The Seeds Community Resilience Seminar Students are Planting    

By Tope Aladetimi, Community Resilience Fellow. April 4, 2018. In the past ten weeks of Winter Quarter, the Advanced Community Resilience Organizing Seminar has been a space where I have cultivated transformative movement building strategies, planted seeds, and built community. We were a class of roughly 15, with undergraduates, graduate students, and a professor. During the last couple weeks of the course, we all shared the seeds we were planting or hoping to plant in the next couple months. We used the metaphor of a seed to represent a new project we are ready to grow. We analyzed what would need to change (in the world, our campus, our minds) in order to see our seeds grow. We created our vision in the time we spent together and supported one another to help cultivate the language needed in order to be specific about the purpose of our individual projects. Soon enough, we started looking at the ways our individual projects may be connected. We came to see that we are all planting seeds to enable us to redefine and come back “home,” building the communities and Earth that we desire to be a part of.

Our Seeds

For Esme, the language of “home” resonated with her when thinking about her seed. She believes every plant she cultivates at this institution will eventually follow her on her journey back to home. She aims to educate herself on the issues that directly affect both her community and others like it. She deeply wants to learn about policies and legislation that make it possible for her community to be subject to the extractive economy and then focus on learning organizing skills to help stop this extraction. For Jasmine, the purpose of her project is to provide community outreach toward resolution of environmental injustices. To cultivate her seed she feels she needs to complete her training in environmental justice issues. Khrystal believed class discussion helped her understand the transformation she seeks to create in the world through her project advocating for the adoption of 100% renewable energy across California and here at UCI. Her strategy is to create a bridge between her campaign and the campus’ existing climate action plan. Omar’s seed was an environmental justice workshop, in which he had the opportunity teach about 75 ninth graders from low-income Chicano/Latino communities across southern California.

For Nicole, she chose to address women’s issues through a new proposed project on women’s empowerment to put into practice her vision of a world in which women are treated equally and taught not only to hold onto their power but to use their power to facilitate positive change in the world and in their own lives. Martha sees the purpose of her seed as securing an environmental urban planning summer internship in which she can practice building community resilience. Irene is working on disrupting the concept of normalcy and exploring truths about race, place, and home that are “uncomfortable” but necessary to learn. Her next seed project is aimed at organizing students of color in her cohort to make their voices heard regarding ways that their academic programs could be more responsive the intellectual and emotional needs of students of color.

Bo, a Community Resilience fellow, is working on his project titled “Climate Refugees.” His focus is on people’s individual stories as to how climate changes have forced groups to emigrate from their homelands. He captures these stories through interview, video, and photography. For this project, he has been working closely with UCI Historian Tina Shull, who also participated in this seminar. Shirleen is another Community Resilience fellow whose project focuses on creating an environment of sustainability consciousness and practices on campus, especially within the resource centers that serve underrepresented students of color such as the DREAM Center, The W-HUB, LGBTQ Center, the Cross-Cultural Center, SOAR Center, and the FRESH Hub. She is creating a toolkit to help increase and integrate sustainability practices at these key centers. For her, this vision will start at the Center for Black Cultures then branch out to other centers on campus with the goal of eventually having all the spaces on campus practicing zero waste and energy efficiency. Her main focus right now is analyzing how much trash the Center for Black Cultures, Research and Resources waste within a week as opposed to reusing, recycling, and composting!

For myself, I want students to have a better understanding of all the ways social justice and environmental issues intersect. The purpose of my seed is to teach and engage students on topics that intersect environmental and social justice issues, such as environmental racism and gentrification. I think what prevents students from caring about environmental issues is that they do not believe they have anything to do with their lives. This misperception is something I hope to dismantle through events and workshops I want to bring to campus. The seminar pushed me to be intentional with the articulation of the purpose and desired outcomes of the future events I bring to campus.

We also leave the seminar with a good sense of the importance of developing a team, and especially an inner circle upon whom to lean and with whom to further develop a critical mind and approach. It is through this kind of exchange that the seminar helped us analyze what needs to change in our communities at the level of hearts and minds, a key point of departure as we embark on our journies to return “home” and build a more sustainable future.