Lead to Life is transforming weapons into shovels for ceremonial-tree plantings at sites that have been impacted by violence or carry spiritual significance across Atlanta and Oakland.
Inspired by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes and an ancient lineage of Swords to Plowshares creators, we choose to locate our alchemy and cultural healing work in the US - the heart of imperialism and violence against people and planet.
on the practice //
Intention in medicine is defined as the healing process of a wound. Our intention through Lead to Life is to transform that which ends life into that which sustains life - to facilitate an alchemical healing process that can physically transform both our weapons and our imaginations.
Within the current climate of pervasive environmental racism, gun violence, and desecration of the land, our creative interventions are designed to:
- bridge connections between restorative and environmental justice
- restore the ecological foundations of sacred spaces within our urban geographies, and
- rekindle relationships of reverence and reciprocity with each other and the Earth.
The collaborators, brontë velez + kyle lemle met in July 2016 as inaugural recipients of the Spiritual Ecology Fellowship.
During the fellowship, they have built strong relationships with leaders around the world who are bridging the gaps between faith, activism, ceremony and resistance.
Lead to Life bridges their complementary and diverse histories in social justice, art practice, ecological restoration and climate resilience. We will be sharing more on our community partners soon!
co-alchemist, creative director
brontë is guided by “the many rivers that have come together” to make and sustain them. as a black-latinx multimedia artist, life-long student, and designer, their praxis (theory + action) lives at the intersections of critical geography, black liberation ecologies and creative placemaking. they are committed to joy as medicine, decomposition as rebellion, and live by the call that "black wellness is the antithesis of state violence" (Mark Anthony Johnson). their work intends to compost the violences forged by environmental racism through radical imagination. this commitment iterates through several mediums and this year grows through Lead to Life.
in 2016, brontë worked as a copy editor on a retrospective of Mexican artist Pedro Reyes’ work. when they witnessed his projects Disarm and Palas por Pistolas - in which he transforms weapons into shovels and instruments - they were met with profound healing and a deep desire to share this medicine through continuing the rituals in the united states as a direct response to losing a dear friend to gun violence alongside the larger traumatic impact on black communities and environments from police brutality. they are currently blessed with the privilege to learn from and support youth as an educator with Planting Justice and are a student of Weaving Earth.
co-alchemist, program director
Kyle is a community-based natural resource management professional, with experience working for international and grassroots NGOs across the Himalayas, Southeast Asia and California. Working with forest communities around the world, he has witnessed the power of tree planting to build ecological resilience while preserving culture. Before receiving the Spiritual Ecology Fellowship, Kyle served as as Manager of Programs and Impact for Global Footprint Network and then Community Project Manager with Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), where he organized and implemented 30 neighborhood-level greening campaigns and the planting of over 2000 trees across the streets of San Francisco. When he is not planting trees, Kyle serves as founder and co-director of the Thrive East Bay Choir, where he is writing and performing original gospel-for-social-change music in a growing, purpose-driven community based in Oakland. He is a former resident of Green Gulch Farm, and continues to draw inspiration and energy from his practice in the Soto Zen tradition.