Art in Action opens new green youth media center

Authors: Alli Chagi-Starr

Alli Chagi-Starr is a co-founder of Art in Action. Art in Action empowers youth leaders by engaging arts for social change through personal, social, political, and cultural education. It works collectively with youth from diverse historically disenfranchised communities impacted by violence through programs in music, media arts, spoken word/poetry, dance/theater, storytelling, and painting.

After many years in the works, we announce Art in Action's Green Youth Media Center, one of the first green youth centers for low-income youth in the country. While it is still a beautiful work in progress, we are well on our way.

The youth "green team" has been working around the clock for weeks to build out our new space in Oakland -- and make it as green as possible -- with eco-paints, bamboo dance floors and recycled doors. We were thrilled to receive eco-carpeting from Ray Anderson's Interface Global. As part of United We Serve, Michelle Obama's national day of service event, we will be adding a mini-garden in back, lovingly dubbed the CommuniTree.

youth media center - cropped

We have been blessed to work with many leading green builders and architects who have been lending their time and talents. Many thanks to Lev Laltoo of the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Technologies and to San Francisco green architects, Mithun and Eric Corey Freed, who gave us invaluable advice. Also, we offer our thanks to Green For All, who is providing business mentorship through their Capital Access Program.

This past Saturday, of the Black Eyed Peas and reps from the Peapod Foundation, EIF (Entertainment Industry Foundation) and Adobe Foundation flew to Oakland to meet our staff, the youth, and to tour the new center, which they helped to sponsor. The youth team offered an incredible performance with spoken word, live songs, original choreography dance and theater.

As a person who also grew up in a low-income community, offered positive inspirational words of wisdom to the youth. He credited the mega-success of the Black Eyed Peas not to talent, but rather to a commitment to friendship and solidarity among their community. He encouraged all of us and honored our center with his presence, sharing his vision for creating other youth media centers like ours.

Reciprocally, we inspired and his crew by walking our talk in our commitment to the environment in creating one of the first green youth centers in the nation.

Youth Media Center 3

We have been fortunate to also have received support from the City of Oakland, Mitch Kapor Foundation, AEPOC, David Levy, Julia Butterfly Hill, and many other individual supporters. A special shout out to Simmy Makhijani, our Development Director, who pulled off a miracle; Galen Peterson, Project Manager/Music Director who has been a rock for Oakland's youth for years; Alli Chagi-Starr, Co-founder, who put a flag in the ground and helped make the vision real; Ashel Eldridge, Co-founder of our CommuniTree Program; Alicia Raquel, who stepped up to hold down the dance Program; Maryam Roberts & Xiomara Castro, Co-founders, digital stories facilitators and visionaries from day one; Zakiya Harris & Ambessa Cantave of Grind for the Green, who produced the first solar-powered Hip Hop concert in the Bay; Javier Reyes of Colored Ink, holding down the Theater Program; Desi of Weapons of Mass Expression, acclaimed muralist; and the amazing "green team," artists in their own right -- Franceyez, Ozone, Diamond, Sera, Izie, Jhamel, and to the whole Art in Action family!

Expect to see a launch at the new center in the upcoming days at 2781 Telegraph and 28th St. in Oakland. As we continue to make efforts to green the space -- adding low-flow toilets, solar panels and a garden -- we will create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for young people. Your support is crucial. If you would like to coordinate a site visit, please contact: for more information, or how to contribute.


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