Generating Radical Kinship: Rooted In Community Winter Leadership Institute 2017 #RIC2017 #RICWLI #RICBoston


This past weekend on #nomypresidentsday weekend I participated in and helped to facilitate the 2nd Rooted In Community Winter Leadership Institute held in Boston/Sandwich, MA at Camp Burgess from Friday February 17th-Monday February 20th. Rooted In Community (RIC) is a national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities. We are a diverse movement of youth and adults working together and committed to fostering healthy communities and food justice through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice work. 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).

My journey started on Thursday evening when I flew an hour and a half to Boston to stay with my RIC family John Wang and his girlfriend Kim. When I got in we dropped my stuff off in John’s house then got some pizza and did some last minute shopping at Whole Foods for the weekend. We then picked up Ari and went back to the house where we worked on some stuff for Friday and John and I went over our workshop around the RIC regional structure while Ari fixed some amazing carrot humus. I also got to meet his adorable rabbit. The next day Ari and I made some of the dinner for that night like the Kale Paneer and Bangnan Bharta. Afterwords Ari went to go pick up folks from the airport and train station while John went to pick up some more stuff for dinner. I stayed at his house until it was time to go to the camp which was about an hour away from John’s house.

Once we got to camp a few people had arrived by car and the first batch of folks were dropped off by Ari. I helped them all with registration and had them make name tags. I did that through out the day as John 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 did the opening blessing while I passed around some sweet grass to cleanse the space. Then I 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 were 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 myself did our workshop.

The purpose of our 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 I come to RIC. John then went over our proposal for our 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.


Regional Structure – Fellowship Program

Qtr 1 – Jan to Mar Qtr 2 – Apr to Jun Qtr 3 – Jul to Sep Qtr 4 – Oct to Dec
Regional Who: Adult Ally & Fellows Who: Adult Ally & Fellows Who: Adult Ally & Fellows Who: Adult Ally & Fellows
Meet twice by video and once in person (more as needed) Meet twice by video and once in person (more as needed) Meet twice by video and once in person (more as needed) Meet twice by video and once in person (more as needed)
National Who: Adult Allies & Fellows – all regions Who: Adult Allies & Fellows – all regions Who: Adult Allies & Fellows – all regions Who: Adult Allies & Fellows – all regions
Participate in Quarterly Meeting – Orientation participate in Quarterly Meeting – Winter Leadership Institute participate in Quarterly Meeting – RIC Conference participate in Quarterly Meeting – TBD
  • Each Region is a part of a Fellowship Program
  • Each Region must contain an Adult Mentor/Ally and 2 to 3 RIC Youth Fellows from that Region – preferably overlapping years so there is always one veteran in the mix at any time to help support new youth that are coming in
  • Each Region must host a Monthly Check-in with Adult Mentor/Ally and Youth Fellows.  Once per quarter (3 month interval), the Adult Mentor/Ally and Youth Fellows will meet once in person and twice by video/phone – and more as needed depending the work being done.
  • Each Region will participate in a Quarterly meeting with the National Group – all Adult Mentors/Allies and all Youth Fellows.  The 1st Quarter being an in person Orientation rotating around in the country.  The 2nd and 3rd Quarters being Google Video hangouts.  The 4th Quarter they will meet in person at the National RIC Conference.
  • Youth Fellows serve a two year term.

Other cool things that we 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.

I think the thing 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 I think they just need a little bit more information about who we are and what we do. I do think though that 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.

I then had a really awesome conversation with Roy from East New York Farms who has been coming to RIC for years. I was a very affirming conversation and helped me to see my role in RIC better. Love you Roy.

Following lunch we went over to one of the bigger cabins to do our next workshop. This workshop was also felicitated by Beatriz Beckford with some help from the RICocracy members. I participated in this workshop as I felt it was a good learning tool for myself and even though this was a heavier workshop topic wise it was also fun with some of the things we did in the workshop.


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?, what the make up of your staff is? and who are the decision makers? I liked this activity as it was an eye opener to the different kinds of organizations where in the room. 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. In my group a lot of us where on a 2 or 3 meaning it’s not as progressive on race as they wished it was.

Click to access Continuum_AntiRacist.pdf

Following that activity Beatriz, Ari and Travis McKenzie 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 facilitator  offers 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 something that I will be putting into almost every group activity I do 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. I played a game with the group from Windy City Harvest and The Food Project called spoons where you have these dog cards which were so cute and then you give 4 or 5 cards to each player and then the one with the deck passes cards to the left and then that person passes cards to their left until the you have 4 of a kind to which you then try to grab a spoon. I lost this game a lot but it was a lot of fun. During dinner I played this rhyming game with Irene of Food What?! out of Santa Cruz and Audrey and Rachael of Windy City Harvest out of Chicago. After dinner people went to start a bonfire outside by the cabins and The Food Project brought s’mores making stuff. I stayed inside and waited until Brotha Rob showed a documentary that his friend made while he was in Standing Rock. He was there for two weeks and was there during Thankstaking weekend the same time I was there. It was a really well done documentary just under 30 mins. Afterwords he took questions from the crowd and then Rob wanted me to explain my experience of what I got out of being there as I had told him I had been there myself. *Noted this was the first time people had really seen me talk or open up about something the whole time I was there besides when I was facilitating something or explaining an activity or at the fire.*

Learn More About My Standing Rock Experience:

Once we were done watching the doc we all made our way over to the bonfire. At almost every cultural, social justice, plant people gathering I end up at there is usually a bonfire and that is usually the place where people let loose and the best conversations and music come out of it. That is what happened here. I heard 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. This got me thinking that RIC needs an album or mixtape or something cause we have some amazing musical people. Later in that night I was sitting with Irene and we were talking about random stuff and we started talking about spirits and spirituality which intrigued another person there Daquan Washington of Viet Lead who had come to the Agroecology Encounter back in August at Black Dirt Farm. It was an interesting conversation that we had and I loved it. Something I feel we need to incorporate into this work is more spirituality. I also heard other amazing conversations like one that some of the guys were having about our image in the media and in music. Stanley Morgan who was also at the Agroecology Encounter was also there. A lot of us stayed up until 1-2 in the morning.

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 I went last the RIC folks were the last to do ours. I said mine was to keep writing about gatherings and networks like RIC and to help this movement grow. 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.

Youth Power- Youth Led Campaigns & Businesses

More young people are centered, in the marketing, in the work – create the content, the more authentic the information going out in the world.

    • Reflection, Feedback, & Evaluation Models
    • Connecting Youth to Career Paths beyond our programs

3 rings

Structure of intentions around the programs – what kinds of occupations.  Entrepreneurship.  Explaining and showing folks to get that experential knowledge

Short term view and long time – career paths, give youth opportunities to make money, basic ecoconimc power.  How to give skills and resources to determine their power – indpendant of the system.  Building partnerships- urban and rural.  Land access

Engagement/Retention/Buy-in Beyond Pay

Boards are representation

Training on storytelling – more we can do, is the best campaign

  • Fostering Youth Power & Leadership

Friends peers, mentors?  Comrades? Guide and don’t need to hold hands all the time

    • Take into account the youth biological phase

Teaching & Curriculum

    • Food & Racial Justice Curriculum Building – Irene O’Connell & Alicia McAvay

Agriculture Curriculum Building

  • Teaching Techniques
  • Supporting Youth-built Curriculum & Youth-led Facilitation

Program Structure & Fundraising

  • School-Day structure
  • Public/Private partnerships
  • Building Strong Networks
  • Organizational Structure & Staff Support
  • Fundraising & Revenue Generation

The first set of workshops were on Youth Power. During the first set of workshops the RICocracy members and the folks from Greensboro had a meeting about the summer summit which is going to held in Greensboro. Bevelyn Ukah of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Noah McDonald a Foodcorps Member. I am so excited to have this summit in Greensboro and from the sounds of it Bevelyn and them it sounds like it is going to amazing and I’m excited to be planning the summit with them.

Sadly after this meeting it was time for Beatriz and Travis to leave after lunch so we said our goodbyes, were givin gifts by Travis and took a group picture outside in the snow as well as spelled RIC with our bodies in the snow as Daquan who brought his drone with him and filmed us waving to the camera. Before Travis left he told me he had a vision of me coming more into myself which was really sweet that he said that. Love you Travis.  


The second workshop was after lunch and I helped John prep dinner that night and clean the kitchen a little. I made Raw Salted Chocolate Snack Bars for dessert which were a big hit and super easy. We were left some chili from Travis for dinner which was tacos and we added it to the Toasted Tortilla Soup with Fresh Cheese and Chile Pasilla. Irene also helped by making some Guacamole which was so good. I also tried some Pine tea that Travis and Chase harvested and it was actually pretty good which makes me want to go out and harvest some pine from our trees which we have many of.

After all the dinner prep was done I went on a walk with Rebekah and Mallorie from GRUB in Olympia which it was surprisingly warm during this weekend. Once we made our way around camp we ended up at the water front where a some people where hangin out. A few minutes later The Food Project (who have such interesting games that they play) showed us how to play GaGa ball. GaGa ball is basically a combo of soccer and dodge ball. You are in a circle with the ball and you can use your hands but you are trying to get a person bellow the knees. This game is a lot of fun and brought out the competitive nature in people which was fun to watch. I was winning for a while too but then I got out a couple times.

We played a few games of that until we went back inside to eat dinner which was amazing as always. 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. Now the difference between this gathering and a usually RIC summit was we were all adults so we partook in some wine and beer. Like the prier night incredible music and rhymes came out of the night as well as amazing conversation. I feel like sitting around that fire and around the good energy of the fire spirits I learned a lot about the people there that weekend which was really eye opening in a great way. Shout out to Irene, Daquan, The Food Project Crew, Windy City Harvest, Noah, Nykisha and her amazing rhymes and of course the whole musical crew I had a lot of fun getting to know you guys. There was a group of us like the previous night that stayed at the fire until 2 am just chillin. There were even people who left and came back too and we had contemplated staying at the fire till the sun came up which would have been awesome but we capped it off at 2.

Of course I payed for it in the morning being super tired but it was worth it. 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 my 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. A grow I heard was more outdoor time which I thought was important and a grow I have was to bring more spirituality into what we do. That could be as simple as making sure we start each day with a prayer, poem or some type of affirmation, doing a simple little prayer before our meals and things like that. I got the vibe from this crowd that they liked the spiritual aspect of our gathering. Plus I know a lot of the youth at the summer summits love when we bring spirituality into the mix even if it’s just smudging or doing a guided meditation together. This was something I did see at this gathering but in my opinion we could do more. The pros were the gathering in general and the food plus what we learned. Once we did a report back we then did our famous RIC spiral hug. I think 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.

Eventually everyone left and then it was just Mallorie and Wade from GRUB, Audrey, Rachael and Sam from Windy City Harvest, Connie from Athens Land Trust in Athens, GA and John plus myself. All of us helped John clean up and then I was going to go with John back to Boston so he could show me around the city but then we decided to have me go into town with everyone else. We then said good by to John and got in the van to drive an hour back to Boston which is when I got my sleep I missed from the night before. When we got to the city we went into the Boston Public Market which was basically just a huge indoor market with different little small restaurant and stores with unique Boston food and items. While at the Boston Public Market people got crab cakes and other food and then we walked around Boston just checking out stuff. We checked out the Holocaust memorial and saw some people ice skating and even sat in a giant chair. The last thing we did before leaving to go to the airport was we went to check out the harbor and we even pored tea into the harbor which was fun and watched ducks go by.

By then it was finally time to take myself and Windy City Harvest to the airport and so we drove a few minutes to the airport and then we said our good byes. Once we got to the airport we went through security, and then sat and waited for our flights to take off. Windy City Harvest flight took off before mine & then I sat in the airport for another hour waiting for mine before I took the hour and a half flight to DC.

Over all I had the best time which I always do at RIC gatherings. I can’t wait till this summer in Greensboro it’s going to be so much fun and I’m so happy that I  met so many wonderful people at this gathering & I hope to keep in touch with all of you guys. Happy to add you all to my RIC family! Also shout out to my RICocracy family for all the work you put into this weekend you guys rocked it! John’s food was amazing, B and Ari’s facilitation’s were fun and informative and Travis’s beautiful energy was always needed and welcome. Love all of you!

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Till Next Time Remember…We’re all Legends doing this as a Lifestyle not a Job So We must Heal and Save Ourselves.

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