Pages tagged "academy"

Re-thinking Redevelopment: Investing in Communities Through Collaboration

Authors: Danielle DeRuiter-Williams, Green For All Fellow, Class 4 Walking down Market Street in Downtown Inglewood, CA, you can almost hear the potential hustle and bustle that could happen were this area to be reawakened. Unfortunately, the sights and sounds currently are not as vibrant and engaging as one would hope. Market Street is currently lined with vacant buildings and even a few vacant lots, sprinkled with some of the area's surviving small businesses, including barber shops, a suit store and a black-owned vegan restaurant called Stuff I Eat. There is so much potential in this quaint downtown area, but that potential is not being realized. The area is also home to one of the nation's few Fox Theaters left, long abandoned. It is interesting to think about why cities look the way they do. Why do some communities lack access to basic amenities like banks, grocery stores, parks, and community centers, while others are inundated with options? Basically, human development is being neglected in many places – that is, the things that promote well-being of individuals, families and youth are not prioritized by municipalities. I recently completed a project for a class at UCLA where we essentially researched, designed and financed a development plan for Downtown Inglewood, CA, on paper. We chose to focus on the creation of a "green corridor" in Downtown. This project helped to shed some light on the lack of human development investment in certain communities. We wanted to design something that would address the food access problem that Inglewood, as well as many South LA County neighborhoods, are experiencing. Originally we designed a mixed-use development that included apartments featuring their own grow space for organic food, solar panels and other "green amenities," an organic grocery store and an organic restaurant. Unfortunately, the project didn't "pencil out," as in the project could not be profitable. We tried several other iterations of the project, scrapping the residential, adding in office space, playing around with other numbers, but the fact is the land cost and the market in this area simply could not support new development of this kind. Yet the city still needs healthy food access. In the City of Inglewood there is not one organic grocery store, let alone an affordable one. This brought up some very important questions for me as a future urban planner: how do we address community needs while still attracting investment to fill those needs? In thinking about the current purpose of Community Redevelopment Agencies, I realize their aim has been, for the last 30 years, to shore up sales tax in a given municipality. Thus they support primarily retail projects as these yield the greatest returns. At what point, however, do we place some value on human and community development? At what point do we realize that, yes, revenue for cities is important but so are other community-building spaces and amenities, such as healthy food access or production. What became clear in trying to make the project profitable was that traditional methods of development are not always feasible if you want to meet the needs of these communities. Simply courting a developer, providing them with subsidies, attracting investors, and so on do not work for communities long neglected. It became apparent that what we need to transform forgotten areas are concerted efforts on the behalf of a dynamic set of organizations to address community needs. If municipalities, foundations, non-profits, churches and community members can work together to think outside the box when it comes to redeveloping urban spaces, we may be able to make real and necessary change. As a newly minted urban planner (I just earned my Master's degree at the beginning of June) and a Green For All Fellow, I hope to incorporate innovative ways of re-imagining our city-space so that the most vulnerable communities have their needs met now and into the future.

Danielle DeRuiter-Williams — Los Angeles, CA

Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Danielle has lived in LA for about three years, earning dual Master’s Degrees in Urban Planning and Afro-American Studies. She first became interested in economic development for communities of color while completing her senior thesis in undergrad on the urban crisis in Detroit. She saw the damage done and was interested in discovering a way for urban communities to re-imagine their place in “the new economy.” Read more about our Fellow Danielle »

Building a National Movement of Local Leaders: The Green For All Academy

Authors: Rosa González, Education Director Green For All's latest Academy training ushered in our 5th cohort of Fellows and serves as a beautiful example of what we mean when we say, 'movement-building.' Twenty-two local leaders from around the country showed up with passion, humility, powerful stories of struggle and resilience, and the determination to make health and prosperity a reality for all. Coming from fourteen different states our current Fellow Candidates showed us that the dream of all Americans having the opportunity to live in healthy communities and contribute to a thriving economy is alive and well. Members of this cohort are engaged in a wide range of activities from building viable local food economies to helping their cities double recycling rates and create good green jobs for the people who need them most. To support the critical work of local leaders and connect it to the larger movement, Green For All Academies seek to create a transformative platform integrating practical skills and tools such as power building analysis, the use of personal narrative for effective messaging, campaign planning, and a phenomenal environmental literacy curriculum for Fellow Candidates to take back to their communities.

In an effort to build out our national network of Fellows, Green For All Academies are grounded in the power of peer learning and collaboration. Four Fellows from classes 1, 3 and 4 sat on a cutting edge panel representing what the innovation of a growing green economy looks like: Dave Room (of Bay Localize and BALANCE Edutainment in Oakland CA) spoke on the power of coalition building to move critical policy objectives at the local and state levels. Zoe Hollomon (of the Massachusetts Avenue Project in Buffalo NY) shared the model they have developed to support young people to lead the food justice movement as entrepreneurs and policy-advocates. Patrick Brown (of Deluxe Consulting and the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum Project in Oakland CA) shared insights on the critical role that workforce development and eco-literacy play in preparing our constituents to participate in the green economy. And Naomi Davis (of Blacks in Green in Chicago IL) inspired the group with a presentation on how she is applying the theory of Grannynomics and the 8 principles of village-building to participatory community development in Black communities. All Fellow Candidates were also trained and credentialed to teach the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum, a core component of our Academy program! With a keynote address by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a workshop on the principles of effective messaging by Jakada Imani, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and lots of time for interactive dialogue, the 5th Academy training prepared and inspired us all to help build a movement for an America where no one has to choose between economic stability and a healthy environment.

Find out more:

Finding Purpose in the Situation at Hand: Memoirs from the Coalfields of Appalachia

Authors: Eric Mathis | Green For All Fellow In a timely fashion and almost falling in line with my day to day run ins with various purposeful situations of synchronicity, West Virginia University released a reprinting of what I believe to be a telling story of one man's experience with the abject barriers to absolving poverty in the coalfields of Central Appalachia. To make the case for purposeful intervention even more potent, this chronicle was written in the very county where The JOBS Project is attempting to develop our own approach to economic development, that is, Mingo County – "The Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield." Much like my own tendency to explain reality within a framework of purposeful happenings, I also have to consider the role that material reality may have played in the reprinting Huey Perry's classic, They'll Cut Off Your Project: A Mingo County Chronicle. Jeff Biggers, my personal friend, critic and conveyor of the material conditions mentioned above, sent me an email almost a year ago stating that "it was my lucky day…" and was interested in highlighting our project in the forward of Perry's classic. Jeff went on to unpack his reasons: he felt that we were "introducing new concepts of empowerment outside the traditional socio-economic structures." So of course I agreed and with subtle critiques of the contemporary anti-MTR movement interlaced within my string of responses I finally wrote:

Huey's classic exemplifies the conditions which we have come to know as entrenched interests and from his story we are lead to believe, much like John Gaventa's conclusions in "Power and Powerlessness," that genuinely combating poverty in Appalachia is tedious and perhaps even impossible. In the case of what we are trying to accomplish with the JOBS Project, we have to account for several factors which typically do not fall under the traditional approaches to organizing or community empowerment. In this model, power is not a continuum but a dynamic work of art where expression of meaning is based on the way we interpret the piece in question. In Mingo County, and elsewhere in the coalfields of Central Appalachia, this piece in question is simply economics and the dynamic forces which sustain these elusive systems which structure our day to day lives. Our approach is an economic one which calls into question the basic assumptions of the system as a whole by interlocking employees and community stake holders creative capacity with those of the local elite thus interlocking the very survival of the modern day coal town, with the interests of the people.

So today in Mingo County the synchronicity continues to unfold: where almost 50 years ago Perry found himself "smack dab in the middle of… the War on Poverty," I too find myself at ground zero of an Environmentalist War on Coal and the people who are dependent upon this industry for their livelihoods. But perhaps this time we can learn from Perry's victories by placing importance upon the very thing that, from my perspective, most environmentalists seemed to have forgotten – the people – by discounting the importance that coal plays in their economy and perhaps more importantly in the creation of their identity. To quote Perry when he was prompted by Mingo's Economic Opportunity Commission board to explain the organization's purpose, a purpose which rings true today:

They are organized for the purpose of identifying community problems and then seeking a solution. We are obligated to provide assistance to the groups in solving their problems.

I could not agree more!

- Williamson, WV A Green For All Fellow, Eric is a committed entrepreneur who has dedicated the past 10 years of his life to new market-based approaches to sustainable development. Throughout the various projects that he has participated in and/or spearheaded, he has remained true to his commitment of promoting diversity.

Do You Believe The Children Are Our Future?

Authors: Dave Room | Green For All Fellow Candidate Support Quality Public Education for All: Join the May 3rd Save Oakland Schools Action. When: May 3rd, 2011 at 6 p.m. Where: Cesar Chavez Auditorium 2825 International Blvd Oakland, CA 94601 Learn more about the campaign by watching this video:

These times we live in are calling forth a movement of movements to assure basic human rights such as education, jobs, and public health for everyone in this country. Right now, these rights are threatened by budget cuts at the state and federal levels that will unfairly impact low income communities and communities of color. One aspect of my Green For All project is to support the struggle for these basic rights playing out on the ground in Oakland, CA. Below is one such story from a school community in Oakland being threatened by budget cuts. The Story It’s 8 a.m. in the morning. I walk into the courtyard at Learning Without Limits (LWL), an Elementary school in Oakland. LWL’s Principal, Leo Fuchs, is leading the kids through a full body recitation of their vision statement. I am blown away watching several hundred kids recite an amazing self-affirming, hopeful statement about their participation in creating a better future. Afterwards, Leo tells me they do this everyday. I’m there because LWL is slated to lose almost all of its teachers. Oakland Unified School District had announced huge layoffs a month prior. LWL was slated to lose 16 out of its 17 teachers. LWL is a new school, and its one of a group of public schools in the flatlands Oakland that have had tremendous improvement in academic performance over the past six years. Because of them, the Oakland Unified School District has been the most improved urban district in the state for six years running. LWL replaced Jefferson school, one of the lowest performing schools in the district. I’m there as a Green For All fellow and I’m doing story-centered advocacy work for Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) to tell the story of the layoffs. We are using video to tell the story. At the beginning of our conversation, Leo says he is feeling pretty good because the layoffs of the permanent teachers were rescinded the previous night. But he is still concerned about the temporary teachers and support staff. He then introduces me to Morgan, a teacher, who would be assisting us with the shoot that day. Morgan starts us off with Rosia, whose official title is Mentor and Noon Supervisor, but who plays many other roles including secretary and nurse because of previous staff cuts. A few minutes into our conversation, Rosia pulls a paper out of her pocket and says, “I have song but I’m not gong to sing. The song I thought of is the one Whitney Houston sings. It says ‘I believe the children, teach them well and let them lead the way.’ Teach them well. That’s a key word. That’s what our school does. We are a small school and it’s filled with kids that have knowledge and curiosity. We believe that they already bring that; they bring that to our school. We just pull it out of them.” At LWL, like other full service community schools in the district, they are creating the conditions for the natural genius of the kids to emerge. I’m excited now, smiling and nodding, knowing that we are getting exactly what we came for. Rosia continues “We also believe this: when we teach them well, they’ll do well…another thing we do well. We show them ‘the beauty they possess inside.’ The TV shows them the beauty they should have and it doesn’t make them feel good… they show them what is perfect. We show them what is inside. And we ‘give them a sense of pride to make life easier.’ That’s what this songs says.” I agree with Rosia. Teaching them well and the beauty they possess inside is our responsibility. Let Your Voice Be Heard I invite you to join us at or post a comment to support OCO’s Save Oakland Schools Action: When: May 3rd, 2011 at 6 p.m. Where: Cesar Chavez Auditorium 2825 International Blvd Oakland, CA 94601 Stand up for public education and let your voices be heard saying “We won’t go back!” to the decades when Oakland public schools failed low income communities and communities of color.

Dave Room co-founded Bay Localize – a for-impact organization that helps Bay Area residents build equitable and resilient communities, and coordinates the Local Clean Energy Alliance. He leads TakeBack the Mic Bay Area, an initiative that inspires, supports, and provides a platform for communities to tell their own stories.

Fighting poverty and pollution with green jobs

Authors: Karen Monahan | Green For All Fellow

Cross posted from the Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Last week Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis was in the Twin Cities to meet with representatives from a wide range of groups about creating green jobs in the state of Minnesota. Several elected officials, environmental organizations, labor groups, green business and others were present at a roundtable with the Secretary, hosted by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, to discuss the GreenPOWER program, and the pros and cons of green business and the job market here in Minnesota.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and others raised their concerns about growing disparities in unemployment between whites and blacks in the Twin Cities - Minnesota has the second greatest racial disparity when it comes to unemployment in the United States. There has been some progress, but we still have a way to go concerning equity. The Secretary stated that the green business movement must be strong enough to lift all boats, and that it must not leave anybody behind; that we can fight pollution and poverty at the same time.

Read the full post >>

Story Centered Advocacy: At Work in East Oakland

Authors: Dave Room | Green For All Fellow Candidate

It is often said that education is the foundation of a participatory democracy, which is absolutely true especially in this time of great societal complexity. Education is also foundational for a workforce that is capable of building a vibrant green economy. If we do not provide our youth – the Now Generation – with the tools they need to be productive members of society, it would be silly to think that we will create a more sustainable and equitable world.

One aspect of my Green For All fellowship is the piloting of an engagement model called story-centered advocacy. It creates possibilities to quickly generate seed funding for crucial work. In this model, we help the client to raise money through crowd sourcing for film work, social media help, and their other campaign needs.

With the film work, we create a 4-7 minute video that lays out the narrative as well as 30 second to two minute vignettes that tell compelling stories associated with various aspects of the narrative. We are piloting the model at Futures Elementary School in East Oakland.

A joint project of the Futures school community, Bay Localize, and the Collective Liberation Tour, the Save Futures campaign is proud to present "The Story of Futures" film.

A Message from the Futures Community

"Our school has been hit with some hard news. Due to very drastic budget cuts in the district, we are facing the prospect of losing 100% of our classroom teachers to layoffs. The layoffs are inequitably distributed. As the policy currently stands, many of the schools with the most vulnerable populations (low income communities of color in East and West Oakland) are being hit the hardest."

Watch this video and to support our campaign, visit Save Futures Elementary School on IndieGoGo >>


Dave Room co-founded Bay Localize – a for-impact organization that helps Bay Area residents build equitable and resilient communities, and coordinates the Local Clean Energy Alliance. He leads TakeBack the Mic Bay Area, an initiative that inspires, supports, and provides a platform for communities to tell their own stories.

Power Shift 2011: Who is listening?

Authors: Kymone Freeman, Green For All Fellow Candidate On April 15 - 18, in Washington, D.C., over 10,000 young people – and the young at heart, gathered in our nation’s capital in an effort to amplify the voices of reason concerning the downward spiral of government and its intimate relationship with the fossil fuel industry. It was a beautiful event and was a great inspiration for many of us to DO SOMETHING. See more Power Shift photos on Flickr Two of the memorable keynote speakers even spoke to the need of doing more than applauding the success of a well-attended conference as an effective tool for change, and challenged us to go further. So I put on my green hard hat and joined the thousands of marchers on Monday. The organizers made a pit stop at BP’s D.C. office to host an impromptu rally where residents of the Gulf spoke. While there I had the good fortune to meet Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause, and I asked him whether our actions today will truly influence the government. He said, “$1.5 billion has been cut from the EPA budget this year alone.” Cutting the EPA’s budget the year after the greatest oil spill in history answered my question. The very next day, the Washington Post Express (the condensed free version of the Post that is distributed to commuters every weekday morning) featured the headline "Gulf's Health Improving." In complete AP fashion, the end of the article contained the more revealing elements of truth that completely contradicted the heading: "The surface looks as if nothing ever happened while potentially big problems are hidden below the surface. Some may not even be known for years." But there was no mention of Power Shift in the Washington Post Express. After 172 million gallons of oil and an untold amount of “dispersing chemicals” spewed into the Gulf, how is BP doing? While paying out to less than half the number of claims submitted, its stock has largely rebounded and the company is now pursuing new ventures from the Arctic to India while maintaining the largest leases on the Gulf itself. According to Sam D’Angelo, a young activist from New Orleans, we are past the tipping point. Darren Martin, also from the Gulf Coast, had jars of tar balls he was trying to return to BP at the aforementioned rally. The jar came with toxic warnings and skulls and crossbones. It was then left on the doorstep of the main entrance but the security guards promptly returned it to him. Again, the powers that be are not listening. Well, they should be. We’re going to take power back because it belongs to the people. Kymone Freeman is a 2010 Green For All Academy Fellow Candidate and director of the National Black LUV Festival. He was recognized in 2006 as a finalist of Washington, D.C. Mayor's Art Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts, and received a Mayoral Proclamation in 2007.

Power Shift 2011: Building the Clean Energy Economy

Authors: Green For All This weekend (April 15-18) in Washington, D.C., Power Shift 2011 will bring together youth leaders from across the country and from every walk of life to stand in solidarity on the front lines of the fight for a clean energy future. Green For All will be at Power Shift, building the tremendous energy and excitement that is generated whenever you bring together 10,000 young people focused on a common mission! This year Power Shift will offer a Clean Economy Track to empower individuals with the necessary skills and tools to create sustainable community solutions. The Clean Economy Track will focus on 5 main sectors:
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Sustainable Transportation
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Renewable Energy
  • Social Entrepreneurship
Green For All, our College Ambassadors and Fellows will be hosting a number of workshops and panels in this track, including Going Green Living Bling: Redefining the Image of Wealth in the Hip-Hop Culture. This diverse panel will address the growing movement of sustainability within hip-hop culture, while discussing everyone's basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter, community – and what it means to be truly wealthy. If you are at Power Shift this weekend, be sure to look for our panels and workshops. And don't miss a keynote by Green For All's CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins on Saturday, April 16, at 9 p.m. Eastern.

While you're there, also check out our other sessions:

Our food system: How is it broken, and how can you fix it?

This panel will look at our food system beginning at the national level to examine the federal policies that encourage or hinder healthy food systems.

It's not a garden, it's a farm

This workshop is designed primarily to happen in small groups looking at the Do's and Don'ts of entering into an urban farming venture.

Pay it Forward, Get it Back: 10th Annual Green Festival Features Green For All Fellows

Authors: Green For All

The largest sustainability event in the world celebrates 10 years, one million attendees at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center April 9 – 10. This one-of-a-kind weekend experience offers opportunities for community members to meet their favorite authors, actors and community leaders; shop more than 300 eco-friendly exhibitors; participate in educational workshops; enjoy live music and local vegetarian cuisine; and sample organic chocolates, wine and beer.

Green For All is a “Pay it Forward, Get it Back” non-profit ally at this year's event. Our panel, on April 9th at 3:30 p.m., is focused on the local food movement, community agriculture and food security.

Growing a local food movement is about more than planting community gardens. At this engaging panel presentation, hear from Green For All Fellows, Ambessa Cantave (Destined Nation Media), Tania Pulido (Urban Tilth and RYSE Youth Center), Dave Room (Bay Localize), as we explore innovative movement-building strategies within community agriculture - putting the culture back into agriculture, engaging youth as stewards of the earth, and using the art of storytelling to ensure community interests are reflected in innovative local policy initiatives for food security.

Ten stages and pavilions feature more than 125 inspirational and educational speakers, including AmyGoodman, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, John Perkins, Dr. Sharif Abdullah, Zoe Weil, Favianna Rodriguez and Mark Hertsgaard, to name a few.

The Green Festival marketplace showcases more than 300 green and socially-responsible businesses and organizations. Attendees browse organic eco-fashion, green pet supplies, fair trade décor, nontoxic children’s products and much more.

A joint project of Green America and Global Exchange, two leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental and social justice for more than 27 years, Green Festival inspires and promotes the connection between change and sustainable progress for people, communities and businesses. Green Festivals empowers people to live healthier lives—socially, economically and environmentally.

“Whether you go to shop, learn, try new organic foods or experience art and music, Green Festival has it all, with the goal to motivate every person to think, participate and make more planet-friendly, sustainable choices in their every day lives,” says Green America and Green Festival Founder, Denise Hamler.

For more information visit and connect via and Twitter @GreenFestival.


Breaking The Silence: building a real grassroots movement for sustainability

Authors: Richard Mabion, Green For All Fellow This week, on his 65th birthday, Richard Mabion (Green For All Fellow and Founder of Building Sustainable Communities, Kansas City, KA) took the time to reflect with me on what it takes to build a real grassroots movement for sustainability. This March, he held his Fourth Annual Breaking the Silence Conference, greatly informed by the knowledge and wisdom he's picked up during his sixty-five years on this planet. Why would an organization like Building a Sustainable Earth Community, organize a conference called, "Breaking the Silence?" As an African-American leader within the green movement, Mr. Mabion has identified a major gap in communication between environmental groups and low-income communities in Kansas City, resulting in two major problems: 1) Lack of environmental literacy among low-income residents, and 2) An environmental movement that doesn't speak to the needs and interests of the majority of the population. Being a solutions-oriented leader, Richard Mabion founded the Breaking the Silence conference to bring green groups and community people together for dialogue and collaboration. And in each of it's four years of existence, the conference has achieved greater success, defined by two key factors: 1) Increased participation (both in attendance and in community groups playing leadership roles in organizing the conference; and 2) Collaborations resulting from dialogue generated at the conference. Today Richard celebrates being able to move from being the sole organizer, to being more of a spindle upon which shared leadership spins. His approach has consistently been one of passing the torch and today that is more of a reality as he can name new leaders who have risen to the occasion. Equally worth celebrating, Mr. Mabion is seeing critical outcomes of the conference unfold, such as a budding collaboration between the Black Chamber of Commerce, the local PTA, the City, and local green groups to improve health education in low-income communities of Kansas City. So, how do you make a conference like Breaking the Silence successful? A critical component is on-the-ground recruitment. Richard attended neighborhood meetings across the city for months, educating people about energy efficiency and spreading the word about the conference. He auctioned off chunks of time at the conference for other organizations to coordinate, giving them the opportunity to recruit from their own memberships. In Richard's words, "It is truly becoming a 'people's' conference." For Richard Mabion, this work is not a job, it is a passion. He warns against the 'job' mentality. "If you're doing this because it's a job, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons… There are a lot of empty spaces in this world where things need to get done. If you're serious about life, you should start gearing yourself towards one of these spaces and start building your own mecca." And this is what Richard has dedicated his life to doing - identifying those empty spaces and taking the responsibility to do the work that needs to get done. It's this mentality that has earned him numerous awards, from Activist of the Year in the state of Kansas to his most recent 'Social Action Award' from the Midwest Sociological Society's Action Committee; but most importantly, it has earned him the respect of his community. Green For All Fellows, like Richard Mabion teach us that building an inclusive green economy is not just about green jobs, it is about building the leadership and knowledge necessary for our communities to create the world we want to live in through horizontal collaboration and self-determination. Learn more about Breaking the Silence Learn more about Richard Mabion