Our Story

Where We’ve Been

United Roots was born from the convergence of several East Bay organizations that collectively envisioned a youth-led movement to harness arts and media to promote unity and peace in neighborhoods struggling with violence. Its beginnings date to 2000, when leading players from Cov Records of Covenant House Community Center, along with known artists and activists from Art in Action and Silence the Violence of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights developed a vision for a green youth center that could one day house the growing Turf Unity Music Project along with expanded youth and sustainability programming. By 2007, Turf Unity was gaining traction as a youth-led movement uniting leaders from rivaling turfs in the recording studio. The unprecedented sales generated from the compilations produced out of these sessions further inspired the vision for the Center, a place that could house youth businesses incubated on site to create greater autonomy for participating youth and collaborating organizations.

This vision began to manifest in late summer of 2009 when the coalescing team was able to transform an abandoned former homeless youth services shelter into a green arts and media center for youth at the margins. Though still a work in progress, the Center officially launched in January 2009 featuring a full computer lab, three media production labs, a full recording studio, shared offices, a film production classroom & dance studio, a secured reception area and a spacious central area that houses a mobile tech lab. The building was renovated using nontoxic paints, environmentally sustainable carpeting, a bamboo dance floor, planter boxes, an aquaponics garden, and rainwater catchment system. Solar panels were added in 2010.

Where We Are

Today, United Roots Center acts as a co-working space for youth media makers and entrepreneurs, while continuing to be a community hub for some of the East Bay’s most cutting-edge youth and sustainability organizations, as well as local schools, government agencies and businesses.

Since opening, United Roots had enrolled more than 500 youth and young adults in classes, offering training in media arts, web & tech, entrepreneurship, sustainability practice and more. United Roots has collaborated with youth from the streets, artists, and grassroots organizations in Oakland’s toughest neighborhoods to create productive partnerships where none existed. It has launched a number of youth-led business ventures and media production companies. United Roots helps young people get off the streets, into classrooms, and on a hopeful path.

Where We’re Going

For us, the journey has just begun. We believe that true social change will be possible only when young people are provided with supporting conditions that inspire blazing pathways to alternative, sustainable economies. As we grow our projects and further our mission, United Roots aspires to be a meeting place across generations and cultures where youth leadership can pave the way forward for a more peaceful, creative, and equitable world while reconnecting urban communities with nature. Join us as we transform our community center into a professional co-working office space for young innovators and entrepreneurs, in collaboration with schools, businesses, community organizations and government agencies.