Making a Stand by Planting a Stand
Mira Manickam believes that there are many ways to connect to nature, and that environmentalists should encourage all types of connections. The world is full of these connections: an amateur fisherperson on the pier with a beer at the end of the hard working day, a church group barbecuing under a grove of London Plane trees in the park, or a rancher attuned to the growing habits of prairie grasses,
And, if Mira has anything to do with it, it can also include youth making a stand against violence in their communities by planting trees.
As an educator at the Headlands Institute, Mira has strived to make environmental education more inclusive to people from all walks of life. She believes in empowering her students to connect with nature in their own way. She has brought eco-art, Michael Jackson, and hip-hop onto the trails and into the campfire circle.
As a Toyota TogetherGreen fellow, Mira worked with United Roots in Oakland, California to connect eight youth with urban forestry as a means for healing and building community. United Roots, a Green Media Arts Center, works with youth who struggle daily with challenges ranging from homelessness, addiction, incarceration, and unstable homes. Many have been directly touched by the high homicide rate in Oakland. These youth joined with elder community activist leaders and local foresters to plant an urban grove in memory for victims of violence.
The project drew upon the Roots of Success Curriculum developed by the Environmental Literacy Curriculum Project to engage disenfranchised communities in the green economy. The project also included video documentation of the project by youth at the center. The youth at United Roots reported back on the planting via a video presentation to members of their community touched by violence.
Mira has helped make nature an empowering and enriching experience for Oakland teens and a long lasting culturally relevant point of reference for years to come.