LA Rooted was recently awarded a grant from RESIST, a foundation that funds activist organizing and education work within movements for social change. We would like to express our utmost gratefulness to RESIST for their support of LA Rooted this year, and look forward to using this grant to create an enriching, radical and transformative camp for the second year in a row!
To learn more about RESIST, please visit their website at: http://www.resistinc.org/
We are also grateful for the opportunity to answer RESIST’s grant application questions. We feel the answers to those questions touch on LA Rooted’s overall goals and values, and so would like to share some of those questions and answers below:
Briefly describe the history of your organization. What problem did your organization originally form to address? If applicable, how has your mission and/or work changed over the years? When and by whom was it started?
L.A. Rooted had its first summer youth program in July of 2013. It was started by Rio Contreras and Johanna Iraheta, members of a cyclists of color collective called Raices Roots. In September 2012 Raices Roots set out to reconnect with their Latin American ancestry and local autonomous communities in Mexico and Guatemala. L.A. Rooted is a manifestation of the trip’s goal to share the empowering experience of the trip with other low-income communities of color in Los Angeles. LAR’s intent is to provide alternative knowledge and practices for youth, in order to address the conditions of growing up in unhealthy environments with unsafe choices and fractured communities.
Many low-income youth of color live and work in industrious locations infused with toxins from cars and factories. Youth constantly face the threat of sexually-transmitted infections and diseases, unwanted pregnancies, obesity, diabetes and heart-related problems. Our youth also live in communities fractured by nations, race, sexuality, gangs, class and gentrification. These divisions have inspired us to create decentralized radical education to support our youth leaders and foster unity in our communities.
Briefly describe your organization’s vision of social change. How does your work fit into a larger movement for social justice? How does the ongoing work of your organization respond to and address US domestic policy and/or US foreign policy?
Our experience growing up and living in the same communities in which we now work motivate us to empower local youth to discover and use tools for social change. As children of immigrants and immigrants ourselves, our communities are directly affected by US domestic and foreign policies. Our lives and those of our families have been forcibly altered by political and economic policies that displace indigenous people, exploit human labor, appropriate natural resources, and unjustly criminalize those who resist such policies. Our curriculum is rooted in the historical and political context of marginalized people resisting oppression. By rediscovering the value and wealth that persist in our communities, we build a grassroots framework to challenge local, national and international policies.
How will your work over the coming years deal with the problems that your organization addresses? Please include in your answer: the goals of your organization; your plan to achieve these goals, including a timeline; and how you will evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts.
L.A. Rooted works to decolonize our own communities through liberatory pedagogy education. We seek to introduce and engage youth with daily practices that serve to promote community and individual health. These practices include zero waste, food decolonization, self care and connection with the environment and community elders.
LAR aims to provide radical grassroots summer programming for youth on an open-ended timeline and to expand programming year-round in the near future. Our long-term goal is to implement youth education programs that become self-sustaining and are found across the city. We believe that by having such programming included in school budgets and having a diverse fundraising strategy we can achieve our goals.
LAR will evaluate its program’s effectiveness in various ways. Pre and post program evaluations filled out by students will allow us to gauge student knowledge of ancestral wisdom, community history, food chemistry and self care before and after the program. Our current curriculum also incorporates periods of reflection in order to have students provide feedback to influence the program’s structure. These periods of reflection will be documented in various formats, including video, writing and sound.
What other events and/or projects is your group planning over the next three years?
L.A. Rooted seeks to continue the annual radical youth summer camps, as well as extend programming to include fall, winter and spring camps. The expansion of our programming will continue the model of engaging youth, collaborators and coordinators to work together in activating local spaces and fostering community ownership. We also seek to expand and nurture our network of past and present participants by organizing annual gatherings and days of action for network building, problem solving, social activism and political education.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND COMPOSITION
Briefly describe how your group operates in terms of: who makes decisions and sets priorities for your organization; the responsibilities of the board, staff and members; the number of members you have; your strategies to recruit new members; and the number of paid staff.
L.A. Rooted currently has four main coordinators who operate on a skills-assessment and task-oriented decision-making style. Decisions are made through intentional collaborations based on task priorities and common goals envisioned for our program. Our common goals are created horizontally and based on consensus. This decision-making process allows us to co-develop each other’s leadership.
Johanna Iraheta, Rio Contreras, Brenda Yancor and Miguel Ramos are currently working together to coordinate the overall program, including curriculum planning, fiscal management, program evaluations, and overall logistics. As we are currently volunteering our time, we consider ourselves coordinators rather than staff. The board of Community Services Unlimited (CSU) currently serves to provide us with guidance and tax-exempt status, but is not directly involved in our decision-making process. Moreover, since we see ourselves as directly accountable to the community we serve, we consider volunteers, neighborhood leaders and the parents of our students to serve the function of performance review and accountability that a board usually serves.
L.A. Rooted’s active members, a.k.a. youth leaders, change from year to year. Last year LAR engaged 10 youth leaders, and this year’s goal is to recruit 10-15 more members. The responsibilities of our youth leaders include carrying out daily leadership roles during the time of the program, actively participating in creating an open space for dialogue and ultimately creating a learning presentation for the community through their culminating project.
LAR seeks to recruit new members by performing on-the-ground outreach to urban-area schools and engaging youth leaders’ parents. We also aim to continue engaging past youth leaders through networking events and work days.
L.A. Rooted currently has a budget of $0, which means there are no paid staff members. However, we seek grant and other funds in order to provide income to passionate leaders and teachers who would not otherwise be paid for their invaluable service and knowledge. As such, we hope to acquire funds to create paid positions for the four main coordinators and our several teachers and chefs for the duration of the four-week program.
How have you involved those people who are most affected by your issues in decision-making? Do you feel that your organization needs to increase its diversity? If so, what steps have you taken to achieve this goal?
L.A. Rooted is made up of people who have grown up in the melting pot of Los Angeles, far from the land of our ancestors and our parents. We have grown up straddling two languages, two cultures, and several political and economic realities. Our program seeks to provide spaces for acceptance, empowerment and action for those who have lived their lives straddling, as we have. We involve our youth leaders, their parents and other community members by providing spaces to teach freely and to have open, honest & radical dialogue.
Our coordinators, community board and youth leaders come from diverse backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, language, gender-preference, queer-identification, class, institutional academic exposure and age. As L.A. Rooted moves forward, we will continuously work toward creating a space that is welcoming, safe and empowering for all.
FISCAL MANAGEMENT/FUNDING SOURCES
Does your organization have the internal capacity and systems to sustain itself as a strong, lasting organization? Please discuss how you keep track of your income and expenses (your financial management practices) and your fundraising goals.
LA Rooted currently has a monetary budget of zero. However, our in-kind donations and pro bono services add up to thousands of dollars. The social justice network we belong to is largely driven by the spirit of mutual aid. Individuals and grassroots collectives are the driving force behind many much-needed services and projects, with a budget of little to no money. This mutual aid extends to our own project, with volunteers and radical groups offering their resources to our program at no cost. However, we recognize the constraints of running youth programs on little to zero budget.
It is important we build sustainable youth programs that support educators, youth and material costs. Our long-term goal is to implement youth education programs that outlive any grants and are found across the city. One of our coordinators has years of experience carrying out this same goal in Oakland, California. Several programs, including bike clubs, healthy cooking classes, and hands-on Spanish for beginners were created and implemented through grassroots efforts, and are now integrated into the regular budget of the organization or school. To ensure this happens we will develop a strong multi-faceted fundraising strategy, but more importantly, ensure that our program is a relevant and vital part of our community’s social fabric.
Please list all other foundations you have applied to in the past three years and the results of those applications. Are you currently applying to other foundations for this or another project? If so, please indicate which foundations and whether the request is pending, secured or turned down.
L.A. Rooted is seeking additional funding for our summer camp and for an after-school program. For the summer camp we are in the midst of finalizing the collaboration with the non-profit called Multicultural Communities for Mobility, which is focused on transportation justice. The collaboration would provide LAR with stipends for bike safety education work, a space to run our summer camp, and access to bicycle equipment. Additionally, we have a branch program called L.A. Rooted Rainbow that has recently applied for a $20,000 grant to fund an after-school program specifically targeting Queer/Trans youth of Color. The grant providers are Astrae Foundation that is housing the Resource Generation philanthropic collective. As of now both of these funding sources are not secured but highly promising.
RESIST funds organizations that can demonstrate an understanding of the important connections across the broad spectrum of issues that progressive activists struggle to address. As part of the application process, please provide an honest evaluation and specific information that illustrates the: 1) programs, 2) coalition work, and 3) position of your group in relationship to the rights and concerns of each of the following:
a) people of color
Our program is run for and by people of color. We strive to create autonomous and self-determined communities, as we believe this to be essential to our decolonization. Our curriculum incorporates The People’s Museum, which is a traveling lecture series in which neighborhood leaders and teachers talk about their local resistance efforts to preserve their neighborhoods, and current work to provide alternatives to a demoralizing and oppressive system.
b) working class and poor people
L.A. Rooted offers its program at no cost, and will continue to do so. We focus on incorporating youth leaders from working class and systematically-impoverished communities. We do this with the aim of rediscovering and legitimizing the wealth of knowledge, skill and resources that exist in communities often viewed to be lacking in wealth.
c) women (include your group’s position on reproductive and abortion rights)
L.A. Rooted’s curriculum includes Know Your Rights, Reproductive Cycles & Rights and Anatomy workshops. These workshops are given by women-identified facilitators from a grassroots organization called Cucci, which works to facilitate sex-positive, body-positive and honest dialogue about sex. We believe and work to ensure that women have a right to choose what to do with their bodies, including but not limited to the right to accessible and safe abortions and reproductive information and services.
d) gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people
Our program introduces and establishes each person’s right to freely identify themselves. This includes the use of personal choice in pronouns, including the use of gender-neutral terms. We incorporate and seek out people of color educators who identify as trans/queer to represent a range of topics, including (but not only) gender expression and sexual orientation. We believe that people who identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender are entitled to all rights under man-made and common sense law.
e) people with disabilities
L.A. Rooted accepts people of all abilities in its programming, and are prepared and equipped to meet the various needs of our community members. While our coalition work incorporates a broad range of groups, we have yet to collaborate with a group focused on people who are physically differently-abled. We do, however, work with a high level of volunteers that help us meet the needs of the various learning abilities of our students. We believe that everyone deserves an equitable education and access to knowledge.
f) older people
In a society that often disregards and marginalizes elders, L.A. Rooted seeks out elders’ guidance for our programming and teaching. We link our community elders with ancestral knowledge through oral histories and intergenerational exchange. We value the knowledge carried by those who came before us, and we affirm the role elders have in community building through our collaborations with Chumash and Tongva tribes and other local organizations.
L.A. Rooted focuses on radical pedagogy to engage youth in our program. We seek to not only introduce knowledge of local movements and resources, but to rediscover the power of change within ourselves and our youth leaders. We structure our curriculum on the principle that sharing is reciprocal and on creating a safe space in order to facilitate this sharing. As being youth once ourselves, we seek to engage youth as the next vanguard in our pursuit of healthy communities because we understand the importance of building connections and roots during this time. In a society that offers little nurturing opportunities for urban youth of color, we seek to provide healthy, radical and empowering alternatives for our younger allies.
How does your organization collaborate with other organizations? Please describe groups or coalitions you currently work with or have worked with in the past. Are there other organizations in your community that do similar work? If so, how do your organizations cooperate with each other? What work do you do that crosses issues and constituencies?
We see the health of ourselves, our communities and the earth as intertwined. Therefore, our work is broadly situated amongst many movements and connected with various organizations. The movements we identify with include bicycle use as a form of transportation, decolonization, LGBTIQ rights, anti-gentrification, indigenous permaculture, anti-police brutality, food sovereignty, environmental stewardship, and reproductive justice.
L.A. Rooted collaborates with Everything is Medicine (a project focusing on indigenous ways of taking care of native L.A. flora), Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (families who work in the spirit of mutual aid from free food giveaway to workshops for self-empowerment), California State Parks, Comida no Bombas (a culturally relevant grassroots collective providing free food), Bike Oven and Bici Libre (community bike cooperatives), Team Luna Chix (a women’s cycling group), Los Angeles Wilderness Training (providing urban youth with camping opportunities), Multicultural Communities for Mobility (transportation justice), Cucci (grassroots group teaching sex positive LGBTIQ inclusive education) and over two dozen professional individuals and community members.
Last year LAR collaborated with another youth-focused radical summer camp by supporting each other’s community learning presentations and providing an opportunity for broader youth interaction and exchange. The emergence of other community-run freedom schools means LAR is looking forward to further collaboration and exchange with groups that share our common goal.