Last week I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Pacific North West specifically Washington State for the Rooted In Community national youth food justice leadership summit. This is my 5th RIC gathering as I started coming to RIC in 2012. This summer was special though as one of my favorite youth groups hosted this year GRuB 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. I meet GRuB back in 2012 and in 2013 LA summit two of my favorite 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. This year I was helping co-chaperon with another lady from North Carolina two youth who’s mom works for the Farmworkers Association of Florida Holly Baker and does a lot with Angela Adrar and some of the other Ecohermanas. Eve and Nick Billy are half Muskogee & white and are two amazing youth doing big things with their tribe.
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. Then Joaquin 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.
FB: #RIC2016 stared off with a bang! We had a dope opening ceremony with blessings from the Evergreen campus Native elder & some Afro beats that had everybody on the dance floor. We also played some Elbows to Elbows. Then we had Gera bless us with an opening. Tomorrow is our youth led workshops day as well as our movie night where we learn about the oil trails here & how they run through Native communities.
Thursday started off with breakfast brought by GRuB and we went to the long house for an opening flute blessing by my brotha Travis McKenzie. Once he was done I did a check in and asked who had been to RIC before and who’s first time was it coming to RIC. I 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. My 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. The first workshop I went to was Travis’s on the power of acequias with his youth from the New Mexico Acequia Association and Sembrando Semillas. They explained that acequias are sacred to the New Mexico way of life and tradition. They help them irrigate their plants and give water to their animals and the people. The youth said that the acequias are their birth right yet they are trying to take that away even though it is unlawful to do. So the people of New Mexico have come up with the campaign #WaterisLife or #AquaesVida to save their water rights and in conjunction with that during our workshop we made buttons that had to do with water is life. Also a dope Water is Life track was started during this workshop and through out the summit with different ways to say water is life.
The next workshop I went to was lead by my new Hawaiian friends from Ma’o Organic Farms on Waiʻanae. We started off this workshop going around the circle and saying our name and an interesting fact about us which ended up being about our cultural background. After we said our peice we all said “No Panic, Go Organic”. Derrick who was the other “youths” adult ally (they were all over the age of 20) said he was half Filipino/Hawaiian and that his dad is from New Orleans which gave us something in common. Their story of course was like many of our stories in the states with all the fast food places everywhere, lack of education on farming practices as a way to get healthy food and their native land being built up for Americans. Ma’o Organic is a 24 acre farm that employs 17-24 year old youth who get a stipined to go to Leeward Community College through the Youth Leadership Training program. The YLT is a 2-year farm to college program that invests in our youth who are our waiwai, our most valuable asset and connect them to their community to instill in their kuleana and responsibility to of malama ʻāina, all while earning a college degree, an educational stipend, and contributing positively to the local community food system. All interns making good progress in their leadership program are also eligible to participate in an Individual Development Account matched savings program. We had a great conversation on Food Sovereignty and what that means and told us some of the produce they sell like arugula, mustard greens, cauilflower, parsley, purplette onions, mango, taro/kalo among other things.
After their workshop we went into lunch and I talked with Gera and Edawrd from Community Service Unlimited who hosted our 2013 LA summit about what foods we ate culturally growing up. 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. I was in 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. During his workshop we did a number of things like starting of we did some stretches. Next we got into groups and came up with different forms of organizing or direct action and then we came up with things we love that are being hurt. Once that was finished and we did a quick share back we watched a little clip of the Indigenous Environmental Network from the recent Cop-21 environmental summit in Paris. Next we came up with a skit to do during the day of action. We centered our skit on the cattle business and the oil trains and how easily the government is convented by money.
Free time was next which I spent uploading pics & videos on social media on the one women media train. After free time 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 I 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.
On the way back to the dorms Travis, Gera, Eve, Irena from Food What?! in Santa Cruz, CA and myself found this fallen tree that had tuns of cedar on it so we did a little ceremony and had a ceder picking party which was a great way to end the night.
FB: RIC Day 2: Started off dope! Had a opening flute playing by Travis McKenzie and then some community intention setting time & some of the RIC alum told us why they come back to RIC each year. Then we broke into our youth led workshop groups which I went to the New Mexico Acequia Association/Sembrando Semillas for my first one and then to the Hawaii Mao Organic Farm workshop. Lunch was next and after we did our art and activism workshops where I got to help with a direct action skit and now is free time. Tomorrow is our field trip day to amazing farms and gardens in the Olympia/Seattle area and Saturday is our day of action. Stay tuned for more. #RIC2016
Watching this documentary tonight on the oil trains coming through the Native Communities in Washington State #RIC2016
Saw a deer family on campus, a squirrel ended up in one of the workshop spaces, we got to pick some cedar from a fallen tree and a racoon was just spotted on campus. Washington has blessed us good. #RIC2016
Once that stop was finished we visited another high school farm called the Freedom Farm who’s name was taken from the Freedom riders of the ’60s Civil Rights Movement.Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. During our time at the Freedom Farm we played some games, hurt some youth reflections and took a farm tour.
After that it was lunch time and we headed over to the GRuB farm where the GRuB team cooked us a beautiful meal. It was said during reflections that cooking a meal for RIC was a real bonding experience for the GRuB youth. Lunch ended and we played some cool games with the pickles which is what the junior GRuB crew is called. Then we went on a medicinal weeds scavenger hunt. How that worked was we all got into teams with a GRuB youth and then went around to stations to learn about different herbs that we mistake as weeds. Then once we learned about them we had to go around the farm and find each plant before the other teams then present them to a GRuB adult. The winning team won Popsicle’s. Some of the medicinal weeds we learned about where: dandelion
Having said good bye to the GRuB crew the rest of us went to the Kiwanis Food Bank Garden an organic vegetable farm dedicated to growing high quality produce for the Thurston County Food Bank. On the way to the food bank garden Wade kindly gave me a GRuB youth crew t-shirt because he knows how much love I have for GRuB. Best Gift Ever! I put that on right away! There we helped harvest hard neck and soft neck onions and did some weeding. The way you can tell the difference between hard neck and soft neck onions is simply through their neck one is more bendable and the other is more stiff.
Next on our journey we met the rest of RIC at 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.
That night I got to be witness to beautiful guitar playing and singing by Joaquin and Dante Kaleo from the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice in Berkley who came to RIC 2013 as a youth and came back this year as an adult ally. Joaquin had some cords he was playing around with but didn’t have any words to it so Dante came up with some. It was magical!
FB: Today youth went on some amazing field trips to Seattle, Olympia, & the Nisqually tribal lands. After that we had dinner at the tribal youth center where we were honored with some necklace making & a presentation on GM salmon. Tomorrow is the big day of action so be on the look out for FB live videos & pictures from the march to stop the oil trains & help us get the word out. #RIC2016
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 my group started off harvesting blueberries. One of the international youth from IRC who was from the Congo ended up making everyone flower crowns for our day of action. We also found snakes and did some weeding for the tribe.
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 my 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 Dayquan Williams a form GRuB crew member and the guy who came up with the #GRuBLife phrase. He also came to RIC 2013 in LA and was the life of the party so hype, so vibin and I love him! He marched with us through out our day of action and danced, chanted, and was just awesome as always. He even got our RIC 2013 t-shirt design tattooed on his arm. So dope! Makes me wanna get a RIC tattoo. At the next park I helped Irena with the opening blessing, some poems where read, and the skit was done. I 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 I think 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 I 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. I almost slipped a couple times. 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. My beautiful brotha from Hawaii Derrick gave me a t-shirt & pin from Mao Organic with their dope slogan “No Panic, Go Organic”. 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 I saw from the youth list was for RIC to be longer which I agree with. 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 which mine was to practice more self care and to do more with my community. 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.
Once most everyone had left on a shuttle to the airport Gera, Travis, myself and some other folks from Duhrum and New Mexico went to explore downtown Olympia for a couple hours. Travis, Gera and I got lunch by the board walk and talked for a while then did a beautiful water ceremony where we gave thanks to the water with Travis on flute and Gera singing a Native song. Afterwords we made our way back to campus so we could meet our shuttles back to the airport in Seattle. While Gera and I waited for our shuttle he taught me how to salsa dance which was a lot of fun and then we talked and caught up on the way back to the airport. After a 3 hour plane ride to Dallas and then a 5 hour lay over over night and then a 3 hour plane ride back to DC I arrived home Monday morning.
This years RIC summit was amazing! I finally got to see the GRuB farm, got to see some of my favorite people I haven’t seen since RIC 2013 and 2014 & got to finally visit Washington State which I always herd so much about. I met some new amazing people this year and saw some RIC family that I only get to see once a year. I also got to learn about what Native tribes are dealing with in the Pacific North West. Every RIC year just gets better and better looking forward to what 2017 brings!