'THE LOVE ACTIVISTS' - Alizah Silver - July 2018
Hi Alizah - We are honored to be get to know you more. Your service and vision are super exciting and full of beauty.
What is this project you have named LOVE ACTIVISTS? and what started you on this journey?
The LOVE ACTIVISTS are a collective of people who stand up for love in action and what is right in their hearts. We are developing a program to teach social-emotional learning, character skills and values, mindfulness, yoga, social / environmental justice and activism. We are bringing people together to protect what is sacred - children, plants, animals and nature. The Love Activists curriculum aims to end cycles of suffering, heal generational trauma, promote health, sustainability, respect and oneness.
What are some of your life experiences that have prepared you for this work?
As a child, I experienced horrendous emotional and psychological abuse. People so often repeat cycles of suffering and do what their parents did to them. I have discovered through my life experiences that we are here to break those cycles. Sometimes love means walking away. Sometimes love means protecting. Sometimes love means speaking up, sacrifice, support or solidarity. Love always means doing the right thing in your heart. Your circumstances do not have to determine the course of your life. Now I have nothing but love and gratitude for my father. He is the reason I am fulfilling my mission. Discovering the tools, practices and lifestyle that helped me stand up for myself and deal with and heal my own trauma, are my gifts to the world - my medicine. I am grateful for my trauma. If any second of my life was any different I would not be sitting here today. I wouldn’t be a LOVE ACTIVIST.
I grew up in New York City, a place of diversity and cultural abundance, where race never crossed my mind. In high school I moved to Mandeville, Louisiana, a small town in the deep South. My school had 2 lunch tables where the people with darker skin sat. The remainder of the tables were for the people with lighter skin. On one side of town there were trailer parks, poverty and people with darker skin while on the other side of town Mercedes, mansions, confederate flags and people with lighter skin. The “N” word and derogatory slurs towards other cultures and races were not uncommon. I witnessed the police put my friend in handcuffs for something I had done because of the color of his skin.
After high school I began traveling, first to Costa Rica where my cousin taught me how to surf, about the ocean and the importance of taking care of my body. I continued traveling to Puerto Rico, Argentina, all over South America, witnessing the racial divides, economic gaps and massive injustices. Returning home, I became a teacher with hopes of making a difference, correcting these wrongs and giving children a chance. I started working for KIPP in the lowest performing school district in our nation at the time, Northforest, Houston, Texas. The school served the underprivileged kids living in poverty and drug-infested neighborhoods. It was there I learned to write a curriculum, figured out my teaching and management style and began to understand some of the painful things that were happening to my students. I realized that above any reading, writing or mathematics skills that I taught, the most valuable lessons were about self-respect and love. Without that, these kids were stuck in emotional pain and behavioral acting out. I started an anti-bullying initiative called “Fight Hate with Love”, teaching our children to emulate Martin Luther King and Gandhi by using non-violent action to solve their problems. Even today, 7 years later, when I visit my old students, they tell me how they fight hate with love. I had fulfilling work, a college degree, and enough money to meet my needs but still had a hole inside that scared me. Burnt out and wanting to grow, I decided to move to Los Angeles, California, a lifelong dream.BE LOVE:
Who or what has inspired you?
In the mountains of Topanga Canyon, on the west side of Los Angeles, I started teaching at a school on a horse farm. I met my mentor who taught me the power of a child’s imagination and learning through music and nature. We did all of our learning outside, hikes every week, organic homemade food and had amazing parent involvement. I began yoga teacher training and learned the power of self-love and self-care. I realized the importance of meditation, movement and breath work as powerful tools to deal with my own trauma. I knew I needed to share what I had learned. I started teaching yoga to adults and noticed the west side bubble that most of the LA yoga community stayed in and wondered why all these talented healers and teachers were only on the west side. I created my own summer camp, CAMP LOVE, where I continued to develop my ideas and curriculum for teaching children about love. We cleaned up trash at the beach, made walking sticks and medicine bags and searched for items on our hikes as we learned about nature. We drew our feelings as we listened to the philharmonic play at the Hollywood Bowl and always practiced meditation and yoga. I now, not only had direct experience with children suffering from trauma and unmet basic needs, but could contrast that with children who are given everything. I felt the disparities. It was eating away at me. Driving from East to West L.A., reminded me of my travels, reminded me of the South, reminded me to stand up.
Our music video will very soon be released. I am working on funding to help my students create an entire children’s album and music videos to go along with them. The plan is to create 10 instructional videos and 10 music videos that go along with our curriculum, while working with a team to get our curriculum ready to sell. I would like to build a production team and have the funds to pay for better equipment and to pay everyone that contributes. I am in the process of starting my non-profit and have recently begun having board meetings. Our main focus right now is gathering the funds to create our videos and get our curriculum ready for sale.
What is the dream you have with this service - in other words what do you want this to become?
I pitched my program and curriculum to KIPP Empower Academy school in South Central Los Angeles and have implemented my curriculum with nearly 500 1st-4th grade students. We have family yoga nights, weekly teacher yoga and I’ve trained all 60 of my fellow teachers in meditation techniques. Recently I wrote, recorded, and created a music video for a rap song with my students. It’s called Yo Yo Yoga. I see that through music and video creation I can reach more children and more teachers faster. I need to create more content.
Thank you for sharing so much of your beautiful heart and vision for service with us Alizah!
Please share with us a book that you love….And also a favorite song :)
One of my favorite books, that every classroom should have is “Where Children Sleep”. An amazing photographer traveled around the world taking pictures of children and where they sleep and wrote short descriptions of their life stories. It teaches empathy and helps children remember that although we are all so different, we are still the same and to be grateful for what have. And my favorite song of course is Yo Yo Yoga by the LOVE ACTIVISTS!