Deep Thoughts From ICL at Mills

Whether you want to run for office or work for social change in other ways, the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL) can empower you with the inspiration, knowledge, and experience to maximize your efforts.

The Institute for Civic Leadership is a special two-semester program designed to prepare you for active citizenry. Combining classes in civic leadership and social policy, an internship where you learn to analyze social and political issues, and the opportunity to conduct research, ICL will introduce you to the intellectual foundations of civic life and help you acquire leadership skills that will serve you professionally and in your life as an engaged citizen.

Working in internships at places as diverse as the Family Justice Center, the Center for Environmental Health, Upward Bound, the Center for Art and Public Life, and CodePINK, ICL students find that the experience helps them both focus their career goals and recognize their potential as civic leaders.

40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted. This is a shocking fact when so many people are going hungry. The organization I am working for Food Shift is trying to find a solution to this disturbing statistic.

Part of Food Shift’s mission is to find out why food is being wasted in the first place. Most of what we have found is that some produce never even makes it off the farm. People do not want to buy “ugly” produce and therefore farmers are forced to waste their products. There are so many silly regulations that grocery stores follow based off an assumption that we won’t eat that weird looking fruit. For example, there is a specific percentage of red an apple has to be for a grocery store to buy it. No joke, they measure the redness of every apple. Part of what Food Shift is creating is a recovery program to redistribute this “unwanted” food to people who do want it and need it. Currently we are working with Andronicos in Berkeley by bringing recovered food to their stores and selling good, organic produce for a hugely discounted price. We believe everyone, no matter your income, deserves to eat right.

In other countries people have been fairly successful in eliminating food waste. Through policy, Food Shift is trying to regulate the expiration date posted on food. These stickers are often confusing (eat by, sell by, what does it all mean?) and have no standard regulations, grocery stores literally just make it up. A standard date would help eliminate the amount of good food grocery stores throw away every night.

Another policy alternative to encouraging grocery stores to cut back on waste is changing the way our trash services run. Right now businesses pay one price for one dumpster and are allowed to fill it. A successful alternative to this is to charge people by the pound of their waste not by how much they can cram in a dumpster. It is important to get that wasted food out of the dumpster and into the hands of those who truly need it.

Please check out Food Shift online:



Twitter: @foodshift

I have been doing my ICL internship with City Slicker Farms located in West Oakland. The mission of City Slickers is to provide West Oakland residents with fresh and organic food options. They work towards this vision by transforming empty parking lots, foreclosed house sites, and whatever other land is donated to them into small high-yield farms. With the harvested produce from the farms they set up a small community market on Saturdays and sell the produce at sliding scale prices. They also have a program where residents of West Oakland can request a garden build in their yard. A city slicker team will then come to their household and build a bed frame, plant vegetables, and teach the resident how to maintain the garden.

Up to this point in my internship I have been working at the community market and on the small farm the market is located in front of. We set up all the vegetables from the week’s harvest on the picnic bench on 34th and Peralta. After helping with the stand for a couple of months now I have become quite familiar with many of the regulars who hit up the stand for fresh produce. There are definitely some eccentric characters that keep the morning lively. In this position I talk to customers about what produce has been harvested during the week and answer any questions that might come up. I act as a leader by essentially running the stand when Joseph, the gentleman who runs the farm, has to put his attention elsewhere. I think my role as a leader in this position embodies many transformational leadership qualities. Meeting people where they are at and thoughtful communication are key qualities.

Another component of my internship is to guide volunteers through the farm tasks for the day. This may include teaching them how to turn compost, plant seeds, conduct the chicken duties, or spray the plants for aphids. Last week there were 30 Berkeley students that came to volunteer for the day, I definitely had to channel some ICL leadership qualities! Joseph and I split the group up into to two and took on different parts of the farm with our groups. Overall I really haven’t had any difficulties with my internship; I guess I have a very easy- going deal! If I have any questions or need advice on an issue, I feel very comfortable talking with my supervisor. I guess the best advice is to try to build those relationships from the gecko and make sure to communicate all questions or uncertainties to one’s supervisor. Overall I am having a great time!

Maddi Fowler

Hey, all! I thought you’d be interested in this documentary from Gail Myers, who runs a non-profit organization that operates out Oakland. She’s created an Indiegogo Campaign to fund-raise for post-production costs. Every dollar helps — give a little post-holiday love and spread the word :) 


Over the course of 4 weeks, I traveled by car to 10 Southern states interviewed African American farmers, former sharecroppers, and urban gardeners. This trailer spotlights a few of the more than 30 interviews weaving a compelling story of love for family, land, God, and community. “Rhythms of the Land” brings to life a love story seldom told.

This film is critical because it will reconnect people to their roots, especially our future farmers, our youth. 

In 1901, there were over 1 million black farmers, although many of those were sharecroppers and tenant farmers.  Today there are less than 30,000. Black farmers have struggled without any recognition, they have worked tirelessly without any reward.  Help me support my passion to preserve the stories, of their history, and the life of African American farmers, in film.  

Hear of some of their struggles. Yet in spite of the hard times, they have lived long lives. Hear from 109 year old Mrs. Icefene Thomas and several ninety year old women who were sharecropers or gardeners. The film will inspire people and give many people reason to rejoice! This documentary as told by former sharecroppers, farmers, and urban gardeners reveal a true love story intertwined with a story of loss in the “Rhythms of the Land.”

Click Here for the Indiegogo Campaign Page

[A]ny person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.

The preceding is the definition of a refugee. It was not until I studied in Rwanda that I began to fully understand what it meant to be a refugee and how an individual gains refugee status. I was fortunate to be able to visit refugee settlements and study the process and effects of repatriation. Upon returning to the United States and working for the refugee organization, the International Rescue Committee, I saw that the vast majority of my friends, family and others I met did not have any idea about what a refugee is or how do define the term, let alone knew that over 1.8 million refugees resided in the US and that the bay area is a major resettlement area. I would hear comments that refugees are taking a shortcut to gain US citizenship or that they are using government resources without contributing anything or that their country of origin was “not that bad” and all they wanted was citizenship. Refugee status and resettlement is extremely complicated and I always felt at a loss when trying to explain that these comments were not correct because there was no way I would be able to answer every question or even begin to explain what a refugee experiences. 

This is where the video comes in… I feel that it is a very impactful that describes what I still am not able to. Tara Horn gives people the opportunity to see what a refugees experience may be like. With 42 million refugees in the world, it is important to understand the hardship, turmoil and difficulties that refugees experience while attempting to resettle into another country. In my experience, the refugee experience is often overlooked and not widely talked about after fleeing a conflict and once resettled into a new country, if they are even given that opportunity, it is talked about even less and refugee services greatly diminish. This video helps us understand that fleeing a conflict area is not the end of a refugees experience, it is just beginning.


I found Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk about the danger of a single story very impactful. Creating a single story, like she explained, is detrimental to societies and people and I feel that here in America we are really really good at creating a single story and it is needs to be changed. 

The first time I watched this TED talk I continuously related it to two things in my life that have been effected by a single story. First, my experiences traveling, specifically to Rwanda and second, my move to Oakland to go to Mills. Both are related in terms of the detrimental effects of the single story that Adichie discusses, but I’ll start with Oakland. After spending every summer though middle school at my grandmas, who lives in Montclair, I knew a lot about the bay area and Oakland. I knew that there were nice, affluent and safe parts and I also understood there were areas that were not very safe. I knew some school were good and others were not and I knew the general perspective of Oakland (from outsiders) was negative. However I never realized the severity of people opinions until I decided to come to Mills. People would voice concern about my safety and me driving at night or going to the gas station. They told me they were worried about gangs and drive by shooting or that going to Mills was not worth the risk to my safety. I knew that I was not going to be in imminent danger by just crossing over the city line to Oakland from Emeryville or Berkeley or Alameda. Yes, I have heard gun shots, but knew that my changes of being involved in a drive by are slim. I understood that Oakland did get a lot of negative press on the news and it is associated with danger, but it wasn’t until I started hearing all of the negative comments from people close to me, most of who live within 3 hours of Oakland, did I realize how a single story impacts someones perception. 

The detrimental effect of a single story was shown to me again when I went to Rwanda. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I decided to go to Rwanda. I thought I was going to be living in a grass and mud hut with no running water and only only eating rice and beans for 4 months. I reassured people that that was not what my experience was going to be like, but honestly I did not know. I though I was going to be living in the Africa that I see on TV because, well, those are the only images I ever saw of Africa. My parents friend’s told them they were crazy for letting me go, how they would never let their children run off to Africa for 4 months and that they did not care about me if they were letting me go “there.” Once I arrived in Kigali I realized how silly all of the stereotypes I had were and I felt ridiculous for believing the single story of Africa and Rwanda that is predominantly presented in the US. I did not see this TED talk until after returning to the US, but while in Rwanda I posted a blog post that partially addresses the effects of a single story. It is here:

I think that everyone can identify a single story that has effected their lives. Whether it is about where they live, where they have traveled, who their family is or even which school they go to. It is crucial to create a multi dimensional story instead of a single one.


How can we transform a culture of hate through our language?

How can we shift a culture of verbal violence through verbal alchemy?”  This is the question posted in my first post to the blog A Pedestrian People:  At the Intersect of Spirituality and Service.  The post is titled “Verbal Alchemy: Transformational Responses to Hate Speech.”  I’m proud to have been asked to contribute to this excellent new blog, and hope you’ll all check it out, subscribe to it and/or Like it on Facebook!

—Michaela Daystar

What if all city landscaping was edible, and you could pick veggies to roast for dinner on your way out of the BART station or on your walk home from work? What if you could pick herbs and salad greens on your street corner? What if you knew the farmer from whom you bought your eggs and could observe the production of honey and the raising of meat in your neighborhood? This would discourage unfair labor practices by having the production of food visible in the community, encourage healthy eating, and provide access to free, healthy food for those in need. In the small English town of Todmorden this is a reality, and it all started with a movement called Incredible Edible Todmorden.

Pam Warhurst and several other community members thought up Incredible Edible Todmorden because they wanted to help the environment and make a positive change in their town to foster community, education, and business. They decided that the uniting language with which to achieve their goal was food because, as Ms. Warhurst says, “everybody eats!”

Today, in the town of Todmorden, there is corn growing in front of the police station, and there are planter boxes in front of the train station, fire station, and medical building. The landscaping of the entire town has been replaced with vegetables, fruit, and herbs that anyone can pick for free. In order to encourage local buying, a list of locally produced products has been made available, and has become very popular, raising awareness of local food and increasing the revenue of half the local food traders in Todmorden. School children have shown so much interest in growing that a horticulture program has been created at the High School.

The result of Incredible Edible Todmorden is greater economic prosperity for local merchants, an enhanced sense of community, local job opportunities for youth, a decreased carbon footprint, and fresh food for everyone. The movement has spread to Australia, China, and the United States and has potential to decrease food miles and the carbon footprint, make fresh food available for everyone, and provide transparency and encourage fair labor practices by having food production under the eye of the community.

Food for thought

This is an 11 minute documentary about Todmorden and the Incredible Edible movement.

TED talk:

Incredible Edible Website:



Capturing a “Sadness” that occurred in Aug 2012. Someone I care deeply for was facing a life threatening health situation. Spoken over Hope’s “Rain Don’t Last.” Is a part of my thesis.

we jumped in ice water
feet first because they just
wanted to get


and now we are back stroking
letting the coldness
sink into head


treading the water
in ripple spills

listening to vibrations
that we can

we captured black sand
for this is our hour glass
forwishen has made promise
and premonition has warned
living with the intuition
for no greed, to not want more
thus — we are satisfied
the lion lei in alter
the humming bird man
has kissed her
the brooke, the paws, the zodiacs, the mountains
all is revealed behind amorphous tree eyes
and this, is what it is all about
patience is the meter of time
sentience is the fruit of divine

to meter ones self in infinity
to walk with-in contradiction
the vertebrates as the spine
the door-less portal
the amorphous form
acquisition and transmission
of language, of knowledge
point of understanding
slight shifts on the plane
the satisfaction, to want no more

to parcel the whole
savor its existence
balance, equilibrium, intersection
to be the intercessor
one who can feed itself and feed others
the greatness of this experience
is best tasted when one has taught its self
than to be simply given
to not be disillusioned
to swim and know no air under water - though it may appear to be
to float and trust internal buoyancy
the one who is not comfortable on shifting sand
the one who is not comfortable on open water
one who swims and comes up for water
i am here
blossomed from the forwishen well

Desire Johnson

“Berkeley’s Bread Project is a free culinary program that gets people ready for the workplace…. The program serves vulnerable populations, including low-income immigrants and single moms, former felons and recovering substance abusers, the once homeless and the formerly employed. Bread Project staff recruit students from quarters few other culinary programs would approach: homeless shelters, halfway houses, addiction recovery programs, jails, and social service agencies.” (Henry)

“Our mission is to empower individuals with limited resources on their path to self-sufficiency through skills instruction, on-the-job training in our social enterprises and assistance with establishing a career in the food industry.” (The Bread Project)

The Bread Project is an inspiring model that is bringing hope and purpose to members of vulnerable populations. It is helping to bring people back to the workforce after the recession and also serves to reincorporate those with criminal records into not only the workplace, but a wholesome community where they are respected. This is a wonderful model of how, with training and community support people can rekindle their dreams and remake their lives.

One of the populations that benefit from this program is former prisoners. In 2011, The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) reported that nearly 7 in 10 people who were previously incarcerated will commit a new crime, and half will end up back in prison within three years. Programs like The Bread Project provide an opportunity for those in this vulnerable population to restart their lives by gaining job skills, the respect of a community, and a new identity based on their passions and possibilities rather than their pasts.


Henry, Sarah. Teach a Man to Bake Bread and Feed Him For Life. Berkeleyside. Oct. 3 2012.

The Bread Project. 2010

Laura E. Gorgol and Brian A. Sponsler, “Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons,” Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2011

Education is a right, something to which all people should have equal access. Unfortunately, this is not a simple task. The first challenge is to get the resources to every community so that a quality education is accessible for everyone, but complicating that is the fact that people learn in different ways. In order for educational opportunity to be truly equal, these differences in learning style must be reflected in our school.

The flipped classroom (also called the inverted classroom) is an intriguing new approach to equalizing the educational experience in America. In the flipped classroom, the material that students would traditionally learn in a class lecture is presented through a video that they can watch on the computer at home or in the school library. When the lecture is out of the way, class time is opened up for working on what would normally be given as homework. This allows teachers to engage one on one and in small groups with the students and to bring in activities for the class that expand and enhance the information learned in lecture.

Through the flipped classroom model, teachers gain greater flexibility in how they can engage students and present material. It allows them to bring in activities for different learning styles that may engage those students who do not learn best in a lecture setting. Also, doing “homework” in class gives students who may not have a parent at home to help with homework equal opportunity to success.

After the flipped classroom model was implemented at his high school, Dominique Moody was able to dramatically improve his grades, start tutoring others in his class, and plan for college for the first time. I love Dominique’s story for his increased success in school, but I also think it demonstrates another potential power of this model. Dominique was able to bring the video lectures into his home and started watching them with his mother. He and his mother started learning subjects together. Through the flipped classroom, parents who may not have been able to engage with their children over the traditional homework can now learn alongside their kids and become more involved.

There are some powerful statistics associated with the Flipped School model including results published by Knewton for High School freshmen showing an improvement from a 50% failure rate in English and 44% failure rate in Math before the flip to only 19% and 13% failure rates afterward. (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)  

Of course, this approach is only equalizing if all students have easy access to the videos. Dominique’s teacher, Mr. Townsend allows several days for the students to view the lectures whether that be at home or in the school library. In the future, the distribution of computers for students or some other way of getting them the information at home may be appropriate.


Information on the Flipped Classroom model:

The Flipped School and Dominique Moody’s Story:

The Story from American Public Media. April 16 2012.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange “The Flipped Classroom and the Changing Role of the Educator?” Retrieved 5 Nov 2012.


Last week ABC news reported a heroic story of Oliver, a former Nigerian citizen who gained asylum earlier this year and is now living in the US. Like many people seeking asylum in America, Oliver had a unique and also terrifying story to tell. Coming out quietly as a gay man in 2005 was only the beginning of the persecution Oliver would face before finding sanctuary in the States. In this article, Oliver describes that in Nigeria, coming out to his community almost cost him his life. In Nigeria, the Senate passed a bill that criminalizes homosexuality forcing even families to report their loved ones if they are in a same-sex relationship. Oliver explains that this new law tore the closest families apart by fear, ignorance, and betrayal. The persecution did not stop there; Oliver reported that Nigerians who people assumed were or could be gay were accosted and taken in custody. Under the new criminal code, anyone in Nigeria arrested due to sexuality would spend 14 years in prison. All members of the LGBTQ community and their rights would be in jeopardy under this new law in Nigeria. The article states that Oliver is one of 105 LGBT applicants to win asylum in the US, thanks to the pro bono work of Immigration Equality. This article as well as Oliver’s brave testimony brings to light the horrors LGBT members and their families face abroad, and the lengths they must go to escape false arrests, harassment, assault, and many times death. Oliver lived with his mother who always protected him—moving to the states for protection forced Oliver to separate from him mother who remains a Nigerian citizen. This account casts a different light on immigration and civil rights abroad and in this country. For one, immigration in the US is often stereotyped to include only freeloaders and criminals, who push through “our” borders with violence and greed. Not true- immigrants like Oliver and members of my own family chose to come to America to escape an oppressive government. The immigration system in this country was meant to aid people like them, wanting a better life with freedoms and rights. These people come here sometimes sacrificing everything they have to be free—family members and friends back home, a house, a beloved town, even a prestigious job. Even with the sacrifices they make, asylum applicants may not be able to afford the cost of an immigration lawyer (costing around $10,000) and can be immediately deported. Whether oppressed because of their sexuality, ethnicity, political views, etc. immigrants like Oliver deserve a chance at life here in the states, so that they may advocate for the rights of their community and seek to change the structure of oppressive nations globally.

By: Giani

After the recent death of Savital Halappanavar in a Galway hospital, Ireland is reviewing its stance on abortion and the regulations surrounding its use.  Mrs. Halappanavar was denied an abortion, even when it was clear she was miscarrying the child, and her death soon followed.  The current stance of the Republic is to use abortion only when the life of the mother is at risk, not her health.  This is a thin line and doesn’t give doctors proper guidance when making decisions about unborn children.  Mrs. Halappanavar was told she was miscarrying and asked for an abortion but was denied.  Days later, when she was suffering from complications from the miscarriage, she died.  Her husband is requesting a full inquiry into the matter and believes she would have lived had the hospital performed an abortion. 

At this time, Ireland’s expert panel has said they are favoring legislation and regulation of abortion as their best option.  It isn’t clear when that will mean but by the end of the year, Ireland will have a final decision.  The death of Mrs. Halappanavar shows why this issue needs to be discussed openly and why the government must make sure to include doctors in the debate.  Hers was a painful death because of a natural miscarriage and may have been preventable.  Religion always plays a part in these discussions, especially in a Catholic nation like Ireland, but the life and health of the mother cannot be overlooked.  I hope Ireland moves to a more progressive and open stance on abortion to help prevent deaths like that of Mrs. Halappanavar from happening again.

Meagan Travlos
3 Stories of Local Eco-Entrepreneurship

I watched Majora Carter’s first TED talk Greening the Ghetto about three years ago and was pleased to run across it again while scanning through past posts on this blog. Since that video, which I strongly recommend to anyone who has not seen it, Mrs. Carter presented again at the TED conference held in Chicago in 2010. 3 Stories of Local Eco-Entrepreneurship is her talk from that conference; she tells three inspirational stories about leaders for social change in their communities and introduces her new concept of “Home(town) Security. She also catches the audience up on her progress with the projects from her 2006 talk. Mrs. Carter packs a lot of ideas into this short talk, but she has so much to say and such passion to share!

A quote from her bio: “Majora Carter is a visionary voice in city planning who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. Hence her motto: Green the ghetto!”

Through the three stories she shares in this talk, Mrs. Carter introduces what she calls “Home(town) Security”. Home(town) Security works on the local level to tackle social and environmental problems at the same time, with the same solution. This is a practice that yields great cost savings, and Mrs. Carter argues it is the way out of not only our current recession but also the solution for better communities and a better world in the long term.

She makes an important connection between the local and the global, explaining that the health of one contributes to the wellbeing of the other. I also appreciated her distinction between charitable giving and sustainable solutions. Too often when money is given it does not result in a sustainable, self-supporting program or outcome, but instead, it creates a mouth that must be fed each year, sometimes at an increasing amount to keep it going. She says, “I’m about providing the means to build something that will grow and intensify its original investment and not just require greater investment next year.”

I really appreciate her passion and approach to making change from within the community. The importance of this approach is something that we have talked about in ICL and examined in readings such as Violence is the Language of the Unheared.

I had trouble getting the video to show up, so here is a link… and some others.


Majora Carter’s 2010 TED talk:

Majora Carter’s 2006 TED talk:

Also, this is her radio program called The Promised Land. Here you can find interviews with the people from her talk and others as well.