Sustainability is a core value at United Roots. We recognize that a healthy community means healthy people and environments: our unique eco-arts program combines gardening and environmental justice motivated projects with art and music. Youth are encouraged to explore the connections between social and environmental issues facing our urban communities in our urban garden program that offers hands-on training.

Green Guard

The Green Guard collective at United Roots was started by local artist and environmental educator, Mira Manickam through a grant from the Open Circle Foundation with some additional funding from other foundations and groups, The Green Guard aims to raise awareness about the presence of nature in the urban environment through hip hop arts and media. Green Guard youth artists will be exploring natural spaces in Oakland through hands on workshops, and then working with Manickam and other collective members to create media and art inspired and informed by their experiences in urban nature. This artwork will be shared with the Oakland community through performances that celebrate and examine the diverse ways people can relate to the local environment. The program will take place at United Roots, as well as include off site trainings in Oakland natural spaces.

8 youth artists, between the ages of 14 and 24, were carefully selected for this 10 week program that will consist of weekly workshops and field trips. The workshops will feature a number of bay area artists,activists and elders including Markese Bryant, Ambessa Negus, Ash Eldridge, Belvie Rooks, Dedan Gills, Adimu Madyun, Brandi Mack, Luta Candelaria, Danny Cornejo and Desirae Harp. The internship will culminate with a final performance on Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the Eastside Arts Alliance. The performance will feature the work of all the interns as well as the artists who supported them throughout the project.

For more information about the Green Guard please email Mira Manickam:

Mira Manickam and Galen Silvestri were interviewed on KPIX5/CBS Bay Sunday about the Green Guard. Click the video below to watch the interview:

The first workshop was a community Bike Ride that happened on Saturday, February 22, 2014. The ride followed the route of Sausal creek to the Bay and participants learned how the first Oakland inhabitants interacted with this landscape, and heard from collective member Luta Candelaria, performing songs of the Ohlone people about this relationship. Volunteers from Friends of Sausal Creek, Red Bike and Green, and Spokes National participated and shared with the youth about the work they are doing, and Cycles of Change provided bicycles for the event.

Mira Manickam at Opening Circle of Green Guard at edge of Sausal Creek in Dimond Park, East Oakland

Belvie Rooks and Dedan Gills of Growing a Global Heart presenting to Green Guard

Green Guard nature-based bicycle ride in East Oakland with Red, Bike & Green

Brian Drayton (CEO and Founder of Spokes National) with Green Guard bikers

Bikers at the outflow of Sausal Creek at the Oakland estuary

Mira Manickam, Lead Artist, Creator & Coordinator of Green Guard, offers this “Nature heals us and it’s important to our personal and community health that we reclaim our connections to green spaces in the city. Artists play an important role in raising awareness, bringing issues to the forefront. This program is an opportunity to explore our connections to the natural world in the urban environment of Oakland, and to create artwork that expresses these diverse ways we connect to the earth. As members of the Green Guard, youth will be educators, ambassadors, and public artists for urban nature.”

For more on Mira’s work using arts, media, and sports, to connect to the outdoors, visit

Galen Silvestri, Co-founder and Executive Director of United Roots, adds perspective: “Green Guard Collective furthers the mission and vision of United Roots. In the summer of 2013, we collaborated with The Center for Media Change to launch Hack the Hood. The Green Guard Collective, is a natural extension of the work we have been doing. As a youth-led ‘green’ initiative that supports urban youth in using media & art for education, we hope to inspire the community to get involved in the implementation of stewardship and sustainability practices to nurture and heal the urban environment.”

Belvie Rooks, Co-Founder of Growing a Global Heart, says “I’m very, very excited about Green Guard and I love United Roots’ expanding programmatic emphasis on environmental steward and the arts, which is one of the reasons that I got involved in their Trees 4 Life project. The intersecting themes between the environmental and the arts, is close to my heart.”

Urban Gardening

United Roots Urban Gardening Program

Class Times: Event-Based Training’s
Term: Quarterly Garden Work Days

Urban Gardening Projects

The DIG collective helped do the initial garden bed installation as part of the Green-Your-Block Day in 2010. The garden beds are in containers that are above cement that showcase how to grow vegetables in urban areas. We have planted herbs and produce in these garden beds.

Aquaponics System

Kijiji Grows did a youth workshop at the Center to teach young people how to build aquaponics systems. Aquaponics is a way of growing produce without using soil, and since a lot of soil in urban areas is toxic, then this system is ideal for people that need an alternative growing method. The aquaponics system houses fish in a small tank and uses their excrement as fertilizer to grow plants above the tank. This project is part of the United Roots green jobs training program, and youth that learned how to build an aquaponics system can offer this service to fellow residents in the Bay Area community. To find out more information about how this system works contact West Oakland based company Kijiji Grows.

Rainwater Catchment System

The DIG collective set up a rainwater catchment system to collect water drainage for the roof gutter system. The water collected can be used to water the garden plants, thus preserving valuable drinking water for humans.

Garden Workdays

City Slicker Farms, an organization in West Oakland, is now coordinating monthly garden work days to teach youth and staff how to grow, care for and harvest plants in the United Roots’ parking lot garden. At our last harvest People’s Grocery came to the center and did a food justice workshop with the youth.

For more information about City Slicker go to:
For more information about People’s Grocery go to:

Video about the Garden Workday at United Roots: