ROOTS Week 2019: Reflection

Photo by: Melisa Cardona

By Word on the Street / La Voz de Los Jovenes

Big thanks to our current Partners In Action cohort members Word on the Street / La Voz de Los Jovenes for this reflection on their experiences at ROOTS Week 2019!

The Focus of ROOTS Week 2019: Class and Power 

The 2019 ROOTS Week focused on class and power, which affects everyone and has been used generationally to separate and impact so many people throughout history. This contrasts with ROOTS, which is about bringing people together through art and community. ROOTS is like medicine to the craziness of our society. This year the Word on the Street/LVLJ Squad attended The Uprooting Trainings and many of the keynotes throughout ROOTS week. At the end of the week, the Squad performed and presented The Southside Stories project they worked on throughout 2018-19. These are their reflections on their experience:


My name is Daniel Suber and I have worked as a youth coordinator for the youth group Word on the Street/Voz de Los Jovenes since 2016. I have seen the young people at Word on the Street through many experiences and was so excited for them to attend ROOTS this year. The youth of Word on the Street, named “The Squad,” had fun, and they had the opportunity to experience artists of all kinds being themselves in a beautiful space. Needless to say, having about 20 young people at Alternate ROOTS and being responsible for them was an experience within itself. I’ll insert a random “lol” here. Thank you Alternate ROOTS for all you do and for offering your week long assortment of activities, connection, and fruitful conversations. I cannot think of any other place quite like ROOTS Week.

Kenny …is someone who is always looking to learn. “My experience at ROOTS was really interesting, because I was really nervous, and there was a lot of new people I didn’t know. The people were really welcoming, and I really liked it. The conversations they had about community and economics were really strong. I also learned that people have really strong opinions, and how they shared their stories. What they said, it really touched me. The thing that really got my attention was that everyone was older than me but yet so welcoming. ROOTS inspired me by doing more public speaking and I liked how everyone was doing what they wanted to do, but what challenged me was that I had to talk in front of a lot of people, and I really felt scared. But everything else was really good, I liked everything about ROOTS.”

Ammi …is a young man that loves to move, engage in conversation, and get people to laugh. He had this list of key points to give: “#1. My experience was good and I learned a lot of good lessons. #2. One impact ROOTS had on me is everything does not always go your way. #3. muthi gave a presentation about class and power. #4. All I knew about class and power was it divided people by the amount of money they earn. #5. Alternate ROOTS inspired me to learn more big words.”

Ceirra …is someone who has grown so much since I first met them and does photography. “At ROOTS I stood out of my comfort zone and spoke in front of people and everyone was so supportive of everything we did. I like how they were positive, and they actually kept an open mind and didn’t act funny towards us because we were younger. They were very honest and I really liked ROOTS and I’d come back next year fasho!”

Ilah …is someone who thinks deeply about social issues and their effects. She had this to share: “It’s interesting how you can participate in a group of random people and end up sharing parts of yourself you didn’t even know about. My experience at ROOTS made me realize all the stories that exist in everyone. For me, I found it easier to share these deep parts of myself with strangers instead of friends. People are never really strangers instead of friends. People are never really strangers though, we all go through the human experience.

During our presentation, I felt like our words were valued. It made me confident in myself knowing I was supported by the crowd. The murmurs of empowerment, claps, and snaps made me feel like the crowd and I were together. I got to sit and eat with new people while eating, just like friends and family would do at home.

I learned that class and power are deeper than money and the system. I learned how class can be traced back into many different things and subjects. Class and power can even be downgrading another person indirectly and making it difficult for the other person to express themselves. It is deep in history and is embedded in society in a toxic way.

This was an important experience as an artist for many reasons. One reason showed me that grown ups like to pay attention to youth, I can use this as an advantage to express myself and fight for good. My experience at ROOTS made me realize how important my voice and beliefs were.”

Nya …is someone who is expressive and likes to get things done. “When I went to ROOTS I did art and when I painted it sorta helped the emotions I was feeling that day. I just painted whatever I was feeling and when we went up on the ‘stage’, I liked how all the people seemed like they really cared and were very supportive throughout the whole process.”

Thank you for reading what we thought of ROOTS Week this year. Please enjoy this poem I wrote inspired by Alternate ROOTS and all the people it connects, especially during that unique week of love, art, and heartfelt glances into the lives of ROOTers.

A Special Wind

There is a special wind that blows through the air when we come around. 

It pulls cool tears from eyes closed, with grins wide across faces.
A sensation comes over us that begs not to be fully described, only felt. 

With a sigh, we say to ourselves, “There’s that feeling again!” 

Then that wind blows across our eyebrows with a sarcastic smile that makes laughter explode across the land. 

That wind blows through our spirits and brings artistic truths with it. 

That wind blows into the movements we make causing rhythmic motion and dance to use us for their sacred entertainment, to use us for their revolutionary fun. 

That wind blows enlightenment and overarching themes into the smallest-largest thoughts ever shared. 

That wind is a coalescent stream of everlasting, everchanging love and perfect imperfections that we have all collected…and provided…and felt…and heard…and embraced…and appreciated…together. 

That wind is beautiful, sometimes confusing…but because it is so good. 

And it hurts,..because of how it makes us reminisce and realize… It makes us realize that…we always had it, and never will…because it is us…because we borrowed it, because we wish for it. 

May we be in those moments forever and all time, and only when we remember. It pulls hot tears from eyes closed, with grins wide across faces, so easily…once more. With a sigh, we say to ourselves, “There’s that feeling again…” 

It brings us back like Summer, year after year. 


Thank You!!! 

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.