Healing in Community – Freedom School 2018 Reflection

Authored by Donna Quintanilla

baggiesWinter Freedom School 2018 was a three day training that consisted of ice breakers, social justice workshops, and community healing activities. It was a way for youth coming from similar and varying identities and communities to meet, exchange ideas, and bond together.

In preparation for FS 2018, the facilitation team met for many hours to review, research, and discuss ways to create a more “trauma-informed” courageous space. We wanted to be as intentional in the design of the youth space and incorporate and borrow spaces we’ve enjoyed and have found healing in the past. We filled our walls with freedom fighters that we look to for support and took recommendations from our larger community network. We made colorful signs to create a more welcoming space (including gender neutral bathroom signs), prepared our music playlists, and added art throughout the office space. During our meeting times, we also we identified goals and intentions for this freedom school for those participating in it and ourselves as facilitators. 


Day 1 consisted of community building, art making, food preparation, and dismantling conventional history by introducing OURstory, HERstory, and THEIRstory. As youth entered the space for the first time, they were asked to read a statement of self-love (a practice we learned by our AFSC colleague Nia Eubanks Dixon). Upon arriving, youth got the opportunity to decorate personal appreciation bags to write personal notes for themselves and others during the entirety of the program.

These art activities were followed by ice breakers and food preparation where youth prepared healthy plant-based foods like guacamole and kale salad with lemon sesame dressing. We also enjoyed falafel and chicken sandwiches from a local family owned greek restaurant in DTLA! 

timelinesMy favorite activity was creating our personal timelines after lunch. It made me realize that I am proud of who I am and what I have persevered. It left a warm feeling in my heart because I had never before this given myself credit for growing and moving past difficult moments in my life.  After this activity, we followed it with “Tea Time” (a practice shared by loba loca) where we learned about a specific plant, drank tea, relaxed, and wrapped up our day. 

Day 2 was centered on deepening our understanding of race and racism and ways this system of discrimination connects to other forms of oppression. After ice breakers and an art activity, we began this session. We created a collective definition of racism. We discussed ways racism was enforced throughout history through institutions like the Church and science (or pseudoscience). It was a lot to hold, and after introducing the idea of “internalized inferiority” (terminology from People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond) and ways racism has been normalized  in our own communities, we used movement to express the many feelings that came with that session.

freedom fighterUsing movement, dialogue, and food preparation to continue processing and expressing those emotions, we also switched to more hopeful present and vision for future. We each shared a picture of someone or something that inspires us or brings us joy. We then did a silent “street walk” to recognize the freedom fighters on the walls that have and continue to support collective liberation. Learning more about freedom fighters that came before us and recognizing that we too are freedom fighters of today was an important way to recognize my own individual power and the collective power we as group hold. After this activity, we created a “Power Tag” in which youth tagged up the word POWER using ways they see themselves and others fighting back against systemic issues related to race/racism like white supremacy, capitalism, heteronormativity, and misogyny. This was a very powerful activity for me.

Day 3

On Day 3, youth got to visit All Peoples’ Community Center and got to explore the Community Garden and upcoming Community Farm. Unfortunately I was sick and had to head home after the morning, but during our time there, all of us created liberation bracelets to wear and remember whatever feelings, people, and ideas that support us. power with over withinYouth took part in ice breakers and a experiential activity to recognize our own power and the power of organizing together. With the support of AFSC colleague Crystal, we created a definition of power and identified ways that power plays out in our lives.

After that session, youth prepared delicious veggie tostadas with shredded carrots and beets with lemon and salt, black beans, chopped lettuce, hot tomato salsa, guacamole, and queso fresco. I had to head out before eating these tostadas (which I heard were delicious!). Then, youth headed back to the office for final reflection, gratitude circle, created their own tea blends to take home. During this final day of Freedom School, youth also exchanged contacts and signed up to take action and volunteer at the Kermes fundraiser for the new community farm in South Los Angeles! 

Final Reflection 

peace crew 2018

This Winter Freedom School was something I didn’t expect, but it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve received so far. Through this facilitation opportunity, I learned so much and got to work with an amazing group of youth. Before this training,  I thought I was already a well-rounded community organizer, but as I did some activities with the youth I unraveled a lot about myself. I realized there are many things I had not let go of  or healed from, but this space was allowing to do so. There was an activity called to “To All my Peoples” in which one person ends up in the middle of the circle after trying to find a seat in the circle. Each new phase of the game gets a little deeper than the last one, and I remember sharing something that made one youth feel strong enough to also share. Having her share this with me helped me recognize that I am resilient and can heal from past experiences.



Our discussions made me recognize how grateful I am for life because I discovered how the simple things have so much beauty within, but sometimes I forget to notice these because of materialistic world we live in. I was eager to join Roots for Peace program as a participant, and as an intern, I know I came in with good foundation of understanding but Freedom School 2018 has continued to make me question more and has motivated me to read and continue to research to be more informed, aware, and continue growing.  


Join us at the Community Farm Fundraiser!

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ENGLISH – Roots for Peace invites you to a Community Farm Kermes (fundraiser) in South Central Los Angeles!

Day: Sat. February 3rd, 2018

Time: 10am-1pm

Location: All Peoples Community Center 822 E 22nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90011

Details: Join us to support the development of the Community Farm! Community members will be selling homemade food to support the construction of new Farm on 20th and Stanford Ave. Foods offered include mole, posole, tamales, flan, aguas frescas, and more! Vegetarian and vegan options will be available. Children are encouraged to attend. Join us!  More info on Facebook.


SPANISH – Roots for Peace te invita a la Kermes para el Nuevo Jardin Comunitario en Sur Central Los Angeles!  

Dia: Sab. 3 de Febrero 2018

Tiempo: 10am-1pm

Lugar: All Peoples Community Center 822 E 22nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90011

Detalles: Apoya el desarrollo de el nuevo Jardin Comunitario! Residentes estaran vendiendo comida casera para el beneficio del nuevo jardin comunitario (por la 20th St. y Stanford Ave). Platos incluyen mole, posole, tamales, flanes, aguas frescas, y mas! Opciones veganas y vegetarianas de comida. Niñss estan invitadxs, habran actividades para ellxs. Mas informacion en Facebook. 

“If they come for one of us, they better come for all of us”

A reflection piece by Gloria Campos 


Since I was a teenager, like many others in my situation, sharing my story has remained a tool to not only organize and call people to act but also a tool to heal and humanize myself and other immigrants in the eyes of a nation built on the rampant exclusion, enslavement, and exploitation of black and non-black people of color. I am undocumented, I came to the US in 1996, at the age of 3, from Lima, Peru during a wave of the worst terrorism Peru had ever seen. I am also a current DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient which essentially puts me at a low-level priority for deportation with the opportunity to apply to a 2-year temporary work permit, with the opportunity to renew, for a fee of about $500.00, every 2 years. This was until now president Trump terminated the program this past month.

I am currently the Youth Organizer for the Roots for Peace program in Los Angeles and have been involved in some form of immigrant rights organizing since 2006. When I was in 7th grade my family and I took part in what was at the time the largest immigrants’ rights march in the history of Los Angeles, we marched in opposition to hateful and anti-immigrant legislation known as HR4437 in California. Leading up to the 2012 announcement on DACA and beyond, I was part of nationwide efforts, led by fierce undocumented immigrant youth who put their bodies on the line and risked deportation, to successfully push then president Obama, during his re-election campaign and beyond, to use executive action to change policy with regards to deportation practices. Back then, DACA was something the president claimed time and time again he did not have the power to carry out. Part of these organizing efforts also included bringing attention to the record number of deportations under the Obama administration in efforts to pressure the president to use his executive oversight to halt deportations in our communities.

DACA was a win for undocumented youth whose stories were being hijacked by political parties (Democrats and Republicans) and mainstream ally and immigrant rights organizations. DACA however also strengthened the divide between “low priority DREAMers” and everyone else, our neighbors, families, and community members, deemed undeserving of basic rights during a time where deportation rates during the Obama administration reached a record high (for more on this history click here). Today, although DACA has provided myself, and many others, relief and a temporary sense of security, the majority of undocumented immigrants in this country, including my parents and close friends, remain without of any form of protection.

Now that DACA is set to terminate officially after March 5th, 2018, I truly believe it is critical that we learn from our past and seek protections and demand rights beyond the limitations placed by a white supremacist government. I recently attended a DACA response community meeting in Los Angeles where I was inspired to see many people, young and old, who were new to organizing spaces and ready and willing to put their bodies on the line to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. As this administration continues to fight with extremist hate we must counter with extremist love and compassion and fight for all 11 million undocumented immigrants. This means fighting with and for those who are most criminalized and deemed “undeserving” by a system of exploitation that continues to profit off the detainment, incarceration, and deportation of our bodies. Beyond DACA and recycled versions of legislation such as the federal DREAM Act which will only further funnel more of our young people into the military. It means being creative, it means pushing boundaries, it means putting our bodies on the line if we feel called to do so, it means showing up for one another knowing if they come for one of us, they better come for all of us.

Finally, if you enjoy spoken word, check out this beautiful piece by Yosimar.


Youth 3rd Space :: 5/9/2016

Throughout March 2016, we’re continuing to better understand our local neighborhood assets and potentials. One way to do this is to talk to various local groups and organizations working with community members to promote justice in Los Angeles. The youth visited 3 community organizations including All People’s Community Center (APCC), Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN).

SAJE: Housing Justice in South LA

“Our mission is to change public and corporate policy in a manner that provides concrete economic benefits to working class people, increases the economic rights of working class people, and builds leadership through a movement for economic justice; and in the process creating sustainable models of economic democracy.” – SAJE website


SAJE’s office walls decorated with art created by its members.


SAJE’s office walls decorated with art created by its members.

Elena, one of the community organizers working there, took the time to meet with us and share more about the work they do to support renters. The organization supports working class folks to know their rights as renters and to not allow landlords to violate renter’s rights. They also make sure that landlords are doing their job to build out and maintain healthy and safe structures to live in before and during renting period. 

As Chris from 3rd Space shares, “This made me aware of the pricing of housing and rent is going up and what landlords were doing, which I didn’t think was possible. This one landowner owned a few different properties but he changed his name for each property and he did some pretty messed up things but they caught him.” 

To learn more information about stage click here.

LA CAN: Justice on Skid Row 

LA CAN is located on Skid Row and works with local residents to stop police abuse, promote housing rights and healthy and fresh food access. Ari and co-workers from LACAN talked about their food justice project where they are bringing affordable produce to Skid Row residents at a lower than most stores. Right now, they have a large refrigerator where they store this produce for the weekly pick up on Wednesdays. They have plans of expansion and are currently constructing their new building which include a roof top garden!

LACAN“The most surprising thing about my trip was that on skid row, I saw a little girl inside a tent and it was like a culture shock for me. They talked about how they started off trying to help the community. One of the women said she wanted to motivate farmers to allow food stamps so low income families could provide good food for their families. She said that some of the farmers even had EBT machines but they would claim that they got it stolen because they didn’t want them and they are now trying to make it a legal requirement to offer EBT to people at the farmer’s markets.” – Jason

To learn more about CAN, click here.

All People’s Community Center: Farms, Gardens, and Youth Actions 


All People’s Community Center is located near Washington and San Pedro in South LA, just outside of downtown. As we arrived for our visit we were greeted by Crystal and Roots for Peace alumni, Brenda and Yareli. 

3rd Space youth learned about the history portrayed in the beautiful mural in the garden and pieces of a film titled “The Garden” which tells the tragic story that happened in 2006 to the, then, largest urban farm in the United States. This garden was a 14-acre organic farm in South-Central Los Angeles that held plots from over 350 families and operated from 1994 to 2006. Unfortunately the families were evicted by the Los Angeles Police Department and the farm was completely mowed down because the land owner didn’t like what they were doing and wanted to build storage units instead.

Some of youth we’re very impacted by this initial part of our visit. Like Maria mentions,

“Watching the video impacted me because I didn’t even know about the south central farm and I have lived there my whole life. I asked my grandma later that day if she had heard about it and she said that she did and she started crying and said that it was so unfair to the people that worked there.”

IMG_3178Afterwards, youth from Santee Complex shared their experience organizing after Roots for Peace internships.  In December 2015, they all got together on their own and arranged an action where they gave items to houseless folks in their neighborhood. They organized clothes by size and bagged them with other items like food and a blanket.

As it can be seen through the responses of the youth, each of these organizations play a very important role in the community of Los Angeles through idea of intersectionality – used to describe the ways in which institutions that work toward social justice are interconnected and can’t be examined separately from one another. From these field trips, the youth were ready to plan out their own action which you can read about on our next post!

For more information about All Peoples Community Center, click here.

Written by: Alexandra Downey

Edited by: Eli Tizcareño

Youth 3rd Space :: 5/6/2016

In 3rd Space, youth are expanding their knowledge on food justice in many ways. They explored ancestral food knowledge and food sovereignty, identified how certain herbs can benefit our bodies, and practiced self-care techniques (like yoga!).


Chris, Emely, and Jason

I interviewed:

  • Emely Ortega who is 16 years old and a junior at Academy of Environmental & Social Policy (ESP) High School in Lincoln Heights. She joined the program because she likes growing vegetables and getting her hands dirty in the soil.



  • Maria Juan-Gomez who is 17 years old and attends Central High School. She lives in South Central and as she states, she joined the program because “I wanted to learn more about health and learn things I didn’t know.”
  • Jason R., a 17 year old junior at Santee Education Complex. He lives in Compton and said someone spoke to his class about the program and was curious and wanted to know what it was about so he joined.
  • Chris Lopez who is 17 years old and attends Central High School. He lives in El Sereno in between Lincoln Heights and Alhambra and said “my girlfriend Maria told me about the program and I thought about it and I decided to join because I figured it would help me.”


Q: Thinking back to day where you learned about food sovereignty, what surprised you and why?

“For me, it was a new things. People, work not even for minimum wage to just get covered in pesticides and all those chemicals and pick up bananas that are only two thirds edible. Then after that they become sterile from the chemicals getting into their bodies and to me, the was surprising because I eat bananas and to find out that these people work this hard for not even $5 and no benefits.” – Jason

“I was working with the banana one and what surprised was that the workers are treated horribly The employers didn’t care about the pesticides or how they were going to affect the workers. They would pick the bananas and breathe in these chemicals, but they would not get them suits or anything to help their health. I remember me and my group were watching this video and this woman had a swollen leg and they said it was no excuse to not work. It made me sad and angry because I don’t like it when people are treated like that.” – Emely

Q: Do you think there needs to be a change? If so, what would that change look like?


“The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agricultural systems. It puts the aspirationgs and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems rather than the demands of matters and corporations.” – Declaration by Ny Leni

The youth have very strong opinions on the changes that need to be made. The conditions that these people are working in are inhumane and the youth unanimously agreed that there needs to be laws put in place to make sure that these people are not forced to work in such harsh conditions.

“I think that if you are going to have someone working for you them the working conditions should be the same as all other companies. If someone is working really hard then they should get some vacation time and if they are sick then they should be able to take sick days. I think this would make people want to do this work and not just working there because they really need the money.” – Chris

“I think that the people that own those places shouldn’t be allowed to put the chemicals in it because it isn’t natural and it hurts other people, not them.” – Maria

“People should be let known that there are these people picking all of these bananas and products that they put on their table and they don’t even know where it comes from and they don’t appreciate that these workers are over here exhausting themselves for not even a good amount of money just to try and provide for themselves and others. And I think people should be aware of the struggles of these workers.” – Jason

“We need to change more than just this. We need to change a lot, like the use of cars. We are using this oil and that damages our planet and when we damage our planet, we damage our food source. For the fields in particular, I feel like they should just stop working. Because if one person decides to stand up then they will just replace them, but if they make a picket line they can show them ‘You can’t treat us like this, we deserve better, we are human too.’” – Emely

ANCESTRAL KNOWLEDGE & HEALING: Medicine, Herbs, and More 

Learning about the systemic violence in our society takes a toll on our bodies, spirits, and relationship with self and others. The goal of this session was to share, learn, and practice ways of self care since many of our sessions have been understanding systemic violence. We explored herbs help us relax and support our wellbeing.

  • Chamomile – soothing nerve tonic that can help with stress, anxiety, and sleep. It helps relieve stress that affects digestion and mental and physical tension and irritability. It also helps relax mind and body in preparation for sleep and is helpful for digestion, bowel and bladder problems. On top of these, it is good when feeling vulnerable in giving feeling of being held.
  • Rose – for stress, depression, PMS, nervousness, heartache/heart break, and opening up one’s heart. It’s helpful in intention to bring in sweetness.
  • Lavender- for nervous stress. It can bring calmness and inner strength. It is soothing and strengthening to the nervous system. It can be helpful for trying to sleep. It is also a good antibacterial & anti-fungal.
  • Hibiscus- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s good for the heart and medicinal for heart disease and is good liver and kidney tonic. It is is high in antioxidants and is anti-Inflammatory & anti-­fungal, anti-biotic. It also is supportive in maintaining health weight, lessen water weight.
  • Lemon Balm- excellent nerve tonic that helps with stress and anxiety. It can help to lift mood and spirit. It’s good for nervous tension, melancholy, and postpartum blues and is helpful when stress affect your stomach and digestion. It can be useful for ADD and ADHD and is a good sleep aid when dealing with insomnia. And one perk is that it is safe for babies to consume.

After learning about the different herbs, each youth had the chance to create their own herb mix to make tea(s) for themselves and loved ones back home. The “Love Herb,” rose, was the most popular herb of the day!

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A few days later, the youth shared their experience with the herbs:

“I took lavender and rose. The lavender did help, because it helped me go to sleep and that is much better than taking pills.” – Maria

“I took some rose and a bit of lavender and I enjoyed it a lot. I mixed to two together and really liked the flavor and knew it was helping because it made me sleepy.” – Chris

“I took home the rose and lavender and it is supposed to help with your menstrual cycle. It just so happened that I got ‘it’ that day and the tea really helped me a lot. I also gave it to my sister without telling her what it was and before she drank it, she was complaining about her cramps, and after she drank it, she said she felt a lot better.” – Emely

In conclusion, Roots For Peace’s 3rd Space program is a great space for youth to learn about systemic violence within our food system and identify solutions already possible. The program also encourages and supports youth to lead in making these solutions an option in their lives (as you’ll see in the next blog piece). As Chris shares:

 “I think being in this program opened my eyes to the world. Because of this, I talk a little more now, I’m not as nervous to talk to somebody now because it’s a friendly environment here and I didn’t really know a lot of people here before.”


Written by: Alexandra Downey

Edited by: Eli Tizcareño

Sources: One pager about herbs created by Jas Wade.

Food Growers Network

Over the past few months, the Food Growers Network has been making extraordinary strides! Below are just a few examples of the work we have been doing.

Before you read any further, make sure to save the date for our annual Agri-Cultura Block  Party on May 15th!


March 30, 2016

Visit and exchange with the wonderful Avalon community garden in South LA. Our group received a very warm welcome from Avalon gardeners. We were impressed with the high level of food production in the gardens.

March 19, 2016

La Red de Cultivadores offered fresh organic salads at the community health fair! Many ingredients were fresh from growers’ backyards and the recipes were from a member: Flor Cipriano. Quinoa salad and kale salad were a hit!


December 12, 2015

We held an excellent fruit tree pruning workshop  at our monthly Food Growers Network meeting in South LA. Materials and workshop were beautifully presented by the knowledgeable and talented Brenda Quintero. It was a great day for learning, sharing food, and continuing discussions on food access and food justice in the neighborhood.

November 21, 2015

Our Cultivadores Unidos (United Growers) leadership retreat. Gardening is only one part of our work. Community members are invested in developing their skills in communication, facilitation, conflict resolution, and peer education.

October 23, 2015 –

Community members, Luis and Michael, from Compost LA built the bin in the Mar Vista Garden community garden in preparation for the monthly workshop! After more than 8 hours of hard work, the compost bin was built and stained by youth. Dora and Angelica Bogarin came and shared agua de jamaica, waters, and snacks throughout the day.

October 4, 2015

Our community members had a great time tabling at Los Angeles Garden Council’s 9th Annual Gathering of Community Gardens! Our table shared Meso-American seeds and samples of an excellent nopales dish. Thank you to the Los Angeles Garden Council for hosting the event.

Youth 3rd Space :: 3/15/2016

Roots for Peace’s “3rd Space” is an interactive 2 month program for youth ages 15-18 to explore issues that impact their communities’ health and wellness. Youth that participate will match what they learn in workshops that focus on issues of inequality with practices of gardening, creative writing, art, cooking and trips to other community organizations throughout the city- all to culminate in a community asset project. This program takes place at the Roots for Peace office in downtown LA on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 4 to 6.


In the past month, the youth learned about the history of agriculture in our country (the United States), what is inside processed foods and how it affects our bodies, how food advertising influences what we eat, and the limited food “choices” in black, brown, and low income neighborhoods.

12788588_1130240526986554_235307777_oTo get a better feel about what the students are taking away from this program so far, I interviewed two students. The first student I interviewed 15 year old Andrea Garcia who attends Santee Education Complex. She lives in south LA near USC got involved in this program through her older sister. When she was in middle school she spent three years learning about environmental studies and that really interested her. Her sister knew this and so immediately thought her for 3rd Space. The second student I interviewed was 16 year old, Justin Oceguera who in lives in Boyle Heights and attends Roosevelt High School. Originally Justin thought that this program was a paid job and that is what got Justin interested. Even though its not a paid position, Justin shared that this has been an eye-opening and positive experience that is interesting, fun, and enjoyable. 

Lets now review what we’ve covered in 3rd Space…

Week 1: Peoples’ History of the US and our Food System – February 4, 2016

On this day, the students learned about things such as genocide & stealing of native/indigenous lands, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, labor exploitation, discrimination, and the rise of the US farm industry. Topics like this are very sensitive and  yet so important to be aware of and understand.


“The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade included the forcible transportation in bondage of at least twelve twelve million men, women, and children from their African homelands to the Americas. The slave was brutal and horrific, and the enslavement of Africans was cruel, exploitative, and dehumanizing. Enslaved Africans were laborers on plantations, on public works projects, and in industrial enterprises.”


IMG_20160204_163552 (1)

“In the 16050s – 1800s, when European indentured servants weren’t providing enough labor, African people were brought to the U.S as slaves to work in the fields and as domestic workers.”

I asked the youth what their thoughts are about the injustices of this country:  

“I remember reading the posters about slave and trade and how we were all surprised about the history of where the food comes from and who brings it to us. Usually you think about it and you think that farmers actually go out and get their products but it’s crazy because they have people do it for them and that’s people’s lives, just set up to pick vegetables. Knowing that people come out and risks there lives everyday just to get food was just really surprising.”  – Andrea

“We can’t just blame and point fingers at other people. We have to take responsibility and stop complaining and do something about it.” – Justin

Week 2: Processed Foods and Health – February 10, 2016

During the session, the youth learned what is actually in processed foods, the diseases that are caused by the harsh chemicals that are in many common food items, and the diet-related health issues in predominantly black and brown communities.


“What surprised me the most was what is actually in these foods because I am the world’s number one sweet tooth and when we learning about the brownies in particular, I was SHOCKED because I love those and after learning how much lard is in them I felt like ‘oh my goodness, that is what I put into my body? That’s crazy!’ It opened my eyes and taught me that I need to pay attention to what I put into my body. To change this, we should stop the growth of places like fast food specifically in these places of color. We can stop buying that stuff, we could protest. We can do anything as long as we commit to it.” – Justin

Some of the chemicals that the youth learned about during this session are Sodium Benzoate, Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), and Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow.

Sodium Benzoate is a common food preservative that prevents the growth of mold and yeasts. It deprives our mitochondria of oxygen and has been linked to hyperactivity in children. Some of the common items it is found in are juices, pickles, pre-made salad dressings, and condiments.

BVO is a food additive that keeps citrus flavoring from separating in sodas and sports drinks. It contains bromine which is the element found in flame retardants that has been linked to nerve issues and this is why it is banned in the European Union, Japan, and Australia. Although it is still legal in the US many large franchises such as Fanta, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade have announced that they would remove BVO from their products.

The artificial colors blue 1&2, green 3, red 3, and yellow 6 have been linked to thyroid, adrenal, bladder, kidney, and brain cancers. These are found in colorful candy, cereal, chocolate bars, Kraft dinner, juices, and sports drinks.

“I remember learning that there is this chemical in milk that can cause cancer and it’s crazy because I drink milk everyday. What I would change is I would start paying more attention to what ingredients is inside the food that I eat.” – Andrea

Week 3: Media Does Not Have My Mind – February 11, 2016

On this day, youth got into different teams and hopped on the metro to Westlake/MacArthur Park. There, they took pictures of food &/or drink advertisements throughout the neighborhood that stood out to them (could’ve been at bus stops, on buses, benches, billboards).­ As they walked, partners discussed:

  • What the messages they are sending in the advertisement are?
  • What information corporations are not sharing in the advertisement?
  • How these messages influence our food choices?

3rd Space_FieldResearch

Through this neighborhood walk, we were surprised at the amount of coffee and on-the-counter drugs that were being sold around MacArthur Park. Although there was some natural remedy medicines, the majority was not that. Most of the corporate food advertisements were also not supporting healthy eating habits. 


“Everywhere you go there are food advertisements and most of those advertisements are bad – not healthy or good choices.” Everyday I walk past these signs and don’t notice it and it’s crazy how they say these things just like “Redbull gives you wings” but what you really don’t know is that you really will get wings when you die from drinking so much.” – Justin

After the activity, they had the opportunity to connect and reflect on what they saw and how its relatable to their own family stories of health and disease.

3rdSpace_Concentric Circles

Lastly, they rewrote the advertisements in a way they thought would accurately describe the product being sold. For example, instead of “2 Monsters for $3,” they changed it to “100 sugar cubes for $3” to represent how much sugar is in just one drink. 

What recommendations and/or actions do you suggest in hopes of seeing advertisements that speak the truth in the future?

We need to confront these places and ask why they make their advertisements like this to make them see that what they are doing is false advertising.” – Andrea

“I suggest that we tell 100% the truth. If you know there is something in that food that with effect someone SAY IT. Don’t just say “oh, it has a good taste.” You have to make sure that people know what they are putting into their bodies.” – Justin

In conclusion (for now), Roots For Peace’s 3rd Space program is a space for youth to connect with each other, to learn about peoples’ histories in the United States, and build connections between food justice to other social justices. Youth also critically analyze the various forms of oppressions that make it difficult to be “healthy,” and have opportunity to discover and share culturally-relevant practices that can support the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of youth and all participants in 3rd space.


Written by Alexandra Downey


3rd Space is here, apply now!

Click here to apply online.

Roots for Peace “3rd Space” is an interactive 2 month program for youth ages 15-18 to explore issues that impact our communities’ health and wellness. Youth that participate will match what they learn in workshops that focus on issues of inequality with practices of gardening, art, cooking and trips throughout the city- all to culminate in a community asset project.
– Transportation Stipend provided
– Camping trip during spring break
– Free Healthy Food during each session
– Field Trips include community gardens, farmers markets, non-profits, community walks

LOCATION: Most sessions will take place at Roots for Peace office: 634 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90014.

DEADLINE for application: January 25th, 2016.

Click here to apply online.


Cultivadores go to Huerta del Valle Community Garden!

This weekend, five families made up of mothers, children, and young adults from Mar Vista Gardens visited Huerta del Valle Community Garden in Ontario, California. Our trip began in the early afternoon driving away from the Mar Vista Gardens community garden in two vehicles. Upon driving into Ontario after 1.5 hours of Los Angeles traffic, I saw small mom and pop restaurants, liquor stores, one-story homes and trailers nearing the address on our destination. Before stepping out of the car, we all pointed at the fenced area with plants growing beyond the height of the fence. We were confident we had found the garden, and this was confirmed when Maria Alonso, the Garden Manager, came out to greet us as we neared the fenced green area.


Styling her green Huerta del Valle shirt, Maria begins the tour by sharing the history of the community garden. The garden project began in 2013 when she decided to plant seeds in a small plot of land owned by the school district in order to have access to organic food for her family. With time, people passing by and other parents were interested in growing as well and they began to grow food with her. People wanted to produce their food, but they needed more land.


With support from the community and partners like Pitzer College and the City of Ontario, they were able to identify potential land outside the school district to build a community garden. The decision between leasing private or public land came from the city had more interest of an in supporting community health. Maria smiled as she shared this, explaining that support from the city and community partners have made it possible to do what they are doing today on this much larger piece of land. They are reaching their 3rd year anniversary with more than 60 families growing food, a compost facility, and a business that is sustaining the garden by producing organic food for local restaurants and Pitzer College.

After that introduction, we continued to tour the garden.


Martha, a community gardener from Mar Vista Gardens, admires the banana plant.


Drip irrigation installed in all the plots in order to conserve water.


Throughout the garden one will find native plant corners that include nopales, aloe vera, and other succulents.


Maria explains how these seedlings were delivered by a university after the community gardeners sent them the seeds to grow them in their greenhouses.


Mint growing next to the wooden fence in one of the community plots.


There are more than 8 boxes like these filled with worms decomposing food scraps the community members bring!


Rich horse manure forms part of their reliable source of compost for the community garden.

After the garden tour, we sat down in the shaded education area to welcome Andres Chavez who came to visit the community garden.


Chavez started off by sharing how racism and stereotypes many times separate neighborhoods from building power together. This was the case for farm workers in California during the time his grandfather, Cesar Chavez, was organizing. Andres describes the farmworker movement as a multicultural creation, one that was built and supported by farmworkers from Mexico, Central and South America, and of Japanese American descent working in the California fields. Without one of them, it would have been impossible to succeed in their goals. Boycott was the tool of choice for transforming labor practices and increasing agricultural worker rights. By the 5th year on their strike, 1500 striking workers turned into 18,000 and more than 17 million people all over the world stopped purchasing grapes from California. At the same time, Radio Campesino was established to support the voices of those unheard in mainstream media, and more than 5,000 affordable housing units were built for farmworker families.

Andres, shares that he admires the work community members are doing. He tells the audience that this work honors his grandfather Cesar Chavez and the many other organizers who gave their life to supporting people in the food system. He ended his speech with his grandfather’s quote, “Es mi creencia más profunda que solamente con dar de nuestra vida encontramos la vida” (It’s my most profound belief that only by giving our lives can we find life).


After Andres’ speech, we wrapped up the day by celebrating together with a plate of good food and gratitude for the land, the plants, and our friends who welcomed us into their community garden. By visiting Huerta del Valle, a garden that is built, worked, and lead by those most affected by the inequities in our food system, we met other cultivadores who are creating positive change for their families and neighborhoods knowing too well that no one else will do this work for them. Like Andres, I too admire the work Cultivadores Unidos and Huerta del Valle members and volunteers do each day. 

Authored by: Eli Tizcareño


“La Educación del Corazón, César E. Chávez en sus Propias Palabras.History. United Farm Workers. Copyrighted 1995 Fundación César E. Chávez. Accessed September 22, 2015. 

New Position is Open: Youth Organizer

The Roots for Peace program is on the lookout for a new person to join our team as Youth Organizer. If you or someone you know is interested, please send them this link and apply! We look forward to reading the applications and getting back to applicants in the next few weeks. You can find the link to application below.

Responsibilities Overview: 

The Youth Organizer will develop youth leadership among youth ages 15-22 through workshops, community organizing, and mentorship that (1) build a shared sense of community (2) develop a critical social justice framework (3) implement community action projects and (4) strengthen schools and communities.   The Youth Organizer will work in conjunction with AFSC staff, interns, and volunteers, to support community events, campaigns, and activities that advance social justice and lasting peace.

Essential Functions/Responsibilities:

  1. Lead and/or co-facilitate Roots for Peace workshops for high school youth using a popular education model. Workshop topics include, but are not limited to: food justice, urban gardening, institutional racism, land use, environmental justice, gentrification, community research, art, and other relevant social justice issues.
  2. Recruit and sustain youth involvement in workshops and activities to become social justice advocates who organize community action projects that improve overall health and wellness in the community.
  3. Serve as a liaison, and resource, for building school and community relationships, and exploring partnerships with other organizations.
  4. Work with program director to monitor progress, track performance and confer with staff regarding achieving the goals and outcomes of the program.
  5. Work with staff, interns, and volunteers to maximize program effectiveness.
  6. Organize special events, activities and nonviolent action/advocacy campaigns
  7. Work with assigned staff members to ensure that all projects and programs are carried out with effectiveness, respect for others, and a focus on the mission, goals and objectives of the AFSC.

Link to Application: