Youth members of United Roots have been highly impacted by street, domestic, sexual, emotional and/or economic violence. Since our opening in 2009, we have engaged over 5,000 low-income youth of color, and have an average youth membership of 200 youth a year, engaging up to 1,000 youth a year in events and community projects.
United Roots houses many programs and community projects, and these programs create an ecosystem of opportunities for our young people. Each program at United Roots plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, enabling us to provide low-income youth of color with:
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, artists and activists from Art in Action and members of 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 Project. 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 United Roots, a place that could house youth businesses incubated on site to create greater autonomy for participating youth and collaborating organizations. This vision began in late summer of 2009 when the coalescing team was able to transform an abandoned former homeless youth services agency into a “green” arts, media & tech center for low-income youth in Oakland.
United Roots launched in December 2009 featuring soundproofed media and recording studios, offices, a performance studio, a secure reception area and a central co-working space that houses a computer lab. The building was renovated using nontoxic paints, environmentally sustainable carpeting, a bamboo dance floor, planter boxes, an aquaponics garden, rainwater catchment system and solar panels.
Since its founding in 2009, United Roots has built the first “green” youth center in Oakland, California, and the first “youth” Impact Hub in the world; partnered with over 50 youth organizations, government agencies, schools and local businesses; provided over 1000 young people with educational, professional, and personal services; released hundreds of media projects, including full-length music albums, videos, posters, billboards, websites and films; provided the physical space, equipment, and mentorship necessary to catalyze high-level business opportunities for youth. Today, United Roots acts as a hub for some of the East Bay’s most cutting-edge youth and organizations.
For us, the journey has just begun. We believe that true social change is 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; providing space for youth-led social enterprises as part of Youth Impact Hub Oakland and housing the youth-led production company UR Media and Gameheads tech project. Our work is rooted in healing and community building, and we are paving the way forward for a more peaceful, creative, and equitable world.