The Story Of Roots To Resistance

Recently someone who is helping me find new directions for RootsTo Resistance and they asked me to write up a brief History of the project. Here it is.

Natalia Estemirova                                

The Story Of Roots2Resistance

I suppose the seeds of the Roots To Resistance project were planted in the Summer of 2009. That was the Summer that I learned about Natalia Estemirova. That was the Summer that Natalia was abducted from her home in Chechnya. She was abducted from her home and murdered because she raised her voice to speak truths and because she refused to be silent. I had never heard of Natalia Estemirova before, I didn’t know that she was a Human Rights Journalist who had tirelessly served as a voice for the silenced, war torn and poor Communities of Chechnya. Yet I was profoundly moved by her story, her life, her work and the sadness of her violent passing. Sometimes a person’s story enters into you and connects with your heart. That is most definitely what happened to me when I heard the story of Natalia Estemirova and that is what convinced me to try to paint Natalia back to life.

I should interject here to say that I am a Painter who has been making Art for 25 years. I was trained as a Painter and a Printmaker in my early 20 s but after I left college painting became my main focus. I stumbled into Art School by accident, not really understanding how I ended up there and not really having the natural born talents that some of my classmates seemed to be able to pluck out on demand. I wasn’t really interested in painting the nude models or the contrived still lives. Then I made a miraculous discovery. I could paint from the inside. I could paint stories, unseen, imagined things and most importantly I could paint feelings. From that moment on I never stopped.

This is the place I was in when I learned of Natalia. I had spent 25 years exploring, learning and growing by making Art and so many new directions and discoveries were also making their way into my work at this time. Social Justice issues and a deep connection to the woods, hiking and the entire natural World had become central to all of the Art that I was creating. Still my specialty was finding unique ways of illustrating the vibrating, explosive nature of feelings, particularly my own. I set about painting Natalia Estemirova’s Portrait in that same way. I did not want to paint a purely reverent and accurate rendition of Natalia, I wanted to paint the Joy, anger, sadness, frustration, love and devastation that must have accompanied her during all of the days of her work. I wanted to paint her wrapped up with the Natural World as a gift which would keep her alive. I wanted People to know who she was and I wanted them to have chance to be moved by her life and her work.

When the Portrait was completed I decided to create a postcard which would bring attention to the life of Natalia and would be Pre-addressed to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, demanding justice and an end to targeting of Human Rights Journalists. The postcards would be mailed across the World and People would be able to learn of Natalia and immediately raise their voices in support by mailing the postcard to its destination. I contacted an Organization in Russia called Youth Human Rights which had done work on Natalia’s case and other abducted Journalists. They translated the postcard text for me and received 1000 postcards which they would put into the hands of Chechen and Russian Community Members. The seeds were planted.

Painting Natalia led me to wonder about the other Women that were alive and doing profoundly risky, Earthshaking work on the Planet. I began to search for them with friends, colleagues and through International and Community Organizations. There were hundreds of Women to learn about and consider. In the end I chose 12 Women and I chose them on the basis of the diversity of where they did their work and on the kinds of work they were doing. I wanted to represent all of the issues: Environmental Rights, Food, Land and Seed Justice, Reproductive Justice, Labor Rights, Sexual Violence in the DR Congo, Indigenous Rights. I wanted to make sure I had Women from all continents and from across the Globe. Natalia was the first Portrait I painted and now there would be 11 others.

This project officially started in 2010 and I left my three cooking jobs to put my full attention to this enormous adventure. This was a terrifying step and I was very grateful to get support from my mentor and friend Tuti Scott, who helped me to formulate a plan for beginning to fund this work. In April of 2010 I was given a $5000 grant from the Giant Steps Foundation to help me on my way. I simplified my life and put all of my funds and attention on this new project which would be called Roots To Resistance.

In these past three years I have painted Afghan Activist Malalai Joya who came and spoke in front of her Roots Portrait at Smith College in 2012. With her help we created a postcard campaign demanding an end to the occupation of her Country and pre-addressed all postcards to President Obama at the White House. Next the Portrait of the amazing Chouchou Namegabe, a Journalist going to the most dangerous places in DR Congo to record the voices, stories and testimonies of Women and Girls. The postcard Campaign created for Chouchou and the DR Congo are meant to open People’s eyes, with stories and information and to raise money for Chouchou and her grass roots Organization AFEM.  Also painted were Reproductive Rights Activist Rebecca Gomperts of the Netherlands, The Zapatista Women of Chiapas Mexico, Treeplanter Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.

All have been depicted in eight foot high Portraits, in ways that are meant to translate their stories, their profoundly important work and the vast array of emotions that have accompanied them on their journeys. The Portraits are meant to be portals through these Women and into their Communities, Resistance Movements and to all of their colleagues and fellow Activists doing work along side of them. Postcard Campaigns have been created for each one of these Portraits.The postcards are sent through a network of over 75 Roots To Resistance Partner Organizations from around the World, everyone from the Greenbelt Movement and AWID to the tiny Fiji Women’s Rights Group have participated to spread this work. These Organizations receive all materials free and help us to bring them into the hands of Community members across the Globe. The campaigns we create are meant to inform the World Community about these Women and are meant to address the issues that the Women and their Communities are fighting for and against. The postcards are meant to inform, inspire and even enrage. The goal is not so much about changing policies or systems, the goal and my hope is that they give People a voice and a small step toward action as the postcard is mailed to it’s destination. They arrive at real destinations, they are not shared in a virtual web space but sent physically into the hands of another and this small step can be a very powerful act.

In these last three years the project has grown so much. Roots To Resistance has begun creating street posters for all 12 Activists so that we can create avenues of resistance, inspiration and information in Public spaces. We send them out free with our postcards and People put them up on the streets and in their Communities. The call for postcards and street posters has grown far larger and faster than the Funds we raise to create these campaigns. Roots To Resistance has been honored to receive past funds from so many generous contributors, we have received funds from the Valley Vagina Monologue performances, an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign, house parties and many personal donations. We are profoundly grateful and still there is a recognition that our outreach and fundraising must now expand and grow as well. It is a time of new partnerships and new and exciting directions. Our Fiscal Partner, local Art Organization A.P.E has provided a space for performances and outreach and countless others have helped to promote this work. With four Portraits and campaigns left to create, the time has come to shift some attention toward bringing this work more fully to international Communities and to my own Community here in Western Massachusetts. This will mean more public performances, parades and displays in all facets of the Community. It is a way of gearing up for the adventure which will arrive when the Portraits are complete. A six month cross country Public Art Tour with all 12 Portraits and many thousands of postcards and street posters displayed on board the converted Roots To Resistance Bus!

For now my near future will be filled with the amazing faces, stories and histories of Syrian Journalist Razan Ghazzawi, Maria Gunnoe, Marina Silva, and the unforgettable Vandana Shiva!

nat kb 


Some Of The Most Important Organizations From Around The Planet! Our Roots To Resistance Partners!

In these final days of 2012, which have been beautiful, difficult and indeed heartbreaking for many across our wonderful and complex little Planet, I would like to present to you a group of Organizations doing the work of the People, Plants and Creatures. These are our Partner Organizations. Our Partners help us to bring the Histories, stories, challenges and triumphs of our Roots To Resistance Activists by bringing our Postcard and Street Postering Campaigns to People across many Communities. They are truly doing amazing work and I assure you that if you give the list a few minutes of your time you will be grateful, uplifted and hopeful. Please consider giving your support to one or several below that you may feel especially moved by. Much Gratitude.

Click on the Org to visit the website:

The Greenbelt Movement-Africa, Uk and US

Sacred Land Film Project-Berkeley, California

Greenaid Seedbombs-L.A, US

Urban Reforestation-Melbourne, Australia

Kai Food For New Zealand-New Zealand

Pon Leary Foundation-Siem Reap, Cambodia

Greenbelt Movement-Nairobi, Kenya

AWID-South Africa 

Imagine Philanthropy-U.S.

African Gender Institute

Youth Human Rights Movement-VoronezhRussia

Jeanette Rankin Peace Center-Montana, U.S.

Defense Committee For Malalai Joya-Canada/Afghanistan

Stop The War Coalition-London, U.K.

N.O.W-Seattle/Washington D.C, U.S.

The Freedom Shop-New Zealand


Artists for Recognition and Acceptance, Kenya

Intrahealth International-N. Carolina, U.S.

Albuquerque Center For Peace and Justice-U.S.

South End Press-NYC, U.S.

Prisoners Literature Project-Across the U.S.

SOS Femmes En Danger-D.R.Congo, Africa

Valley Vday/Vagina Monologues-International

Northampton Community Clinic, U.S.

YEAGHANA-Ghana, Africa

Mujeres Libres-California, U.S.

People’s Free School-California, U.S.


Global Sisterhood Network-Victoria, Australia

A.P.E Unlimited-Northampton, U.S.

Trouble Puppet Theatre-Texas, U.S.

STPEC-University Of Massachusetts-U.S.

Judy Kibinge, Filmaker-Kenya, Africa

Portland Books To Prisoners-Oregon, U.S

Media Island-Washington, U.S.

Opal Free School-Oregon, U.S.

Kubatana Trust-Zimbabwe, Africa

Monkeywrench Books-Texas, U.S.

Art Department, Georgia College, U.S.

Northampton Committee To Stop The Wars-Northampton, U.S.

Grrrl Zines A Go Go-California, U.S.

AFEM-D.R. Congo, Africa

The Enviro Show-Florence, U.S.

World Pulse-International 

Intercontinental Cry-Winnipeg, Canada

Rabble.Ca-Ontario, Canada

ACTWomen-Belgrade, Serbia

The Labratory Of Insurrectionary Imagination-London, U.K.

Briarpatch-Regina, S.K, Canada

GreenRightNowTexas, U.S.

Organic Consumers Association-Minnesota, U.S.-

Native Observer

Resources For Organizing And Social Change-Maine, U.S

Optical RealitiesPennsylvania, U.S.

Atlantic Regional Solidarity NetworkNew Brunswick, Ca.

Buntport Theatre-Denver, Colorado

Rosinah Masilo-Rakgoasi-Social/Environmental Support Services-Gaborone, Botswana-

Centro de Información y Documentación Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género-Mexico City, Mexico

Centro de Derechos de la Mujer de Chiapas-Chiapas, Mexico

London Mexico Solidarity Group-London, UK

Marie Stopes ClinicChiapas, Mexico

ALRANZ-Wellington, New Zealand

Family Planning Association-Bombay, India

Radical Women-Seattle, Washington

Housmans Bookshop-London, U.K.

Feminist Alliance Of Louisville-Louisville, Kentucky

Green Left Weekly-Sydney, Australia

Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre-East London, South Africa

Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema

News From Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop-London, U.K.

Alliances for Africa-Lagos, Nigeria

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum-N.Y.C, U.S.

Fiji Women’s Rights Movement-Suva, Fiji

Jane Addams BookshopChicago, U.S.

Peoples Health Movement-Abomey Calavi, Bénin

PeaceWomen Across the Globe-Bern, Switzerland

My Hero Foundation-Laguna Beach California

Soliton-Los Angeles, California

Free Dimensional-N.Y.C, U.S.

Groundswell Journal Of Art and Activism-Massachusetts, U.S.

Greatmore StudiosCape Town, South Africa

KioskoSanta Cruz, Bolivia

Amiguitas LatinasChicago, U.S

Triangle Arts-NYC, U.S.

Xerces Foundation-Portland, Oregon

To support the Roots To Resistance project please visit:

Raise Your Voice With Wangari Maathai and Meet Seven Earthshaking U.S. Organizations!

Below is the first of five Roots To Resistance Blog postings which will present to you the information from our Global Postcard Campaign honoring the amazing Wangari Maathai. We are honoring her work and legacy by choosing Organizations on each continent doing profoundly important work to protect life on the Planet. Here we present the seven amazing Orgs chosen from the U.S. Enjoy and please pass the inspiration forward!

Wangari Maathai 1940-2011 Kenya:Tree Planter, Women’s Rights Champion and Justice Activist                                                                                                                     “You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself.”

 Dr.Wangari Muta Maathai is one of the most important people to have walked among us, inspired us, and encouraged the belief that a single person, that one small group of people, can have a profound and earthshaking effect on this Planet. Her accomplishments are many; The first Woman in East Africa to earn a PHD, founder of the Greenbelt Movement, Member of Parliament, the first African Woman and the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the qualities that stood out most in Wangari Maathai were her fierce and unrelenting beliefs in herself, her goals, her principles, and in the actions she took in defense of Women, her Community and the Natural World. Wangari accomplished all of this during a time when it was inconceivable for Women to be out in front making demands and leading Communities to rise up. Let us give profound thanks and gratitude to a truly irreplaceable Woman, Activist, and Partner to all Trees and Creatures.

Please take the time to visit Wangari’s Greenbelt Movement:

One of the best ways to meet Wangari Maathai and to understand who she was is by watching the Documentary Film called “Taking Root” directed by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater. It is a profoundly moving portrayal of Wangari Maathai’s life path and it will inspire you to do amazing things!


To honor the work and memory of Wangari Maathai we have chosen twenty Organizations doing Earthshaking work in every continent on this Planet. We begin below with a brief overview of seven Organizations doing amazing work to protect environments and the creatures and people living in them. Please take a look at their websites, learn about them, join them, let them inspire you and you in turn can inspire many!

Sacred Land Film Project: California:

Sacred Land Film Project is one of the most stunning Organizations I have been introduced to in my search for those who are doing unique and powerful resistance work in defense of our Planet and its People. Their films, shorts and photographs are breathtakingly beautiful, as is the website they are housed in. You can watch their films by visiting the site and it’s guaranteed you will be deeply moved and inspired if you visit and view their work.

Mission                                                                                                                         Sacred Land Film Project produces a variety of media and educational materials — films, videos, DVDs, articles, photographs, school curricula materials and Web site content — to deepen public understanding of sacred places, indigenous cultures and environmental justice. Our mission is to use journalism, organizing and activism to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices. 

“Traditional lands represent the greatest remaining sanctuaries of life on earth — the most unspoiled forests, mountains and grasslands — and constitute one-fifth of the earth’s land surface. With a deep understanding of the land’s importance to their physical, cultural and spiritual health, some 5,000 indigenous cultures work to protect their homelands against resource hungry corporations trying to commercialize and destroy these biological arks. Our fate will depend on how we understand and treat what is left of the planet’s abundance — its lands, waters, species diversity and people.” Paul Hawkin

The Xerces Foundation: Oregon:

Xerces Society, an amazing Organization located in Portland Oregon, is doing vital work across the country and Planet by bringing attention, educational outreach, support and protection to some of our most important creatures. These are the creatures who pollinate our plants and fruit trees, create our rich soils and recycle the waste created by all living things on this Earth. These Pollinators and waste recyclers are our magnificent Planet mates; the Invertebrates, and life on Earth is not sustainable without them. The Xerces Society is doing amazing work by bringing some long overdue attention, education, excitement and inspiration to us all about a group of animals that literally keeps the ground under our feet.Mission                                                                                                                          The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.Of the more than one million species of animals in the world, 94 percent are invertebrates. Bees, Butterflies, Dragonflies, Beetles, Moths, Sea sponge, Worms, Starfish, Mussels, and Crabs are but a few of the millions of invertebrates at the heart of a healthy environment. Invertebrates build the stunning coral reefs of our oceans; they are essential to the reproduction of most flowering plants, including many fruits, vegetables, and nuts; and they are food for birds, fish, and other animals.  Indeed, without them whole ecosystems would collapse. The Xerces Society is fighting for Creatures, Humans and our Planet to address the importance of protecting the invertebrates and their habitats through advocacy, policy, education, applied research and publications.                                                       PS: The Xerces Society is especially focused on the challenges being posed to pollinators so please Check out their special seed store which sells seed mixes that specifically grow plants which will support Pollinators in your area.Indigenous Environmental Network: Minnesota:

Indigenous Environmental Network is one of the most important Justice Organizations in the U.S. They are an alliance of grassroots Indigenous Organizations fighting to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth. They are working in all areas of Global concern with a focus on North America and Canada. They are Demanding Food and Seed Justice and Resistance to; GMO products, toxic contamination of the Planet, and excessive unsustainable development. They do all of this as they continue to demand decolonization while addressing symptoms of internalized oppression and racism.

Mission                                                                                                              Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN’s activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.IEN accomplishes this by maintaining an informational clearinghouse, organizing campaigns, direct actions and public awareness, building the capacity of community and tribes to address EJ issues, development of initiatives to impact policy, and building alliances among Indigenous communities, tribes, inter-tribal and Indigenous organizations, people-of-color/ethnic organizations, faith-based and women groups, youth, labor, environmental organizations and others.

 “The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have lived for over 500 years in confrontation with an immigrant society that holds an opposing world view. As a result we are now facing an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of all natural life.”

Greenaid Seedbombs: California:

Greenaid is doing amazing and innovative work in L.A. to support their Community and to further the Urban/Guerrilla Gardening movement. What could be cooler than creating Seedbombs and making them available on the streets in repurposed self serve gumball machines? Guess what? You can order your own package of seedbombs from anywhere in the country or watch their tutorials that show how to make your own!

 Mission                                                                                                                 Greenaid is an emerging design practice and small business engaging in interdisciplinary approaches to objects, systems, tools, and spaces with an emphasis on issues of urban ecology, social enterprise, and adaptive reuse. Greenaid started as a design idea in 2010 and has since  blossomed into a full scale social enterprise with a growing line of seedbomb products and services.

Greenaid seedbombs are hand-rolled in Culver City, CA using local materials, sustainable packaging, and socially responsible labor.  Working in partnership with Chrysalis, a local non-profit, Greenaid offers employment opportunities and a living wage to formerly homeless or economically disadvantaged men and women from the Los Angeles area.  Every seedbomb you purchase is an investment in our shared future on a greener, more equitable planet.

Green Guerillas: NYC:

The Green Guerillas have been helping Communities reclaim urban spaces in NYC since the early 70’s and have done truly groundbreaking work by helping to unite and strengthen People within those Communities through the introduction of Urban Ecology. Their Organization and website offer some amazing resources such as listings that help people find vacant lots for new gardens, listings of Urban Farms and Farmers Markets and locations where Community Composting happens. Visit their site and be amazed!
Since 1973 we have been cultivating partnerships between people who care about the earth and believe in the power of community gardening to transform neighborhoods.
Green Guerillas provide targeted services to 300 community garden groups to help them sustain their community gardens, strengthen their collective action, and provide important services to thousands of people in New York City.
Today, more than 600 community gardens serve as testaments to the skill, creativity, and determination of New York City’s community gardeners. They grow food for their families and neighbors, create partnerships with emergency food shelters and provide small grants to Communities who want to create Urban Garden spaces . They connect city kids to the earth and have created a program that sees Crown Heights students running a one acre farm and using the harvests for a Community Farmers Market. They give seniors cool green spaces to pass summer days and they allow people to kneel down together and garden in the city.

Beacon Community Food Forest: Washington:

Beacon Community Food Forest is in the process of creating an edible Community Forest Garden just 2.5 miles from downtown Seattle, Washington in one of the most diverse zipcodes in the U.S! The Beacon Food Forest has the potential to be one of the largest Forest Gardens created on Public Lands and will provide food security, and a deep understanding of how to plan, plant, grow and harvest foods as a Community. They are planting Fruit Trees, a nut grove, berry patch, herbal medicinal plot, vast array of vegetable gardens and more, all of which will be planned, planted and harvested by the very people that the Food Forest will be sustaining.
A Food Forest is a gardening technique or land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees are the upper level, while below are berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals.  Companions or beneficial plants are included to attract insects for natural pest management while some plants are soil amenders providing nitrogen and mulch.Together they create relationships to form a forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with less maintenance.

 “Our goal is to design, plant and grow an edible urban forest garden that inspires our community to gather together, grow our own food and rehabilitate our local ecosystem.”

350.Org: US/Global: is perhaps the most important and powerful Organization addressing climate change in our time. Everyone reading this should be visiting their site. It is in the interest of us all.

Mission is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries. We operate at a large scale to take on the world’s greatest challenge. In October of 2009 we coordinated 5200 simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called the ‘most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.’ On 10/10/10, we organized the “Global Work Party” — a day of climate solutions projects, from solar panel installations to community garden plantings–and changed communities from the bottom up with over 7000 events in 188 countries. 

With over 4000 languages spoken around the world, words don’t always get the point across.To transcend the language barrier we made this wordless animation that explains in 90 seconds:

Join The Roots To Resistance Movement in honoring 12 Global Women Activists: Raise Your Voice With Us: