Shabaka’s Seedlings

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,
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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