The purpose of Tools4Democracy! Consultation Group is to strengthen our democracy by developing infrastructures for democratic engagement through schools, universities, and organizations.
We establish internships and fellowships for college and graduate students to collaborate with teachers and professors, coordinating democratic engagement programs for communities. Our college and graduate student Interns and Fellows develop service learning programs for schools focusing on inclusion, ecology, and engagement.
We understand that schools and organizations have different needs. Therefore, each of our member schools are offered customized training, program development, and on-site uspport for three years to ensure program sustainability.
RELATIONAL INCLUSION TRAINER
Brittany Adams has a strong history and deep enthusiasm for working with youth as well as a sincere, personal passion for the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community. As an active community member, she has served the substance abuse population and the LGBTQ population. She worked with LGBTQ youth of color administering LGBTQ-Affirmative counseling. She also served as co-trainer in a workshop for the Models of Pride conference held at the University of Southern California. Brittany co-created trainings for young people, ages 18-24, to create strength-based narratives and utilize public dialogue. In the trainings, each youth told their story of coming out as a form of activism. This module was then used to construct the framework for the Get Empathy campaign. Brittany received her BA in Sociology from California State University, Long Beach and her Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on the LGBTQ community from Antioch University. She strives to continue to organize and work to sustain a healthy, interconnected community.Brittany Adams has a strong history and deep enthusiasm for working with youth as well as a sincere, personal passion for the health and well-being of the LGBTQ community. As an active community member, she has served the substance abuse population and the LGBTQ population. She worked with LGBTQ youth of color administering LGBTQ-Affirmative counseling. She also served as co-trainer in a workshop for the Models of Pride conference held at the University of Southern California. Brittany co-created trainings for young people, ages 18-24, to create strength-based narratives and utilize public dialogue. In the trainings, each youth told their story of coming out as a form of activism. This module was then used to construct the framework for the Get Empathy campaign. Brittany received her BA in Sociology from California State University, Long Beach and her Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on the LGBTQ community from Antioch University. She strives to continue to organize and work to sustain a healthy, interconnected community.
MEDIA PRODUCTION TRAINER
Cheyne Bush is a filmmaker and musician with a deep interest and dedication to social justice causes, including LGBTQ+ rights, racial and economic injustices, police accountability, and non-violent conflict resolution. As a multi-genre music composer, he has been the frontman for several bands of styles from punk to ska to hardcore to jazz to experimental music as well as a composer/producer of electronic music. He has incorporated into many of those projects a socially conscious element in an effort to affect change, including in his punk band Issue 89, with their staunchly pro-gay and anti-corruption lyrics. After receiving his BFA in Music Technology from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), he remained there to continue on his creative avenue in filmmaking, eventually receiving his MFA in the Film/Video program. During his time at CalArts, he experimented with many forms, including sound design, audio engineering, improvisation, live visual performance and 16mm filmmaking, from which came his thesis film, a narrative exploring the mentally ill state of a young man named Jeffrey. His music can be found under his own name, as well as under his dubstep project, Tetrad, with which he has released on vinyl and digital, including iTunes and Spotify, with labels from Portland, Austin, Baltimore, and across the pond in Bristol, UK. His various films, including his thesis, can be found on YouTube as well as Vimeo.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRAINER
Ryane Daniels, MPH, is a recent graduate of Tulane University’s Master of Public Health program in Community Health Sciences. Prior to and throughout her graduate career, she has sought for and have benefitted from countless opportunities advocating to improve the public health of under-resources communities. She has acquired multifarious skills in project management, community participatory research, workforce development, mentorship, and monitoring and evaluation supporting wellness for communities of color. During her undergraduate and post-graduate career, Ryane has worked at UCLA through various intervention and resource programs tackling women’s health, environmental health, mental health and reproductive health. Ryane’s ultimate goal is to create a culturally competent intervention plan for communities of color. Due to the multifarious social determinants of health that impact this community, she would like to utilize her background and skills towards addressing the barriers towards accessing affordable health care.
DR. ROBERT GARCIA
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and have been an avid learner from the very beginning. My two favorite things as a preschooler were stalactites and stalagmites. Not surprisingly, I was the one brining in science books for show and tell. Almost a quarter of a century and a Ph.D. later, not much has changed. I love learning about countless topics and strive to make my passion for understanding, appreciating, and sharing all the wonderful knowledge that’s out there as contagious as possible. I’ve noticed that the pace if modern life often has a way of beating the intellectual curiosity out of people and it is my mission to rekindle that exciting desire to know in every student I meet.
I’ve had the privilege of having many excellent professors over the course of my formal education and I have made it a point to draw upon their teaching techniques eclectically in my own humanistic teaching. I’m a big believer in the interconnectedness of knowledge and experience: my hobbies of playing classical piano, museum-going, weightlifting, and international travel translate readily to a broad knowledge base of music and art history, kinesiology, nutrition, exercise physiology, sociology, and anthropology, among other topics. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change, artificial intelligence taking over the world, and the relationship between science and social justice. Curious? Let’s talk!
CRITICAL GAMING TRAINER
Menelik Tafari is a liberation games artist-educator, facilitator-trainer, and peer-education program designer for social inclusion, ecological stewardship, and political advocacy. During the past decade he has developed programs for human relations, relational leadership, and human development programs. His courses have included Spanish 1-3, Connections (Human Development), Cartoons & Comics (Humanities), Games for Social Justice (Community Engagement), Robotics (Science), and Team Games (Wellness). His expertise includes Critical Gaming and Design Pedagogy, and developing peer-education programs for empathy and advocacy. Menelik received his BA in Liberal Arts at Soka University of America, with studies in the Facilitation of Play, Learning and Change; is finishing his MA in Serious Game Design and Research through Michigan State University; and will soon pursue doctoral studies in the same field. His research analyzes the intersections of play, learning, and culture through Simulation/Gaming & Gamification, Soka Education & Critical Pedagogy, Liberation Arts, and Sports for Peace and Conflict Transformation.
PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT TRAINER
Harry Weston grew up in Santa Cruz, California, surrounded by West African dance and drumming, his first artistic inspirations. He found hip-hop at the age of 8, but only later, at the age of 15, discovered his true love of not only hip-hop dance, but hip-hop culture and history itself, changing his life and setting him on a path of creativity, community engagement, teaching and mentorship.
At the age of 18, he moved to Los Angeles to study dance at UCLA where he met Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad, who eventually asked him to join their hip-hop dance/theater company, Versa-Style, in 2009. Also that year, he was first introduced to the Flourish Foundation, becoming a counselor for the UCLA Summer Dance-Theater Intensive, as well as a recipient of the Flourish Foundation Tuition Grant. These connections led him to being hired as a Flourish Teaching Artist for the Abraham Lincoln High School hip-hop dance team, which is now directed by one of the program’s graduated alumni.
Also while in college, he participated in a variety of endeavors, from working with community organizations such as The Art/Global Health Center and Hip Hop Congress to directing sponsorship for the UCLA JazzReggae Festival. He also debuted his own choreography, Without Fear, in WACsmash 2012. He finished his four years at UCLA in June 2012, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in World Arts and Cultures with a concentration in Dance, and a Minor in Civic Engagement.
After graduation, Harry has since traveled all over the world teaching and performing hip-hop dance in places such as India, Israel, Scotland, Philadelphia, Oregon, New York, and San Francisco. He also has continued to work on his piece, “Without Fear” which has premiered locally at the Open House 3 Year Anniversary Festival and the J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival. Currently, Harry is the Program Director for The Flourish Foundation. He also still dances and tours with Versa-Style as a Principle Dancer, as well as operates as the company’s Partnerships Manager, having moved on from the Company Manager position after holding it from 2012-2016. He still teaches, working with leading after school arts program Everybody Dance teaching breaking, and has recently taken on the position of Co-Director of the UCLA Dance/Performing Arts Intensive, the program for which he first became counselor in 2009. He owes the many gifts of his career to his teachers, mentors, and artists who paved the way for him to do what he loves, spread the love and power of the arts, specifically hip-hop dance culture.
At the age of 18, Harry Weston moved to Los Angeles to study dance at UCLA. A year later, in 2009, his journey in the arts and greater Los Angeles community began. He was asked to join Versa-Style Dance Company, became a Teaching Artist for The Flourish Foundation, and became program counselor for the UCLA Summer Dance Theater Intensive. In 2012, after graduating UCLA with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in World Arts and Cultures with a concentration in Dance, plus a minor in Civic Engagement, he continued growing in all three endeavors. Today, he is a Core Dancer and Partnerships Manager for Versa-Style, Program Director for The Flourish Foundation, and Co-Director for what is now called the UCLA Dance/Performing Arts Summer Institute. He continues to share his passion for the arts, mentorship, and community building through his passions and dedication.
CIVIL RESISTANCE TRAINER
Zei has vast organizing and activism experience with 99Rise and Democracy Spring as the art director, action planner, and action coordinator. She supported the Indigenous People’s Power Project at Standing rock as a facilitator of an art space which produced hundreds of patches and banners a day. She is the member of a small club of courageous individuals who disrupted the Supreme Court in protest of the horrendous Citizen’s United decision. She has trianed countless numbers of new activists in Non-Violent Direct Action and theory of change, sharing her wisdom as a James Lawson Institute alumni. Working for Greenpeace, Zei trained dozens to advocate for the protection and preservation of our ecology through. As a program developer, Zei collaborated with the LA LGBT Center and The Relational Center to establigh GetEmpathy!, which taught students to use Relational Public Narrative for radical inclusion and empathy. Her work has always had an intersectional focus on making a difference in the quality of life for the LGBT community and is always mindful of how movement spaces can be more welcoming and inclusive. In addition to her continued dedication to people power, Zei is an experienced gardener and coffee connoisseur.
The transformation was evident in their reflections and conversations. I remember having a sense of nostalgia and awe over a campfire while listening to students, one-after-another, sharing freely about the kind of special place the retreat had become and how taking this short time to get to know each other authentically had inspired them to make a difference in their communities and their own lives… It was when a student related to something I shared that the importance of learning through dialogue and shared experience really hit me, and I fully understood the method behind the teaching philosophy applied to this work. On top of that I was also realizing how having to teach this stuff (stereotypes, conflict resolution) was getting me to re-evaluate my own morals and beliefs.
Participating in the discussions allowed me to internalize the effectiveness of being able to come to my own conclusions through discussion. It was a big moment for me because I realized the importance of being a good facilitator, so as to allow the students to come to their own conclusions with me having the least amount of influence on their thought process. This way the students internalize the information more effectively, rather than having me jam it down their throats. I knew that they came to their own understanding and could now actually apply this knowledge effecively in their own lives.
Anyone who’s had the honor of being trained by the Tools for Democracy Program, knows this approach to teaching civics makes learning fun. These are comprehensive programs that train leaders in the community… I attended two trainings with Tools for Democracy, one at Esalen Institute where some of the world’s greatest thinkers convene, and another in West LA as part of a Civic Engagement Fellowship for a non-profit. I highly recommend this professional service to everyone.