Two weeks ago July 18-22nd Rooted In Community had its 20th anniversary summit in Upstate New York in Poughkeepsie & Millerton, NY. This years theme for the summit was self-care & celebration in these hard times we live in. The Rooted in Community National Youth Leadership Summit is a conference for high school aged young people involved in the food justice movement. Every summer the summit attracts over 100 young people from throughout the United States and Canada along with 30-40 adult allies.
My journey started on Wednesday morning where I hoped on a Greyhound Bus and made the 6 hour journey to New York City. Then once I got there I got on the subway and made my way to the Metronorth to catch a train to Poughkeepsie. This whole journey was very tiring because all my transportation was late. Once I finally got to RIC I was so happy. I said hello to my peeps Sam, Rachel, Travis, Mateo, Noah & Ari who were waiting for the food we ordered to get to our campus. I also got to meet Travis’s youth from New Mexico as well. The other youths were playing games together and hanging out which was awesome. The campus we were staying at was the Oakwood Friends School a Quaker school. On a picturesque, coed campus, infused with nature, surrounded in all directions by cultural enrichment and “fun” entertainment and dining venues, Oakwood Friends School prepares students for lives of achievement, accomplishment, compassion and conscience.
Once we found out the food would take even a little longer to get there Travis & I decided to do the opening blessing for the summit. We did a four directions blessing where Travis burned some copal & sage and then blew his conch shell while I shook my rattle in each of the four directions plus the sky and Mother Earth. Travis also played his flute and I shook my rattle. After our opening the food finally got there and it was jerk chicken, rice and beans and vegetables. After dinner was over I lead the youth to get into their different regions and come up with rules for the summit this year. Later that night the RIC team led the adult ally’s in their meeting before we helped clean up the court-yard from dinner and helped get the youth situated in their dorms. Then after all that the real fun came after Mateo and Noah went to grab groceries from Costco. Travis, Sam, Noah, Mateo, Travis’s youth and myself went around and helped put groceries in each of the fridges in the dorms chang gang style before going to get set up in our tent in the calonia aka tent city.
The next day was our farm day. We traveled to Wildseed and Rock Steady to do our service day and help the farmers with some harvesting and farm projects. WILDSEED Community Farm & Healing Village is a space to actively experience the change we devote our lives to, with each other as co-creators of our present reality. We are descendants of legacies of deep division and trauma, and devote ourselves to cultivating collaborative, reciprocal relationships with each other and this magnificent land as a mechanism of resilience, agency, and intergenerational accountability. Rock Steady Farm & Flowers is a for-profit farm located in Millerton, NY — a rural and active community few hours north of NYC, close to the MA and CT borders. We use holistic farming practices that allow us to grow high quality vegetables, cut flowers and herbs for a diverse array of market outlets. We manage a total of 11 acres 1.5 in flowers, 7 in veggies, and 2+ acres of rotational cover crop. We have diversified customers including our 125+ person CSA, floral designers, markets, restaurants, food pantries, social justice non-profits, and design for special events in the Hudson Valley and New York City.
After everyone ate breakfast and made their lunches they boarded the bus and took the hour-long ride to the farms. I rode with Ari & Noah to the farms.
Once we got there the youth were introducing themselves and their groups so we can get to know them. Then Wildseed and Rock Steady introduce themselves then told us what we were going to be doing with each farm. Wildseed and Rock Steady are about 5 mins away from each other walking down a long road.
Once everyone finished harvesting we ate lunch and then made our way to Bash Bish a waterfall we had to hike up to which was a lot of fun but the water was so cold. That day I got some serious sunburn but it was such a good day.
Once we got back we had dinner and some incredible peach cobbler and then we did a panel where adult allies talked about how they got into food justice and why they enjoy it to help inspire the youth. Then we switched it up and had some of the youth go up and talk about how they got into food justice and why it matters to them or has changed their lives. I was taped to go up and talk about how I got into food justice and my journey into becoming apart of the RIC board. Then we had some free time and we played some board games and this hide and seek type came which was fun to learn. Later that night a group of us also had a midnight snack of some peach cobbler and homemade whip cream.
Friday was our day on campus and it was a really fun day. First we had breakfast and then I broke up the youth and adult allies into two groups and then split them up into their regional groups where the youth discussed the issues going on in their communities, solutions to these problems & how us as RIC can help them with these issues. I had a great time being the facilitator of this because I got to listen in on the youth and some of the issues they are going through and its sad but hopeful for their generation to help fix these issues. Then the youth played rock, paper, scissors aka Biggest Fan which is was so much fun. Then the youth played a game called Rubber Chicken which Noah led the youth in and it looked like they were having a blast. After lunch we did a share back of the regional groups of their issues and solutions then gave the youth time to work on their skits or poems based on these problems and solutions for our RICstock festival the next day. Once we gave the youth time to rehearse their skits and poems they performed them for us and we gave them feedback so they could tighten them up for the next day. After this was free time where Irene and myself worked on some of the banners for RICstock. Dinner was next which was our farm dinner day were everything came from the farm and then the youth watched a movie together before bed.
Saturday was RICstock our festival day. The night before two of our board members John and Keely from the Food Project in Boston came down to celebrate with us during our festival and help us with some cooking. So the morning of the festival John made his signature dish which I look forward to each time I’m around John congee. Congee is a hot rice dish like a cream of wheat or oatmeal type which they make a lot in many Asian countries and you can put many different things in. After breakfast the festival began to get set up with the DJ booth, Healing Village and Tie Dye Station. Mason & Omar were our youth DJs and Lesley and Alyssa were the youth MCs and both did an incredible job through out the day.
Boricua Womens Drum and Dance Group was the first performer that went up and it was so much fun and so needed. They are a group that does Bomba music an ancient musical style coming from Puerto Rico. To watch everyone dancing and getting down to this music was so uplifting and beautiful to see. Next was the youth skits and poems and man they were uplifting and really showed the heart of the youth. One of the skits was on a young boy getting arrested, learning about farming in jail and then trying to uplift his community through teaching farming through the community but then gets shot and dies but his legacy was so big it helps make the community better. This is the real stuff the youth deal with everyday. It was very moving! The RIC board then spoke on the future of RIC and who we are as a board. The next performer did a Ancestral Re-membrance performance and guided meditation which was amazing and very emotional. A Filipina women named Jana did a moving performance about her culture and her the mistreatment of her people due to western culture, white supremacy, capitalism and more. She also talked about how resilient her people are too. After this incredible moving performance piece she guided through an ancestral re-membrance meditation where we were to imagine that we see our ancestors near a body of water near a tree. I saw a turtle which for me is my totem animal and very sacred to me plus represents my indigenous ancestors of Turtle Island & those black ancestors brought over to Turtle Island. I saw my grandmother who just passed away three weeks ago as the strong women she was & the way she took her life into her own hands and made the best of it. This made me cry and think about my life and my life path and where I am going with it what my life purpose is and how I am going to move forward in my life as a strong women leading her own destiny independent from her family. This also represented the small amount of time I feel I have with my own parents who are getting older & how I try to cherish each day with them I can. This is what it feels like to be an Adult! Shoutout to my strong sista’s who where there for me in this time as I was for them in their time as we connected on that level and made me feel even closer to each one of them!
After a very emotional part of the day it was lunch time and we made sandwiches and watched the young adult theatre of the oppressed ensemble perform which was very powerful. Once lunch was over different workshops done by the the Healing Village and others took place including self-defense, decolonizing tarot, reiki, palmistry as self-care, art therapy, active meditation and youth led workshops. Once that was through we did some afro-Caribbean dance fitness which was so much fun. Then Tangina Stone a singer came and did an acoustic set and during that set people were tie dyeing their 2018 RIC t-shirts which I was all about. The last performance was a some more cultural dancing.
Once RICstock was over I helped Rachel who was doing the tie dye table clean that up and then it was dinner time. That night we had rice pudding and it was amazing! Later that night we had our open mic night which was cool and to end our great RIC 2018 experience a few us had a late night pupusa making party which was dope and delicious. Then a small group of us did some tarot readings which was eye-opening.
Sunday was the last day and people were getting ready to leave. So we did our pros and grows and then our spiral hug before people got ready to leave.
This years RIC was amazing! From seeing a bunch of my sisters & brothers I don’t see often enough to meeting new sisters & brothers there was a lot of love all through out. Getting to check out the farms of Wildseed & Rocksteady was so beautiful and empowering! Bash Bish was an experience all it’s own and an incredible one at that getting to commune with sacred water with 120 youth was everything! The food was always on point & delicious because it came from hard-working hands of hard working people especially the dinner that came straight from the farm. RICstock was off the chain! Every performer & youth skit was so inspiring & it felt good to let loose and dance away all the stress that comes with a life of organizing and working for the betterment of Mother Earth and all her people. But the best part of all was getting to share a tent in the colonia aka tent city aka tent cit with my brothers and sisters. I came home with three big bug bites, sun burn & my feet hurt but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love RIC more than I can describe and all though I am a quite one just know that I am bursting at the seems with how much light RIC brings into my life! No matter what lame thing I am stressing about in my own life RIC always brings we back to center and reminds me why we all do this work and why it is so important to have transformational gatherings together like this to remind us we are not alone in this fight and that we will always have 100+ people walking this path of resistance together with us whether near or far! RIC you rock & I am so excited to see what the next 20 years have in store for us! #RICisLit #RIC2018 #RIC20th #RICStock