One of my personal heroes, Jane Goodall, was in town recently to meet with children and civil rights leaders to help spread the word about her work and also form new partnerships for her children’s program.
Goodall, through her foundation, runs a program called Roots and Shoots. It supports and encourages children to get involved in community service, allowing the children to choose causes and work together to find ways to solve problems.
The meeting in Atlanta was an opportunity to meet with kids from Ron Clark Academy and meet leaders in the Civil Rights community.
The environment is an important Civil Rights issue. Poor city planning and high levels of pollution are leading to severe health problems among children who live in cities like Atlanta. It’s a wrong that must be made right.
Goodall spent decades studying the social and mental development of chimpanzees in Africa from the late 1950s. She’s since become one of the world’s leading spokespeople for preserving animal species and living in balance with the natural systems that support all life.
She worked with my friend Mary Mapes to launch the program at Jackson Elementary years ago, when Mapes’ children were students there.
Goodall visited Atlanta again this month to talk with the likes of Bernice King and the Ron Clark Academy students because she wants to connect with urban areas. “She’s always been interested in Civil Rights and environmentalism,” Mapes said. “We brought those two groups together.”
One of the students wrote a poem for Goodall and the whole crowd was moved when he stood up to read it to her. It really was a beautiful moment. It reminded me of how important it is that children get involved and stay involved, which is something my father taught us when we were young.
The children’s enthusiasm and involvement is really what powers Roots and Shoots. In Atlanta, Jackson Elementary’s program is still growing, with students running programs to help the Humane Society and local food banks, among other causes. The program is also in place at The Westminster Schools and may soon launch at Ron Clark.
Roots and Shoots gets its name from the idea that there is so much power and life force in even the tiniest seed, it can sprout roots and shoots that are strong enough to break rocks beneath them or brick walls above them.
“Those rocks and walls represent all the problems that we humans have put on poor old planet Earth, environmental and social,” Goodall says. “Roots and Shoots is about breaking through.”
Originally posted in Atlanta Intown December 2012