Honoring Each Other Through Our Work

By Rasha Abdulhadi, ROOTS Week Work Co-op Coordinator

As cultural organizers, ROOTS members can recognize that how we work together is part of our culture. This includes the culture of our work together at ROOTS Week.

To live our values, we want to avoid situations where a small number folks are missing out on performances or sessions because they’re doing a larger share of the work. The aim of some changes in our teams this year is to spread out the work and make it juicy enough that people want to join the party in the kitchen, at late night clean-up, and even the afterglow of Sunday pack-out.

At its most basic, being on a ROOTS Week Work Co-op team means contributing the equivalent of 1 hour of work per day to making ROOTS Week happen. That could be a little at a time, or all at once. At its best, being in the Work Co-op means being on a team, getting to know people, and experiencing authentic and fun work that makes our time together possible. Year after year, ROOTers share their powerful experiences of cooking, cleaning, and setting up together.

As we prepare to move to a new location for ROOTS Week in 2015, we have opportunities this year to name the practices we are good at, take some careful risks with new ways of doing things that we might want to expand in the future, and evaluate what isn’t working so that we can make decisions next year about what works for the bodies of this gathering.

As Work Co-op Coordinator, I was brought on this year with a few goals: make the kitchen experience more equitable, support first-time attendees and long-time ROOTers in navigating the space and schedule, and work with members to connect to the local ROOTS group and other artists and community members. We’ve got exciting things planned for each of those areas this ROOTS Week.

  • Kitchen Choreographers will be Paid! To make the kitchen experience more equitable, we’re continuing the innovations of last year by bringing back the Kitchen Choreographers position and expanding those positions to stipended ones. A ROOTS Culinary Captain and Cook will work with Lutheridge staff to source delicious and healthful meals to meet our many dietary needs. Our aim is to have trading shifts for those managing the teams in the kitchen. We’re also increasing the number of folks in the Kitchen team to relieve pressure on folks doing that work. When the kitchen hums along, we know it can be the most delightful place to be during ROOTS Week.
  • ROOTS Week Loves our Locals! Over the last two years, the Work Co-op has included a Local Coordinator tasked with connecting the regional ROOTS community with the local ROOTS community Rhizome in the Asheville area. This has included Learning-Exchanges, community art shows, and informal garden gatherings after ROOTS Week’s closing on Sunday. As we move forward into another community next year, we have a chance to take with us what we have learned from successes and challenges in bridging the space between the ROOTS Week retreat and the local community where we’re meeting.
  • ROOTS 101 has a team! If orienting and welcoming folks to ROOTS is so important, we must dedicate time and space to it. If half of the over 200 attendees of ROOTS week each year are coming for the first time, then their presence deserves space in the program and time from our team and our body of members. ROOTS carries a precious legacy in the South, in the work of cultural organizing and the arts in community.

We’ll be offering up to three sessions of ROOTS 101, open to all members, with the expectation that all first-time attendees will join. Our goal is to make space where folks experiencing ROOTS for the first time can share the power of their work and receive support, inspiration, and community mentorship. The intention and hope is that ROOTS 101 sessions will feel less like the first day of school and more like a fresh, breezy, hearty, history-unearthing time for connection-making and idea-fermenting.

These ROOTS 101 sessions will discuss ROOTS values, vocabulary, processes–including what membership means and what resources are available to ROOTS members. These sessions will also address how first-time attendees can get the most out of the ROOTS Week schedule, and support them to pick sessions that match their interests and needs. Conversations about ROOTS history with long-time and newer members from different disciplines, regions, and different communities can also support new members in finding a way through ROOTS Week, the Work Co-op shifts, and into a place in ROOTS. Current ROOTS members on the ROOTS 101 team will serve as guides for a cohort of 15-20 first-time ROOTers.

In a series of calls for planning this year’s ROOTS Week, even more great ideas came up– including using overhead projectors for illustrated announcements, or using text announcements via mobile phones. We may not try all of them this year, but these ideas are fertile ground for us to try new things together as we move forward.

The roles of the staff team in the Work Co-op at ROOTS Week range from airport pick-ups to arts marketplaces to late night sound and lights boards and bridging all that happens at Lutheridge with the local community in Asheville. Not to mention the logistics of meals, clean-up, registration, video/photo capture and hospitality and wellness support for all participants. It’s a wide range of work, and the group of nearly 50 folks who will be doing it are bringing heart and their professional skills to make the most of the experience for us all.

I’ll be on hand at ROOTS Week, working with team Captains in the Work Co-op, and with the ROOTS Week staff to help keep programming and activities on track. If you are having trouble finding your way through the Work Co-op, come find me. I’m looking forward to a delightful, sweaty, delicious time on the mountain with you all.

Let’s make sure we lift up and give gratitude to each other for making these amazing experiences we share together.


RAheadshot150x150About Rasha Abdulhadi: After growing up somewhere between Damascus, Syria and rural Georgia, I came of age on the south side of Chicago. I have worked as a popular educator and practitioner of sustainable agriculture and community technology for the last 12 years. I care about making technical knowledge and hands-on skills accessible for people of all ages, with a strong emphasis on developing tools for self-sufficiency. These days, I’m living in D.C. and gathering pollen for writing and visual arts work.

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Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.