Shabaka's Seedlings

One man carries out his vision to bring land and community back to inner-city youth


| August 4, 2005


Shyaam Shabaka is a different kind of public health worker. He's tackling Richmond, California's social, health, and environmental ills by empowering inner-city youth with lessons in ecology and gardening at the EcoVillage Farm Learning Center. Students who have never planted a seed or watched a lamb romp through an orchard can travel just a few miles to experience growing their own food and taking care of farm animals.

Richmond's inner-city youth are growing up in a community rife with gangs on land made toxic by abandoned industries, Katie Renz writes in Terrain. Shabaka's plan is to motivate them to become involved community members armed with an understanding of social and environmental justice. To that end, he created the EcoVillage Farm, where he teaches classes and provides kids the tools they need to improve their environment.

Shabaka has dropped eco-jargon like 'sustainable,' 'permaculture,' and 'watershed' and replaced the words with action. One class of high school biology students is investigating a parasite outbreak in the Sacramento River Delta that affects bluegills, a fish species that subsistence fishermen catch to feed their families. The hands-on experience is just one way he's gotten young people involved in their community and environment as he puts them on a path to creating positive change on a personal, social, and environmental level.
-- Rose Miller

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