Last week was the 18th Annual Rooted In Community National Youth Food Justice Leadership Summit. This summer GRuB hosted this year who are out of Olympia, Washington and always bring it every year they attend. This year marks the 12 year anniversary of GRuB hosting RIC back in 2004 so it was about time we collaborated again.
GRuB stands for Garden Raised Urban Bounty. Through their GRuB in the Schools Initiative, disengaged and/or low-income students earn credits while learning about and contributing to their local food systems. They focus on the themes of Farming Self (personal development), Farming Land (sustainable land stewardship), & Farming Community (civic engagement & community service). They also engage PreK-12 youth in hands-on learning about soil, plants, food, and community through field trips to our farm. They help them explore the question, “Where does our food come from?”
GRuB also has this dope youth program where they for over 15 years, has been running agriculture-based alternative education, employment, & drop-out prevention programs
that engage local teens in land & community-based projects, working to break cycles of hunger, poverty, inequality, and oppression. Youth steward their 2-acre urban farm, growing 10,000 pounds of vegetables for the food bank, CSA & Marketstand, and their own families.
Executive Director Katie Rains and Wade Arnold who is head of the GRuB youth program helped plan this summit with the RIC national team. Wade started out as a GRuB youth back in the day and came to his first RIC summit. Then GRuB came back in 2012 and in 2013 LA summit two GRuB youth Mallorie and Dayquan came led by Kerensa Mabwa and made my 2013. Wade started coming back to RIC in 2014 in New Mexico. Katie became the executive director of GRuB in 2015 taking over for Kim Gaffi who co-founded GRuB and ran it for 12 years. Katie came to RIC in Detroit that same year.
This year over 100 + people & 30 orgs came to RIC and there where a lot of new orgs that came too. There were a few groups that came and brought an international crew one of them was the International Rescue Center which has many offices across the country. They brought people from the Congo, Syria, Guatemala, Korea and other places who all live in the US now. There where also some people from Victoria, Canada & Hawaii who came.
So the first day of the summit orgs got in and registered then rested, went to the beach and ate dinner. Then after dinner we all went to the long house for our opening ceremony.
Our opening started with a Native elder Laura from the Evergreen University which we were staying at welcomed us to the campus and the long house. She then told us the history of the long house and its relationship to the school. Next we had our music for the evening was the Mazi Gazi Band who does Afro-Beat music. She had the place rockin! Everyone was up on their feet getting down especially Travis who hosted the 2014 RIC summit in New Mexico. It was a lot of fun. The last thing of the night was Gera Marin part of the RICocracy board giving us a four directions blessings for all our relations. He sang and drummed with some of the youth and had me go around and smuge everyone. ThenJoaquin Martinez who came to RIC back in 2011 in Philly and helped to frame and create the Youth Food Bill of Rights, gave a super dope poem to close out the night. That night as Joaquin, Gera, Travis and myself were walking back from the long house we all say a beautiful deer family on campus go by. It was magical.
Thursday started off with breakfast brought by GRuB and we went to the long house for an opening flute blessing by Travis McKenzie. Once he was done Ayisah Yusuf did a check in and asked who had been to RIC before and who's first time was it coming to RIC. She then had the RIC alums explain why they come to RIC each year and why they come back. After that Travis led the youth in some community intention building and had everyone get into groups and then had them do share backs. A favorite agreement was don't be too cool which deminstarted by playing Drake's Hotline Bling.
Once finished we went into our youth led workshops. This year their where many different ones from Travis's on the power of acequias with his youth from the New Mexico Acequia Association and Sembrando Semillas to Berkeley vs. Big Soda led by the Ecology Center who in 2014 Berkeley signed into law the nations first soda tax which the youth helped to get into law. Another workshop was done by Community Services Unlimited who shared dishes that people grew up with & the IRC did a healthy cooking demonstration.
The next set of workshops one was lead by the Hawaiians from Ma'o Organic Farms on Waiʻanae. Other workshops where Food System Chain Game done by Windy City Harvest, Spreading Your Roots by DIG, and Rooted in Respect done by the Victoria Sexual Assault Center.
After workshops we went into lunch. The afternoon was spent first learning more about our field trips we would be taking the next day then Lennee a local poet recited a poem on GRuB. We transitioned to our art and activism workshops next which we used a ways to get ready for our day of action. Some of those workshops where Gera's workshop on different ways of direct action which was orginally going to done by another RICocracy member Beatriz Beckford but she couldn't make to RIC so Gera stepped in. Others where using hip-hop and spoken word in social justice, making music and chants and banner and sign making. During the direct action workshop they came up with a skit to do during the day of action. They centered our skit on the cattle business and the oil trains and how easily the government is convented by money.
Free time was next and after was dinner and then we watched this documentary on the oil trains and rez life on the Swinomish reservation called March Point. The documentary was about three boys who were getting into some trouble with drugs and alchohol and needed to go to rehab. Once they got out they were tasked to make a video as their community service and decided to make a environmental documentary about their rez.
MARCH POINT filmmakers Tracy Rector and Annie Silverstein bring together filmmaking and alternative education through their collaboration with the three young Native Americans. The film assignment sends the boys down a path of historical investigation. Like many young people, Travis, Nick and Cody didn’t know much about their ancestors’ history. By interviewing tribal elders, they learn that most of their land was taken away by the federal government in the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855, leaving the Swinomish with basic health care, some fishing rights and a small reservation. President Ulysses S. Grant took more land in 1870, a move the tribe considers illegal. Grappling with their assignment through humor, sarcasm and a candid self-knowledge, they begin to experience the need to understand and tell their own stories and to grasp the power of this process to change their lives and give back to their community. MARCH POINT follows the boys’ journey on their path from childhood to adulthood as they come to understand themselves, their tribe and the environmental threat to their people.
Something we learned about after this film is that the oil trains come through almost every state in the US so even if you don't live in Washington state you are most likely affected by these trains which is sad.
Friday was our field trip/day of service day. There were three amazing trips people could go on to different farms and gardens. The first field trips were in Seattle where they got to visit the Seattle Youth Gardens Work's farm set up. Youth Gardens Works empowers homeless and undeserved youth to develop job skills through urban farming practices. They also visited the Lettuce Link a community farm part of an organization called Solid Ground and the Beacon Hill food forest which I visited my first day in Seattle. The second field trips was visiting some first people's of the Pacific Northwest. First they hiked the McLane Creek Nature Trail then went to the Squaxin Garden & Squaxin Island Museum to learn about the Squaxin Island Tribe, or the people of the water, an active tribe within the south puget sound. Last they went to the Nisqually Garden and the Salmon Hatchery.
The last field trips were to Olympia. The first farm visited was Tumwater FRESH farms which is a neighboring school district that GRuB helped develop a youth farm program for. Also visited another high school farm called the Freedom Farm who's name was taken from the Freedom riders of the '60s Civil Rights Movement. After that they headed over to the GRuB farm where the GRuB team cooked us a beautiful meal.
The last farm on this field trip they went to the Kiwanis Food Bank Garden an organic vegetable farm dedicated to growing high quality produce for the Thurston County Food Bank.
Next on our journey RIC went to the Nisqually Youth Center they belt for the tribe. While other groups where getting to the center the Nisqually provided arts and crafts for us to make. We all made necklaces and then once everyone was there we did a reflection share back of the day. Then some tribal elders welcomed us to the center and did a prayer before dinner. During dinner we made necklaces while the Nisqually elders told us some of the history of their environmental struggles. We learned a little about Billy Frank, Jr. who was a tireless advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship, whose activism paved the way for the “Boldt decision,” which reaffirmed tribal co-management of salmon resources in the state of Washington. Frank led effective “fish-ins,” which were modeled after sit-ins of the civil rights movement, during the tribal “fish wars” of the 1960s and 1970s. We also learned about GMO salmon and how you can tell the difference is by the color of the salmon. GMO salmon is a darker redish pink color and fresh salmon is a much lighter brownish color. They dye the salmon that pink color to give it color and put chemicals into it. That night for dinner we got to have some wild caught salmon which was delicious.
Saturday was our day of action. So the big issues we were talking about and marching for during our day of action were about the oil trains coming through indigenous communities. So basically there are these trains carrying oil that are coming through the indigenous communities there and they derail and the oil gets dumped into the rivers and other water sources where the tribes go to fish for their salmon. The oil is toxic and poltes the fish which makes people sick. The ports of the trains are in Anacortes, Grays Harbor, and Vancouver in Washington State. Many tribes have been in protest of the Tesoro-Savage oil-by-rail terminal proposed for the banks of the Columbia River in Vancouver including the Quinault, Lummi, Yakama, Umatilla, Nisqually, Swinomish and others.
Small victories have been make over the years but this is still a big on going battle for the tribes as well as land treaties and the salmon becoming GMO. Tribes like the Nisqually have been trying to get land and fishing rights back from a treaty they signed in the 1800s with the government to be aloted the specific amount of land. Of course like most tribal treaties they were broken and a portion of their reservation was taken to put a air puoloting factory on their land.
We started off the day going to the Nisqually tribal garden where we split up into groups and one group started off harvesting blueberries. During our snack time Joaquin, Dante, Travis, Derrick from Hawaii and some youth from Farm Fresh Choice all lead us in the song they had created last night which was so incredibly beautiful. It was a song about hope and never giving up when hard times arise. It starts off humming then goes: "We don't know where were going, where were going but where gonna get there"
After snack one group walked a few blocks to and helped do some more weeding and then we left to go have lunch at a park in downtown Olympia. While there people did some last minute sign making, practiced the skit and chants. Next was the big march and for a lot of the youth it was their first march in solidarity with somebody or something. We marched from one park to the next and at the next park Irena of Food What?! and Ayisah Yusuf did the opening blessing, some poems where read, and the skit was done. Ayisah Yusuf played the evil oil train coming to over take the river only to be blocked by a protester who then gets arrested by the police. The other part of the skit was the big cattle industry influencing the government with their big money and some citizens go to defend the people. The government doesn't listen to them until another citizen comes to make the government listen. It was a really well put together skit which everyone got a lot out of. Once that was finished it was back to marching to the next park which was near the capital building. During our march we had many different chants like:
"Cool, cool, cool it down keep that oil in the ground"
"No more oil trains"
"We want climate justice when do we want it? Now!"
"Keep our air & water clear we don't want your oil here"
"What do we want? Climate Justice"
"When do we want it? Now!"
"Say No to Coal!"
"Keep our river water clear we don't want your oil here"
"Hay Hay, Ho Ho those oil trains have got to go"
Once we finally got to the park we had a few more poems and speeches before we had a little free time music session with music making & dancing. Then while most of the group went to do a quick banner drop over this bridge with this big banner people painted during RIC which is now hanging up at GRuB, Gera and Ayisah Yusuf did something with some of the youth. About 6 youth from different states made a video by the capital building explaining to the governor Jay Inslee of Washington about his governments broken treaty deals & to ask him for a moratorium on the oil trains.
After a super long day of action we finally got to the fun. For our dinner and open mic/swim and dance party it was held at Helsing Junction Farm who for over 20 years, they've grown certified organic vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs on their farm's fertile acres. They're located across the street from the Chehalis river which we spend quite a good amount of time at. Our dinner was catered and was Mediterranean food which was delicious. Everyone ate dinner and then people played games, took naps and went to the river. Now this river was super rocky and the rocks were very slippery due to being covered with algae. Also the current of the river was pretty fast so you had to be careful not to get swept away. From the land where it goes into the river you go down a latter and on to a little island then you have the river then the other side. A lot of fun was had by all swimming in the river.
The fun of swimming turned into the fun of the open mic which many participated in. People danced, sang, rapped, played music, head banged (shout out to GRuB 2014 NM with Jet) until it was time to go back to campus. We even did a big group dance to the Cupid Shuffle. Once we got back to campus we finished up the open mic with some more singing, dancing, and rapping. During this whole RIC summit Travis had been making a RIC 2016 track as well as a Water is Life track where he got as many different languages to say Water is Life which he finished that night.
The next day was the end. We had breakfast at the cafeteria and then we had our closing ceremony. During our ceremony we did some evals and some pros & grows which the feedback was pretty positive from both adult allies and the youth. The greatest grow from the youth list was for RIC to be longer. After our evals we did a thing called a Kuleana that the Hawaiians led us in which is one’s personal sense of responsibility. The person possessing Kuleana, believes in the strength of this value, and will be quick to say, “I accept my responsibilities, and I will be held accountable.” So we went in a circle and everyone said their Kuleana. When we said our Kuleana we were gifted with a seed ball with the seeds from all over the country which was rapped with clay from the islands of Hawaii. We then did our big RIC spiral hug and then took pictures and said our goodbyes.
RIC 2016 is officially a rap fam! Just wanna give a big hand to the GRuB team for all they did & do, and the Nisqually people for bring us up to date with the issue of the oil trains coming through their communities & others and just bring in that spirit. To the RIC team for the hard work behind the scenes #Ari #Beatriz #John , to all the dope farms and orgs we got to visit, the city of Olympia & Seattle, and The Evergreen State College. Finally to the youth & adult ally's who came and brought their knowledge and energy to share. We did it because WE. ARE. ROOTED IN COMMUNITY! #RIC2016 #OlympiaRIC #OfftheRICterscale #StoptheOilTrains
Every RIC year just gets better and better looking forward to what 2017 brings!