles got ready to take everyone to the airport and train station.

Everyone had an amazing time and learned a lot this weekend and are excited for the 2017 summer summit in Greensboro, NC.