Elderberries 3fold Café: Art, Otherness & Activism in a Shared Brew

1008 756 Social Initiative Forum

Elderberries 3fold Café is a social justice café built & enlivened by community activists at the heart of Los Angeles, California. Inspired by the Youth Section House at the Goetheanum in Dornach, they began the café 12 years ago out of a Goethean impulse to be a cultural hub & a community house. It is a meeting point of graduating Waldorf students & at-risk individuals to find each other & hold conversations that can unify the community & continue schooling outside the classroom. Frank Agrama & Dottie Zold shared with us the work they do out of an anthroposophic impulse, one encounter & one shared meal at a time.

About Us & The Cafe

We at Elderberries 3fold Café are standing at the frontlines of making culture possible through our questions, our search for healing & healthy social ecology, & our innate yearning to encounter one another.  We work equally with at-risk communities, which comprise of the underprivileged & the homeless, individuals who are struggling with addiction, the over-privileged & people who are seeking meaning in life; along with the healers, organizers & brave dreamers asking how to make a big shift in how we live together. Our founding principles are kindness, care & consideration, learning how best to meet & serve the other, while also bringing us closer to who we are striving to become.

Rudolf Steiner shares in “How To Know Higher Worlds” that the best preparation for initiation in the modern world is through practical work.  Stemming from Anthroposophy, we create a community around a wish to heal, deepen & transform.  Our café is open 7 days a week, serving vegan & organic food to anybody, even those who come hungry but do not have money to pay a meal. Some people also buy meals as a gift to another – paying every deed of kindness forward as a form of community-building.

Working at Elderberries 3fold Café is a process of healing that is voluntary, inclusive, open & formed through meaningful consistent work with an intention to pay attention. Everyone learns to do what they fear most – whether it is cooking, cleaning, waiting on customers, or speaking & serving the homeless. This kind of work, along with the encounter that goes with it, builds what we are striving to become – a free human being collaborating to do the good out of one’s will.

Elderberries 3fold Café is also a ‘Hub of Initiative’, in which co-workers are simultaneously striving to start a project in the world out of their growing individual hopes.  These efforts push the envelope in personal & social transformation because it is both the individual & the community that support every initiative to make it possible.

Community Activism   

How do we turn our hopes to uplift society into a reality?  As an anchor point of meaningful encounters through the heart, our developing friendships with homeless friends run the range from a free cup of coffee to the unexpected responsibility of caretaking.  Robbie was cared for by our café friends – giving him space to rest in their homes, singing to him in the hospice, holding his hand & reading to him until his last breath. We then learned of his ex-wife & young daughter & started weekly artistic play events for Robbie’s daughter, which started a healing journey for his family.  This initiative grew into a small group of local youth making art every “Gwensday”, & growing it into a chance for healing rather than tragedy.

On a more national & structural level, Elderberries 3fold Café participated in the Standing Rock efforts to protect sacred land & water against oil pipelines. We drove cross-country, contributing our will in organizing & building up camps while joining peaceful protests arm-in-arm.  Furthermore, the work took a deeper step towards the ideals of the ThreeFold Commonwealth when we joined The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Started by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago, The Poor People’s Campaign is an integrative broad coalition of organizers & movements bringing their causes into the community & raising public awareness on the underlying entangled structures that sustain these varied forms of oppression. Elderberries 3fold Café was a key part of the California Poor People’s Campaign who organized & led 30 days of non-violent Moral Fusion direct action at the State Capitol. As part of the core organizing team, we raised money; made T-shirts & banners; cooked meals for the protesters; coordinated logistics; led songs in the rallies; & took charge in phone-banking, video documentation & social media posts. We continued our peaceful protest despite many of us being arrested at the frontlines, standing with our friends for an important cause.

Urban First Aid 

Urban First Aid is an intentional sober space where art is seen as medicine. Through art & education, we foster community well-being by holding classes, workshops, group meetings & performances at the café. We also invite international speakers & host conversations within the community to create new cultural possibilities. Through Urban First Aid, we hold the questions, “What do you want to create?” & “How can we help you realize this?”

 Have SEEDS House

The third piece of our 3Fold puzzle is the Have Seeds Home.  This sober community living house serves as transitional support for friends of all ages, while also acting as an international hub for young people seeking to connect & work together.  This space allows the inner aspect of the social question to unfold & support the café co-workers as well.

The Future

We are in the process of opening our second café & cultural hub in Chicago, Illinois, as our friends at the Rudolf Steiner Branch of Chicago found the need for this kind of meeting space in their local community as well.  Many of their children are in Waldorf schools & they wish to have a safe space during their school year & after they graduate. We hope to have 7 cafés across the country & we are looking to support other initiatives striving to realize a shift in the world through this model.

Another important project of Elderberries 3fold Café is the How We Will Forums. How We Will is about cultivating the substance of the heart through a living picture of our human experience in light of the tasks we have before us.  These gatherings serve as threefold strategy sessions for the expanding of local & international striving communities to collaborate on a structural, systemic shift in our time. Now in its 3rd year, “How We Will: Threefolding Our Cultural Revolution, Doing the Good” will be held on the 22nd to the 26th of August, 2019 in Philmont NY, where they will feature the developing work of Free Columbia.

It is said that after the death of Rudolf Steiner, Ita Wegman & the young doctors sought to bring about a Michaelic renewal of civilization in the shortest possible time. We now stand in that stream of inspiration.  Real transformation is only possible when we learn to work beyond the boundaries of our communities, causes & needs. In this, Elderberries 3fold Café strives towards developing a “Culture of Selflessness”, a sense of the other that can be a salvation for humanity & the earth in our time. | Frank Agrama & Dottie Zold (US), Elderberries 3fold Café

Where we are

Goetheanum
Rüttiweg 45, CH 4143-Dornach

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T: +41 61 706 43 24
E: hello@socialinitiativeforum.org

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