Rooted In Community DTown 2015 Day 4 #RIC2015

Saturday was our day of action so we started our day off at the outdoor amphitheater for breakfast and then we went and did some more sign making, chant learning and media prep before the march. Before we got started with that we played a game where one person was in the middle asking a question and if it applied to you then you had to get to a different place before the person in the middle or you’re in the middle. I helped youth make some poems or speeches to say during our different stops along the way of our march. Once we finished there we went grabbed our stuff for the day and went to the first stop on the march. I ended up on the party bus with all the music and chant makers which was a whole lot of fun. Once we made it to Chene Park we ate lunch and then had Gera’s mom give us a beautiful blessing before the march. We then started our journey marching all the way to the river and did a water ceremony by throwing pieces of rice paper into the river with our good vibes, prayers and intentions with the help of Gera, Tasha, Travis and myself. We then heard some beautiful words from a local Detroit youth and then we passed by a statue of some slaves which brother Jaleel told us that the river we were on was the last station on the Underground Railroad on the way to Canada and freedom in which we took a photo in front of it. Then we picked up the march again and made our way to the water company’s building who is helping to privatize the water so people can’t afford it. Once we got there some youth read some poetry and said some speeches and then we made our way to Cast Commons a local church building.

Once we got there we first partied in front of the church with a few people from a different conference that was being held that same weekend. Then we made it inside and played a game called zip, zap, zop and then did a gratitude exercise all led by the girls at Eco Station. During our gratitude exercise we had the adults and youth split up and we had the adults say how we felt about the summit, our youth and the experience. Once we were done we made a thumb circle of our commitments and then ate dinner after Hai Vo said the Vietnamese commandments to bless the found. Then it was chill time and some of the youth went and explored the city a little and some stayed back and did some freestyling on the mike. Around 7:30 we boarded the buses and made our way back to the dorms where most folks freshened up and then we had a dance party/open mic where people told rittles, sang songs, said some spoken word and some poems. That night was a lot of fun just chillin with everyone and unwinding after a long few days.


Rooted In Community DTown 2015 Day 3 #RIC2015

Friday, was our youth led workshops day. We had breakfast in the campus dining hall and then made our way to the student center to partake in the student led workshops.

After workshops was lunch time and we had a really great bbq lunch then it was time for another panel. This panel was really amazing it was our Water Warrior Panel where a few people from the community and some youth & Travis from New Mexico talked about some of the water issues in both Detroit and New Mexico. It started off with Travis introducing the panel and then giving a little blessing by playing his flute. Matt and him then talks about the New Mexico acequia and how they work. Also about the Acequia Association He then has the Detroit folks talk about the issues that are going on in their communities. One lady named Valarie Jean who has five kids told us her story of when her water got turned off. Now if you don’t know in Detroit the water companies have been turning off 10s of thousands of people’s water due to lack of payment. Now these are people who literally can’t afford to pay to have their water on because it’s either having water on or paying your mortgage or your car note. Valarie tells us how one morning she wakes up and hears the water company truck outside her house getting ready to turn off her water valve. She runs outside and tells them to stop and thankfully they do but then she watches them go to each house on her block and turn off their water. She said that there were old ladies, a pregnant women, a women celebrating Ramadan and there all yelling at them to not turn off their water but sadly they don’t listen. She also talks about the times she did have her water turned off and how hard it really is to deal with having no running water. This also though brought her community together as people brought cases of water to her neighborhood and then community pots of soup and they even started having community meetings about this issue. Then we heard from Tawana a local poet and activist and she told us about the work she does as well the local activist Charity Hicks who last year July 8th, 2014 was hit by a car while at a conference fighting for the Detroit water rights. She was big on the Detroit scene fighting hard for the voices of the people who have had their water turned off. We then herd from Emma another New Mexico youth who did a research paper on this, talked about this toxic waste in one of their lakes that is near a military base. It’s been there since the ‘40s and the more it seeps into the water it can eventually turn the water coming out of their taps toxic. They ended the panel with a beautiful poem Tawana wrote called “Detroit” and then took pictures with the group.

Once the panel was done we went on to some art workshops like a poetry one led by Tawana, a music one led by Travis, and an art build/zine workshop led by me. So I led the zine/art build workshop and we had about 10 people in my workshop and the first part of it was me going over what a zine is and how you can make one and use in for activism. The rest of the time was used to make signs for our day of action on Saturday. The Youth Food Justice Zine which I helped to create was delivered on Thursday when we were at D-Town farm. So Beatriz who also helped with the Zine and I talked about the making of the zine and how we were able to afford it. Then we spent the rest of the time talking about direct action and making posters for the action. I had some great conversations with Damien a youth from Grub in Olympia, Washington about direct action and the black lives matter movement. Later once the workshops finished we had free time.

After dinner was done we made our way to the piano lounge room and had another panel with a women and her children who live in Flint, MI another town with water issues. The women talks about the terrible water that is coming out of her tap which is totally contaminated and the city is not doing anything about it. She showed some of us pictures of the crazy things that have happened to her and her family like hair loss, bad diseases, rashes, dietary restrictions and more. She said her water turns brown, green or even light blue which cause’s health issues. She said that many people have this issue with their water but are being told that it’s not harmful by the media because the government does not want to clean up this mess. This is why she runs this org called “Water You Fighting For?” which is for advocating for clean, safe, affordable water in Flint, MI. Next we all watched a documentary on Grace Lee Boggs who I talked about earlier. The documentary is on Netflix called American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and it’s basically about her life in the civil rights moment and as a leader in this movement as an Asian-American. One quote I really liked that she said in the documentary is “Creative is the key to human liberation” also that there is no revolution without evolution.


Rooted In Community DTown 2015 Day 2 #RIC2015

Thursday was our day at D-Town farms run by the Detroit Black Security Network. When we got there the RIC planning crew set up breakfast and ate then we all played a big game of the Biggest Fan which is basically like a big game of rock, paper scissors where the person who wins becomes your cheering squad until the last person wins. After a rousing game of Biggest Fan, we then went on a tour of D-Town with Brother Kaddafi who gave a really great tour of the whole farm set up and Jaleel gave some information about the bees they have on site. Did you know that rubbing mud on a bee sting it takes the stink out?

Once they finished our tour of D-Town we grabbed lunch and boarded our busses to our respective tours. There were three tour options that where offered Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition & Incite Focus L3 Fab Lab, Feedom Freedom Urban Farm, and the Boggs Center.

Once our bus tours where over we all made our way back to D-Town for our group debrief. Everyone got into their tour groups first and discussed what they liked about the tours, what inspired them and what they would take back to their communities. They then got into home groups and debriefed about the various tours and then one person or a few people from each tour group would go up and tell us what they learned from their tour. Later after a catered dinner, we made a mini panel with some of the youth from Detroit Future Youth. They talked about the all the different things they do in Detroit Future Youth. One of the guys is an MC and using what he learns during his time with DFY to inspire youth. There was also another youth named Tigger who works at Earthworks Urban Farm and has been into farming since he was 6. Currently he works with little kids from 5-12 and is working on a farming card came for kids through the DFY. After the panel with Detroit Future Youth a few local folks came and rocked the farm stage for us with beautiful singing, guitar playing and spitting bars. Then we had a mini open mic with some of the RIC youth and then went back to campus after a long day.


Rooted In Community DTown 2015 Day 1 #RIC2015

“Water is Life! It’s A Human Right! The Time is Now! To Stand and Fight!” you hear the 60 plus youth and adult leaders yelling as they march down the streets of Detroit Saturday afternoon. July 15-19th 60 plus youth and adults came into Detroit for the 17th annual Rooted In Community Summit to “Wage Love, Build Power, Grow Change”

This year Rooted In Community took place in Detroit, MI a place of hurt that was turned upside down but is a resilient and ever rising to the challenges they are facing. We were staying in a small town right outside of Detroit called Ypsilanti at Eastern Michigan University. Groups arrived on Wednesday and registered while Gerardo Marin shows up with his parents and his brother who we all got to meet for the first time. They spend most of the summit with us.

After all the groups got registered with keys to their dorm rooms everyone went over to the cafeteria to eat dinner then headed over to the outdoor amphitheater for our opening ceremony. During our opening ceremony Gerardo Marin, Travis McKenzie from Grow the Future in New Mexico, Ayisah Yusuf from VA/DC and a few of the youth helped do a beautiful four directions ceremony. Ayisah played a beautiful native drum with some of the youth playing a few other instruments while Gera played his conch shell we said some prayers for the four different directions, the sky, mother earth and the spirit inside all of us and Travis burned some sage and prayed with us.

Once the opening ceremony was over, Ayisah introduced the RIC planning team then John Wang led us in a game of Elbows to Elbows which was a fun ice breaker for everyone. Next we did intention/culture settings with the youth where they got into groups and came up with norms for the summit environment. One norm that was cool that a few groups came up with was to say Farm Voice when you’re speaking to a group and they can’t hear you very well, you say Farm Voice to get them to speak up.

Day 1 ‪#‎RIC2015‬ off to an amazing start with a dope opening blessing to a game of elbow to elbow & some intention settings with the Youth!


What does RIC mean to me?- An Ode to the Movement by Ayisah Yusuf

“Working with Rooted In Community is a big inspiration in my life as I know I am making a difference in the communities of youth across the country and all over the world one bite at a time.”

I started working with Rooted in Community the summer of 2012 when I participated in their summer summit in Ames, Iowa. At first I didn’t know much about RIC other then that they worked a lot with youth. Once I participated in their summit and saw what RIC was all about I haven’t looked at youth conferences the same. What is Rooted In Community? It is a grass roots non-profit organization, that works on food and environmental justice issues, but their focus is on empowering the youth. It’s about giving the youth the tools they need to become leaders in their communities.
At these summits the most important thing is giving respect and having the youth voice heard on what could seem like tough issues to some. That’s why there are always youth led workshops, group discussions and panels, so they can tell there stories on what is really going on in there communities. There are also discussions on food sovereignty, on how you see yourself and where you come from. We also play games, go on farm and garden tours, have awesome talent shows and even a dance party at the end to signify all the awesome work we all do. But my favorite part of the summits is our day of action. We all make signs, chants and we march up and down the city with YFBR flyers and then after we have our annual press conference.
Also a big focal point is the Youth Food Bill of Rights. Most youth live two blocks away from a corner store that sells soda, chips and microwave meals and live ten blocks away from the nearest grocery or farmers market. Then to top it off most of them don’t own cars, which would lead them to have to pay for the bus just to get to store. The youth got tired of the way food issues where dealt with in their communities. What is the Youth Food Bill of Rights? The YFBR is a document that the youth came up with at the 2011 RIC conference in Philly. They were taking a look at the Farm Bill and decided there needed to be a food bill for the youth, to address the food issues in their communities.
After participating in the 2012 summer summit, where I met a lot of amazing young leaders and adult advocates who I can now say have become family to me, I couldn’t wait to start working with them again. So in April of 2013, Gerardo Marin the co-director of RIC came up to DC to seek advice from the Rural Coalition on some steps on how to make the Youth Food Bill of Rights more congress friendly without loosing the feelings of the youth. So Lorette and myself showed Gera around Congress and dropped off some YFBRs packets to a couple of the aids.
Then I participated in the RIC summit in July in Los Angela’s, CA, where they asked me to participate in a panel on youth of color working in food justice work. I also helped Maya S who is the youth adviser for RIC on some presentations the youth did on the Youth Food Bill of Rights. The youth are so passionate about these issues. For some it is what drives them to get up in the morning for others it’s a way to feed their families, but for all its changing the way people look at the youth of today.
So in all being asked to become a part of the Rooted In Community Advisory Board was amazing. I was asked at the July summit because of working with Rural Coalition, my good natured spirit and my passion and commitment to the issues. I love to help people its in my blood and being able to help uplift the youth of today and tomorrow to become better leaders and take their futures into there own hands is an amazing feeling.