The Roots for Peace Program Hosts Freedom School!

This Summer 2015, the Roots for Peace Program hosted a group of youth to join our first Freedom School. Gaining inspiration from AFSC Freedom Schools across the country, and eager to bring youth across various communities in LA together to address common issues impacting their neighborhoods, we spent nine beautiful days working towards personal and collective freedom.











As we prepared for the program we asked ourselves:

“Is the curriculum diverse enough to connect to each of our lives and our diverse learning strengths? How are the activities making the youth feel included, connected to each other, and safe enough to speak their own truths? How are we making connections to what’s happening in the US, CA, and Los Angeles? What incentives can we have for youth to feel good about spending this summer in Freedom School?”

We had to have hope, and be intentional in our planning to make sure we were addressing these questions even if we didn’t have answers to them until we were in it! Slowly, we saw the curriculum support relationship building, inclusion, and conversations around individual and familial struggles – including racism, policing, gentrification, and migrant and gender injustice.

Day 1 – Introduction to Freedom Schools 

Day 2 – Racism, Colonialism and Resistance

Day 3 – Migrant Justice

Day 4 – School to Prison Pipeline and Transformative Justice

Day 5 – Gender Justice

Day 6 – Gentrification, Displacement, and Listening to Stories of Home in Lincoln Heights

Day 7 – Art and Poetry: Preparing to Share Our Truths through Service Learning Actionday7

Day 8 – Implementing Service Learning Action day81

Day 9 – Celebration and Next Stepsday9

There was a general feeling of being understood (I’m not the only one), compassion (this may not impact me but I do care), and empowerment (let’s do something to change this). Not only all did youth complete the program – students asked if it could be extended! Plans for continuing to work together are on their way.

tkOf course, Freedom School couldn’t have been possible without the many people that we talked to, planned with, and who supported the program in many ways from beginning to end. We are grateful for the facilitators, volunteers, groups, and organizations that made this powerful collective experience possible!

Special shout out to the following people/groups for their support:

  • Abraham Colunga and Team, Youth Justice Coalition
  • Arturo Romo, Art Teacher and Facilitator
  • Miguel, NELAA Organizer
  • Armando Rodriguez & Johanna Larios, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
  • Eisha Mason and Sarah Beth Horan, AFSC West Coast
  • Mayra Gallardo, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
  • Nasreen Popat, Gender Justice Facilitator
  • Paulina Pina Garcia, Progressive Christians United
  • Ruth Ellis, Center for Collaborative Education
  • Tamika Butler, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
  • Tony Tizcareno, Volunteer

For more pictures and stories from our summer program and the youth’s action, check us out on Facebook and partner site!

Check out the May 2015 Newsletter!

Our intern, Jorge Sandoval, Roots for Peace intern and program alumni, has been working on documenting and sharing with public the work of the Red de Cultivadores (cultivator network) in South LA. At the same time, these newsletters have served as an educational and promotion tool for the Red de Cultivadores in South Los Angeles. Through the distribution of this newsletter to community members, South LA residents can learn ways on how to get involved if interested in monthly garden meetings as well as cooking workshops offered by Joanna Farias, Roots for Peace intern and program alumni.

In the May Newsletter, you can find gardening tips, a member’s story on why he is involved with the Red de Cultivadores, an event calendar, pictures and highlights from the Block Party celebration, and information on DAPA qualifications.

Check out the newsletter (in Spanish and English) by clicking on the “Readings” tab on this blog.

Freedom Summer School is on the way!

From attending a Youth Summit, to taking a road trip to Oakland (CA), to hosting a Community Block Party, and organizing an empty lot action in LA – the past three months have been a busy time for youth and community members (cultivadores) in the Roots for Peace program.

This summer, we will continue to support youth leadership in LA through the Summer Freedom School! 

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 3.09.53 PM

Youth, ages 16-22, interested in organizing in their neighborhoods will meet for 10 days to learn through workshops, field trips, guest presentations and more, to develop their organizing skills to then create a final project in their neighborhood.

Transportation and food costs covered. $150 stipend provided to youth who complete the program.

Text Eli at 818.383.6434 if you want to apply now, application available online here.  We highly encourage youth to apply by deadline Friday June 5th.

Community Mural in South Los Angeles

Roots for Peace students at All People’s Community Center (APCC) have been involved in the designing process of this mural for months, interviewing community members, and creating their own collages that were representative of the messages heard during those interviews. With the guidance of AFSC’s Roots for Peace staff and Ana Ruth Yela Castillo, the artist behind the mural’s design, the mural is ready to be shared with the community!

10801680_10204010674361635_2926999655069676833_nDuring the designing process, community members were consulted in order to come up with major themes used in the murals.  One of these themes is gardening as a source of freedom.  The freedom to garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, but it also connects to the ancestors of the community–a history that can be passed down to future generations.  With the hopes and aspirations of the future in mind, it was also important to incorporate the opportunities available to children in the community, and the sacrifices parents make to provide their children with these freedoms.  Struggle and sacrifice  are major themes in the mural, evident by the various imagery of campaigns advocating for community justice.  Other themes include promotion of justice, education, and hope.

We asked Castillo about her personal belief in why it was important to involve the community in the creation of the mural’s design.  Her answer?

“As a community based artist, the community input is the most important aspect of the design because this is where they gather, where they live, garden, and continue to be. As an artist, I might come and go, but this wall is forever present here the way the community is. I do my work with respect for their message and their stories.”

Through these community collaborations, the artist explained some changes or additions that added to the mural.  One of these additions includes the forced relocation of the Japanese American community in 1942.  APCC holds a strong history of Japanese American ancestry, having once been a Japanese Christian Church.  “The profoundness of a forced relocation of an entire community can not be ignored,” stated Castillo.  Imagery of a young Japanese girl now finds its place on the mural as she waits with her belongings to be relocated to an internment camp.  “This happened here,” declares the artist, “and changed the community forever.”  This history will now forever be present in the community on the wall of APCC.

monarch on muralThroughout the mural, many symbols are representative of the community.  What is stressed, however, is the importance of personal interpretation.  As community members coming from different backgrounds pass the mural everyday, the images on the wall will speak to their personal stories and reflections. Pollinators are an important symbol incorporated by the artist.  Bees and monarchs decorate the entirety of the mural, representative of their presence and importance in the garden.  “People may or may not know that our bees are dying due to chemicals used as pesticides to grow food,” explains the artist.  She continues to express the importance of living harmoniously with nature as different species rely on each other.  Without bees, gardening and essentially our food source will suffer immensely.  Other than pollination, the monarch butterfly also represents migration and the need for species to move from one place to another in order to survive. The monarch is a symbol of the struggle that humans and other species must go through in their journey to better their lives and that of their families. During the painting of the mural, students were informed about the trip from Mexico to Canada that monarchs make every year. Unfortunately, these  migration journeys are dangerous and denied for many due to the human barriers we have created as a society for migrant communities and with the use chemicals and pesticides for plants, or walls and immigration restrictions for people.

Many of the symbols contin11043534_10204861545472881_8848801830018170621_nue to reinforce the main theme of struggle and sacrifice in this country. However, the struggle of the community is not without fruit.  In the mural, there is a picture of a runner holding a staff with a feather attached to it.  “He is known as a spirit runner and what he is holding is a prayer for his community,” Castillo explains.  She explains that it is in our hopes and prayers that we truly find what we desire for our community. In order to bring about change and influence within our society, temporary sacrifice is necessary. The fruit is also represented at the right side of the mural as two students with their parents are graduating from school. Many times, parents and family sacrifice their own lives through long hours of work for the hope of a better future for their children. At the same time, the young people from Central High School and Santee Education Complex interrupt the false idea that youth do not have power, and this is exemplified by the completion of this mural piece.  Without their hard work, this mural would not be here today.

After students painted the final pieces of the wall, I asked them what they wanted the mural to mean to those walking by it. Their responses included hope, motivation to surpass stereotypes, hard work, a healthy lifestyle, and solidarity. Castillo’s personal desire for the community is:

 “GROW SOMETHING! Your mind, your community, your food!”

Come by this Sunday, April 12th from 12-3PM, and decide what the mural means to you.

Special thanks to All People’s Community Center (APCC), American Friends Service Committee Los Angeles (AFSC-LA), the Roots for Peace program, and Ana Ruth Yela Castillo for their contribution to the community! For more information, check out our Facebook event page.

Written by Cayla Bradley

Student Spotlight- Kathy Au

Kathy Au- Alumni Fall 2014

Kathy Au- Alumni Fall 2014

Why did you join the internship?

Coming into the Roots for Peace Program, Kathy Au admits that she was a bit nervous about starting her internship. Initially, it was the opportunity to earn community service hours and service learning credit that grabbed her attention. She needed the credit, but was not sure how the overall experience would turn out. She felt anxious about working with students she did not know, yet continued to come after the first day.

What did you learn from your internship?

“I didn’t know how to plant trees, and I didn’t know how to plant seeds…” she explained to us. Before this opportunity, Kathy had steered away from gardening because of a Chinese superstition passed down by her parents.  The belief was that, because of her birth month, any attempts at planting would fail.  Luckily, being able to watch the progress and successful growth of the trees she helped plant has been an exciting experience– one that has encouraged her to want to plant more in the future.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Over the semester, Kathy shared with us specific moments that she really enjoyed and learned from. Her favorite part was getting to know new people. As she mentions, “we learned our interests, and we became closer and it became easier and more motivating to plant together.” She viewed this as a learning experience both in the spring and summer when she became a paid intern and attended Summer Freedom School. She noted that it was interesting to learn about stereotypes for the first time.

Kathy also mentions how much further insight the class gave her regarding the importance of healthy food.  Living in the city, she is constantly bombarded with fast-food ads and unhealthy choices everyday.  Thanks to her internship with Roots for Peace, she now understands how important her health really is and how much her diet affects it.

Would you recommend this to someone else? 

Kathy would recommend this internship for anybody who needs to complete some extra community service hours, finish their service learning project, or who just wants to gain extra insight about health and social justice.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t join this semester due to the time the internship was taking place!Her improvement for the program would be making it happen more often so that more students can join!  She looks forward to volunteering with the program in the future.

Interview took place in Abraham Lincoln High School’s Garden

Interview by Cayla Bradley

New blog, follow us!

Welcome to our new website and blog! If you would like to learn more about the Roots for Peace program, our history, and what we are currently working on, then you are in the right place! We look forward to sharing what projects youth and community members are working on this spring. Check out the new site by clicking on the tabs above to get started…

Previous website/blog will remain open for now, but all the past posts can be found here as well.

Roots for Peace Internship: Now Online!

The Roots for Peace Internship online application is now open for LHS students!
  • Are you a senior or a junior in Lincoln High School?
  • Do you have an open 8th period and would like complete your service learning or community service hours?

Then the Roots for Peace internship might be for you!

  • Complete your service learning project
  • Obtain at least 15 community service hours
  • Gain work experience and resume/cover letter support
  • Build leadership skills and social justice awareness related to food access, community health, nutrition, and land use in your community.
To apply online, click here
We look forward to reading your application, please text or call Eli at 818.383.6434 for more information or questions.
Written: 1st February 2015

Importance of Power & Planning

Griselda drew three things that she loves; her birthday, her family, and tacos!

On Nov.4th we were able to meet with Griselda, Jenny, and Jasmine, and students at Lincoln High School to discuss what service project they wanted to plan next. But before we dived into planning, we played a little game that enabled us to get to know each other a little bit more. Each of us drew our name in the middle of a piece of paper and then drew three different things in our lives that we love. Griselda (pictured left) shared with us that she loves her birthday, her family, and tacos!

When we began discussing with the students what their ideas were concerning their next service project, they agreed that they wanted to participate in organizing a COMMUNITY CLEANUP! Before confirming, we first wanted to acknowledge the power dynamics of those who make it possible for the streets to be dirty in Lincoln Heights.

Crystal discussing how power is distributed and discussing realistic goals for our cleanup day while we were snacking on some tasty snacks!

With support from Crystal, the students began to acknowledge how power is distributed in the community in order to understand how effective a community clean up can be in building a healthy community. As Jenny explained, “Well if we clean the streets for one day, they’re just going to get dirty again”, which I found to be a very true statement! As a group we are able to realize that although cleaning the streets once isn’t a permanent solution we are working towards impacting the value that the community has on the cleanliness of their streets.

Not only do clean streets create more of an appealing environment, but they also promote the overall health of the community. Dirty streets could contain harmful chemicals, bacteria, and even cause community members to injure themselves if the litter isn’t seen in time. Through all our discussions I have come to realize that the only way for us to be able to create sustainable solutions for the garbage left on the streets is for us to attempt to raise awareness in the community about how this litter is affecting our physical, emotional, and social economic health as a city. Bringing awareness to your family and friends that littering truly isn’t helping your neighborhood is a great place to start. Another possible solution is for there to be more trash cans available for people to use on the streets. People may not feel the need to throw the trash else where if there are more trash cans readily available for them. We could also attempt to motivate families to recycle and/or create compost bins thus hopefully decreasing the amount of waste disposed of improperly onto the streets. A factor that may increase the amount of dirty streets in the neighborhood is the idea that certain streets are being skipped over by street cleaning services due to the intense amounts of garbage covering the streets; there may be benefits for us, as a youth community, to talk to our community leaders and discuss how this problem may be solved. Although there are many things that we, as individuals, can do towards creating sustainable solutions we must work as a team if we really want to see positive results!

Jasmine admitted she was one of those people that leave their trash on the ground sometimes, but she thinks it’s because there are not that many trash cans on the streets and it’s a lot easier to just leave it there. The students were able to talk about what they, as residents of this community, could do to create a more enjoyable living environment and what news they could share to others that would motivate them to do the same. Knowing that this was not an action that would solve our problem, they still wanted to host such event and understood the benefits and limitations to cleaning up the streets with other committed students.

Eli writing our plan of action for the cleanup day!

Next, we created an action plan for our Community Clean-Up. First, we would advertise the event verbally to recruit students to participate. Team leaders would recruit 5 people each and would give an update next week. We would provide food and community service hours to those that participated. Last, we made a list of what materials were needed for this event to be carried out. As we looked at the date for the event and how many weeks are left in our internship, many of us were surprised to realize how fast the semester is flying by!

Written: 4th December 2014

Los Angeles…Presente!! Sur Africa…Presente!! Palestine…Presente!!

My name is Elmo Gomez with AFSC’s “Roots for Peace” Program in Los Angeles. After participating in the Global Youth Peace Indaba (dialogue) in post-apartheid South Africa It is clear how the truth and reality around post-segregation America is not that far. Capetown, South Africa was a Strategic location to hold these conversations with people from around the world.

The reality and the consequences in the lack of investment in the peoples’ long term needs is reflected in places like across my street here in Los Angeles and nationwide. To see the structure change but to see on the ground how conditions are still familiar and how black and brown working class members still resist impoverished, heavily policed and colonial conditions is parallel.

The conversations held at the Indaba clearly detail what the results of investment can recreate in the aspects of healing, rebuilding, and moving forward towards a better future. People shared their experiences and expressed their right to self-determination and what it meant to retain their identity even while being continuously occupied and colonized, became an educational experience for many. As the conversations go on about how to bring peace to a community and resist all forms of oppression, we continue that work here in our soil through gardening and education in AFSC’s Los Angeles’ “Roots for Peace” program.

The Roots for Peace program, is a form popular education in Los Angeles has run a as developing model for the past 6 years to support the communities’ long term needs. We see how Land, Identity and Food play a large role in self-sustainability. Nevertheless when including Social Justice and the communities’ right to self-determination as leading factors, we must shift the paradigm of the praxis daily, knowing that Theory and Practice will bring the cycle of struggle-unity-struggle full circle to address the communities’ long term needs. Praxis is the overall creating of a structure of communication, planning and maintaining different forms of dialogue which evolve to meet the very needs of the community and not the goals. As we do here in Mar Vista Gardens.

Written: 20th November 2014