ROOTED: You Give me Life

Teens with a Purpose members Dereon Gray and Durand Glass performing on the Purpose Park Stage during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields.


October 2022 | Andre Love

——–Tree roots have four main functions: absorb water, conduct water to distribute the nutrients, provide storage, and act as an anchor. Without the root system, a tree would have no chance for survival, thus cutting off one of our most important necessities on this planet. We would not have the ability to breathe, to connect with one another, or to live in the harmonious energy that we create.

——–I had heard of Alternate ROOTS for years, but never had the opportunity to connect directly. I knew that Teens With a Purpose (TWP) folks had attended ROOTS events in the past. Their stories were told over and over, showing off the leaves and fruit produced by this tree. TWP is a non profit, peer led, youth empowerment organization that is creatively cultivating the next generation of leaders, and we were activated when ROOTS week came to our hometown of Norfolk, VA! Source always brings thoughts to life, and this was the manifestation of a new friend, Nathalie Nia Faulk! For the first time, I was witnessing the root system at work.

——-Norfolk, VA is a cultural hub, housing many great performers, friends, and a robust indigenous history. When the bird call was made to the surrounding TWP members in the area, we had little time to transform the Vivian C. Mason Center into a ROOTS transplant. We had a weekend to be together, learn, laugh, eat, cry, laugh, dance, share, grow, and love together. The center is located in the middle of three underserved communities, housing some of the most beautiful jewels in need of love. Teens With a Purpose has been a standing tree since 1996, providing every resource imaginable, especially when it comes to the service of young people’s voices. TWP has provided shade, fresh air and water during times the surrounding city would show neglect: the  value of human life getting lost in endless meetings and selfish intentions. TWP provides an example of unconditional love, a love that could fill every heart and soul attending ROOTS Week in Norfolk.

No-touch Reiki healing session during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields. 

——-The plans were set, and the space was stocked with every kind of pillow and blanket one would need to feel safe. We had snacks on snacks! The staging looked immaculate all around (love to our NFK production team, Faraji, Patrick, Michelle, Andre, and Emeka.) We eagerly awaited the arrival of our extended family on Friday. J&K Grill had the space smelling of a culinary dream, and let’s not forget that lemonade! The COVID station was led by Mama D, the executive director of TWP. One couldn’t ask for a better spirit to greet and make you feel welcome. Music filled the air at the Purpose Place and the more ROOTS members pulled up, the more it felt like a family reunion!

TWP member Darius and Alternate ROOTS Executive Committee member Bob Leonard working in TWP’s community garden, Purpose Park, during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields. 

——-Nathalie and I held down the opening ceremony, set the intentions for the weekend, shared offerings from the other satellite locations around the region in the form of poems, dances, and love! This was only day 1, and the tree was already full of life. This environment was thriving! Water was dripping from the leaves. The moon gazed upon many smiles that evening. The next day seemed to fly by, even though it was filled with so many powerful offerings. Sweet Jam Cafe, a black-owned gem in Norfolk provided breakfast while we gathered in Purpose Park, the community garden dreamt up by the youth, and executed by theTWP family. We gardened to give back right after breakfast. The sun smiled, we smiled with it. The sun energized the group all day. There were offerings covering the healing, understanding, and mobilization of our people. Mental health professionals, touring dancers, juvenile justice activists, theater professionals, the illustrious Heal/Teal Team, and members of TWP all added their energy to the gathering. Teens from the organization cleansed the park with their original music, Mama D led a transformative seated yoga session, and I played guitar for her. David F. Riddick of the Beauty for Ashes Contemporary School of Dance/ Riddick Dance Company gave a stunning dance offering, transporting us back in time to the civil rights movement–breathtaking!

TWP Executive Director Mama D AKA Venus cleansing hands in her seated yoga session, during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields.

——-As the sun set, our bellies called out to Carriage House, a Moroccan-owned restaurant who provided a bountiful dinner. After all of the offerings were held, we let loose! DJ Nakylla set up in the backyard of the center for a party that would be the climax of the weekend. I also gave a performance, followed by the youth giving the most lit version of the “ABC’s” the world has ever seen! We danced the night away.

Creative Program manager and National performing artist Andre Love FKA Testimony Performing on the Backyard stage during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields.

——-As the weekend was coming to a close, the ROOTS family visited the calming waters of Ocean View Beach. We reflected with one another on all of the magic that occurred over the weekend. Photographers Robert Fields and Jonathan Ramirez captured beautiful moments. Pictures are worth a thousand words but you just had to be there for the full experience.  Kilimanjaro cafe met us back at the center to share one last meal together. The weekend ended the way it started, in a circle. Nathalie and I closed out the weekend in ceremony, honoring the indigenous people that occupied the sacred land before our time. We embraced in gratitude and took our experiences back home

——-As ROOTS members, we absorb our counterparts’ offerings, distribute the knowledge of the collective, provide storage of each conversation that acted as a nutrient to our community, and serve as an anchor for any friend that may feel like they are losing grip with the earth. We hold each other up, pour into each other, provide shelter, and love each other back to life. This weekend was the embodiment of nature’s perfect design. When we stop for a second, tap into source energy, remember that we are not in this alone, and connect, we will live forever in our collective truth. That Truth will ring when we become ancestors. Peace, Love, and ROOTS!

The Roots Weekend Norfolk Va Family at Ocean View Beach during ROOTS Week Norfolk, August 2022. Photo by Robert Fields.

Photo Courtesy Andre Love

Richard Andre Love is the Creative Program Manager at Teens with a Purpose (TWP). Love develops peer educators, recruits teens and community support, and conducts dynamic educational and motivational workshops that jumpstart teens’ social and civic engagement along with programs that build self-esteem, and workforce development. Love created the Just AART Project at TWP that focuses on the use of music engineering and production with songwriting and singing to give young people an outlet for self-expression and the opportunity to learn marketable skills. Richard is a poet and musician and teaching artist. Love uses poetry and original music to expand his reach into the community. Love has dedicated his teen and adult life to helping youth through creative youth development using music poetry and peer leadership development. He has assisted in facilitating the international event Brave New Voices as seen on HBO and attended by youth poetry team from all over the US, South Africa, New Zealand, Jamaica and Guam for the past nine years. Love is listed on the Virginia Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster.


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.