Making the World a Better Place using Music, Art, and Nature, with Andrea Miller.
Many of you can attest to the fact that so many mothers tend to “lose themselves” after having children. That’s why it’s always so inspiring to be around women who are able to bypass that feeling, and do something about it. Andrea Miller is one mother with a purpose! I first met her at the park, many years ago. She stood out to me because I couldn’t believe there was another mother of color at our park! It was a brief encounter, and to be honest, it was the last time I ever came across her. Recently, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with Andrea because I learned that she has been quite busy, not only as a mother, but as a woman with a purpose to spread the importance of nature and the arts. I found out she has been very busy as Director of Mama Earth, heading a cause that is important to my heart: creating global awareness and helping those with greater need. Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed because of everyday needs from the family and the school, but thanks to a bit of time with Andrea, I feel refreshed and ready to go. You’ll see why if you read below!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got involved with Mama Earth?
Well, I grew up here in Orange County. My parents immigrated to the US from South Africa in the late 1960s and I was born in Boston. So much of their life experiences in South Africa and feeling displaced from my big family so far away really informed my personality and my outlook on the world. I’ve always been on this subtle search for community and family.
After I became a mom in 2007, I felt really creative. I had a lot of ideas and my main thought was, “Can I have an idea and then execute it?” I began encouraging one of my dear friend’s, Eugene Cooke, an urban farmer and guerrilla gardener to try giving some workshops. Although he didn’t consider himself a speaker, I saw something inside of him and knew that people would respond to that. He trusted my vision and agreed to give it a try. We started at Delilah Snell’s Road Less Traveled in Downtown Santa Ana (who’s gone on to Patchwork Festival (www.patchworkfestival.com) fame and her new Alta Baja Market (www.altabajamarket.com) project. After 50 people showed up to the parking lot to learn about gardening at home, I knew we were on to something.
Right around the same time, my other dear friend, Kailani Bayot had created a “Mama Earth Wish Bracelet” to give kids a way to raise money for charitable causes. She worked a lot in the music industry and was booking gigs for her little brother, Bruno, who had just moved to Los Angeles from Hawaii after graduating high school who was trying to make his way as a singer and musician. She decided to throw a concert event in Santa Monica and raise money for charity and it was a big success. At that point, we decided to merge our work and we made Mama Earth a community organization that used the power of music and nature to make a change for the better.
It has truly become an international organization! Did you foresee this happening? How has social media played a role?
Yes, it has! Mama Earth now has followers in more than 40 countries and we have her little brother to thank for that. He would always play our charity events in the beginning and at the time, his career was really starting to gain steam. He started writing songs for major artists like Matisyahu and K’naan and appeared on a song called, “Nothin On You” by B.o.B. We knew something major had shifted when at one of the Mama Earth events, the entire audience started singing Bruno’s song right back to him. Bruno Mars had been introduced to the world and after that, everything would change. As his star began to rise, his fans loved learning more about his big musical family and would eventually find our organization. One of his tweets to millions of followers some years back is what really took us around the world. Young fans from Brazil, Germany, Indonesia and Chile, would ask to get involved and started Mama Earth projects in their own communities. Planting trees, cleaning up neighborhoods, collecting food, clothing and toys for needy families and local orphanages. It’s those young women that really inspired me to continue our work and make it better.
WOW! BRUNO MARS! How wonderful that Kailani and Mama Earth played a part in his beginning and even better that he is paying it forward by sharing the mission of this important cause! I think he’ll gain even more fans just because of this!
WHAT?! BRUNO MARS! How incredible to watch someone’s little brother succeed the way Bruno has in the entertainment industry and then have your work be seen around the globe! Fans love to see a celebrity supporting something good.
You have an amazing team in Mama Earth. How do you find all these amazing people?
Everything about Mama Earth has truly grown organically. We are not super goal oriented, we don’t seek out people, we haven’t depended on public or private funding – we daydream, we work cooperatively and beautiful opportunities seem to present themselves. At some point, I realized that, “Yes, I can have an idea and execute it – well.” So I started to up the ante and dream bigger. We started to work with universities, socially responsible businesses, art galleries and performance venues. I am always friendly and am genuinely interested in the people that cross my path. I work hard to follow through on my word and do what it takes to make my ideas a reality. Kailani and I are both naturally creative so we are always surrounded by musicians, dancers, photographers, cinematographers. I think people feel the integrity we bring to our projects and they seem to naturally align with us.
It seems, to me, that this is the “Year of the Woman,” as so much attention is focused on women’s roles in politics, business, sports, etc. We see more emphasis on empowering women and our youths. How do you see Mama Earth contributing to social change?
In one of my favorite songs by Chaka Khan, she sings, “I’m a woman – and I’m a backbone. Everybody needs one.” I never thought much about my work in terms of gender, I just did my thing, but as Mama Earth grows and I find myself working with larger organizations and companies, I have become much more acutely aware of being female as I observe how others – both men and women – respond to me as a leader. Other’s expectations, being underestimated and/or judged based on unwritten codes of conduct for a “female” – recent experiences have sparked a big wave of growth within myself to live in my own integrity and not the expectations of others. I am also embracing the opportunity to be a role model for girls and young women as I live out my own dreams. We are contributing to social change by giving people of all ages the experience of giving back. Giving others an experience of music, art, nature and inspiring them to use their own gifts to make the world around them better.
There has always been an element of entertainment and music with Mama Earth. Why go this route in gaining awareness?
Entertainment and social impact are a powerful combination and it’s exciting to see the Mama Earth brand become an agent for good in the world. Both the Mama Earth founder and myself grew up dancing – Jaime Kailani dancing hula in Hawaii and me studying ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance for 17 years. We are both lovers of music and have a natural affinity for creative people. Of course, with the organization being based in Los Angeles, we are SURROUNDED by artists of all sorts so it’s been a very natural progression.
Your latest project, “Common Culture: ACROSS THE WATER” is coming up very soon! Please tell us more about it?
Yes! I am so excited about this project – it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done! The historic Ford Theatres (www.fordtheatres.org) in Hollywood has a Summer Partnership Program that offers under-resourced and under-represented producers the opportunity to get on level playing field in Hollywood. This will be a stellar night of music, dance and drum under the stars with some of the best musicians and dancers that call Los Angeles home. The most exciting thing is that the wildly talented sister duo, Chloe x Halle (www.chloeandhalle.com), will headline the show. These girls are protégées to the one and only Beyonce and are the first act signed to her Parkwood Entertainment label. The fact that Parkwood Entertainment saw something special in this project is so humbling. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.
What is it that continues to make you want to do more? What drives you? What keeps you grounded? How do you keep yourself inspired?
I’m not exactly sure. I simply feel compelled and driven. It seems to be a combination of being too far into something to stop and also, it’s about the kind of legacy and example I want to give to my daughter. Growing up “ethnic” in Orange County was a very awkward and sometimes lonely experience. I love that I get to create spaces full of diversity and community where everyone feels included. That alone is inspiration.
How can we get tickets at “Common Culture: ACROSS THE WATER?”
All the details can be found at www.commoncultureshow.com. Please join us!
The show will give back to several initiatives including New Earth Life, transforming the lives of teens coming out of the (broken) justice system, Project 509, providing water filtration systems to rural villages in Haiti and #HappyPeriod, promoting dignity for homeless girls & women all over the US.
If you’d like to learn more about the amazing MAMA EARTH, please visit www.4mamaearth.org.
Dandelion Moms, I hope you can join me in celebrating Andrea’s dream come true at www.commoncultureshow.com! See you there!
About the Author:
Lilli LaBuen Gillen is an avid foodie, music fiend, and arts advocate. She hails from Palm Springs, California, living for a time in the central coast of California, in the Pacific Northwest, and Chicago, Illinois. She has two girls, a sweet dog Dax, and wife to the most amazing husband in the world! She is a jack-of-all-trades, from being in the restaurant industry to working in the performing arts, but her favourite job of all is being a mother.