THE POWER OF A UNITED COMMUNITY FOR CHANGE — Ayana Henry’s Alum Story

What did you learn at the Encampment?

The most-important thing I learned at the Encampment is the power of a united community for change. EFC embodies that power: If we do things together, we can do so much. In response to racial incidents at my college, I helped spur action by organizing our floor in the dorm. It showed the power of unity in standing up for what is right. The initiative grew when another floor followed our lead. The EFC helped me identify my voice and make change in little ways.

Why is the Encampment important to you?

I learned to value different members of the community and what they contribute to conversations and projects. We also explored different strategies to enact change. The EFC helped me to build confidence, especially about issues that I’m passionate about, and it helped me find my voice. It helped me become the person I am today and focus my activism efforts. As a part of my activism, I volunteer at the New England Aquarium, which ties into my passion for climate justice.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment?

During my first Encampment, we went to a community center in Selma, Alabama (Selma Center for Nonviolence), nurtured by Faya Ora Rose Toure’ (formerly Rose Sanders). They cooked dinner for us and the young people gave a performance. The children doing African dancing helped me connect with a part of myself I never knew existed.

Faya Ora Rose Toure’ and young people at the Selma Center for Nonviolence.

What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn?

My first year (2018/Jackson, Mississippi), I was in a workshop about community activism. We explored the role of communities and states in the larger workings of the U.S. government. We were exposed to theories about the role of racial and class divisions in politics and how governmental systems maintain unequal power structures. As I said earlier, in both years, the power of unity and community was emphasized.

In my second year (2019/Camarillo, CA), we focused on immigration rights and environmental justice particularly for workers in the farming industry. For farmworkers and their families, pesticide pollution is a major issue, causing greater incidences of cancer, birth defects and lung ailments. Many of the workers are undocumented, so they have no way to obtain better conditions. In addition, environmental justice is not just about farmworkers. For instance, air pollution can cause asthma among people who work or live near industrial plants.

I also learned that climate justice is multifaceted. Since the Encampment, I have educated high school students about our role in keeping the world environment safe. I have also been a volunteer intern at the aquarium, where I shared information about the impact of plastic pollution on the ocean — the damage to animals and habitats — in conjunction with climate change. The aquarium is not open to its full capacity right now due to the pandemic, but I love science and sharing what I know to raise awareness about our environment. One way we can help is to consume consciously, use less plastic and know about the environmental records of companies that produce the goods we use.

What field trips do you remember?

I remember vividly the “lynching museum” (The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum)in Alabama. It was very powerful and one of the reasons that I’m most grateful to the EFC. I’ve been to many museums, but none of them had portrayed the history of Black people in a way that humanized what they have endured in slavery and in mass incarceration — a link I hadn’t made before.

2018 Mississippi Encampment at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

What community service projects do you remember?

We helped to clean up trash from the reservoir on the Choctaw reservation — right before a thunderstorm — it was memorable! It was good to be involved in activism with Native Americans, who are often overlooked. It’s special that the EFC made a conscious effort to include the Choctaw people — there were several Encampers from that nation in that year.

What motivated you to go to the Encampment?

I participated in the Commonwealth Seminar in the fall of 2017. Its focus is to expose members of diverse communities to the process of how state government works. After the election of Donald Trump, I was curious to learn more about how to be an effective voice for change. I met Mabel Lam [an EFC board member] at the seminar and she told me about the Encampment, which is meant for younger activists (the Commonwealth Seminar is focused on adults).

When you arrived, what was your first impression of the Encampment?

I had been homeschooled although I had attended camps with my sister. This was the first time I was on my own for a long period of time. I was excited but when my dad was about to leave, I thought, “Oh, no — my dad’s going to leave and I’m going to be stuck here!” I talked a lot the first day, then I was quiet for the rest of the experience. I needed to find my voice and listen to others. People were really nice and that helped me be less nervous.

Why is the EFC important now?

The EFC will always be important because activism never stops. Even to maintain progress is constant work. The Encampment trains the upcoming generation on how that can be done. Especially with the turmoil in our country, we need leaders, not just for today but for the future.

Anything you want to say that we haven’t asked?

Sometimes when people go to the EFC, they don’t automatically start activism, but it plants a seed to be a catalyst over time. It really opened me up to be part of the greater change.

Ayana and other Encampers canvassing for CAUSE in Ventura County as part of the 2019 Encampment.

2021 Virtual Encampment for Youth 15-18

Want to make a difference in your community and learn how to become a stronger agent of change?

“Applying to The Encampment was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I learned that I am a capable leader, and someone who can make good change. You meet all these amazing people who want to make change, and these other amazing people who will do anything to help you do it. EFC was the best way to spend my summer, because I was able to do something fun, yet intellectual.” — Nicholas, 2020 Encamper

July 5–28, Monday through Friday plus July 24.*

With EFC’s community-based and arts-as-activism approach, you will:

  • Get a deeper perspective on social justice issues.
  • Meet activists and civic leaders.
  • Learn more about how your community works and how you can make change where you are.
  • Participate in a multicultural community of peers from across the nation who will share their communities with you.
  • Use arts to express your perspective on social justice concerns.
  • Receive four months of follow-up support to develop an action plan.

Participants will learn and practice the powerful strategies of critical thinking, action planning, and using creativity and the arts in working for social justice.

*There will be a 6-hour pre-Encampment orientation in June and four months of follow-up programming in the fall.

 Community Building

  • Share your community with peers across the country using online platforms, and learn about theirs.
  • Connect to a network of young changemakers.
  • Build lifelong relationships.

Learn ways you can work for social justice through local, state, tribal and national governments

  • EFC’s hands-on learning style will help you connect the dots for making change.
  • Hear about diverse examples of effective activism.

Arts Workshops

  • Learn to use the creative process to work for social justice.
  • Draw on the arts as an organizing tool for change in your community.

Social Justice Action Groups

  • Participate in virtual breakout sessions that develop your social justice leadership skills and provide you with tools to take an idea and put it into action.

Speakers

  • Learn from social justice leaders across the nation.
  • Grow your network of intergenerational changemakers.

Action Plans

  • Create an action plan to address an issue in your home community.
  • Explore what makes a successful organizing strategy.
  • Engage with social justice activists in your community.

Program Fees

As always, the fees are on a sliding scale ($50–$2,000), based on income. No one will be turned away for inability to pay. In addition, we will work with each participant’s individual situation to help them have access to the internet and necessary hardware and software.

Apply today several spaces available! Contact us with any questions. Phone: 831-515-6775.

“Growing up, I got one perspective, but in the Encampment, I got to see what peers from different backgrounds are doing and feeling. It’s one thing to hear about Black Lives Matter in social media, but it’s so powerful when you hear what people are really going through — it changes you as a person.” — Moncerrat, 2020 Encamper

Becoming a More-Effective Social Justice Activist

Angel Mendez on EFC’s Follow-Up Programming

Angel, we have a unique chance to look back on your recent EFC experiences and connect the dots of how the various follow-up programs have changed or strengthened you as a more-effective social justice activist — would you speak to that?

The Encampment for Citizenship is the main catalyst for my personality today. When I first participated in 2014 [University of Illinois, Chicago], I was shy and quiet and sheltered in some ways. The EFC gave me a push to get out of my bubble and see other perspectives, not just my own. It helped me see that I am not the main character and yet, I felt that people were really listening to what I had to say in our discussions. I started speaking my mind about what I thought was right. I also saw the value of hearing everyone out before saying something. One story in particular illustrates how I had to get out of my comfort zone. A discussion arose with Ms. Jane [Sapp] & an Encamper who was more liberal with the word about the use of the “N” word. I could have cut the tension with scissors, but I noticed they got to know each other better through this conversation. These conversations are hard, but they have to be had.

In 2015 [at Tougaloo College, MS], I became more of a leader and a witness, building on my previous experience. Ms. [Elizabeth] Summers’s theater workshop had a huge impact on me. It pushed us out of our comfort zones. Her message is: This [Theater] is an art and when you do art, you give it your all — yours is an important story and no one can tell it better than you do. Rehearsing was so much fun! And, although I didn’t understand at the time, there was a deep and meaningful message about colonization as we acted out a scene with colorful masks for the native world and white masks for the colonizers.

In addition, where we were that summer was a former plantation — one of Ms. Summers’s friends found her ancestor by looking through the plantation records of the slaves who lived there. Now, through Ms. Summers, that person is someone I know. It gives a different perspective on why historical context is so important. What we do now is going to affect what my children will experience.

When I went home, I worked through Farmworkers Self-Help, under the leadership of Margarita Romo, to engage the youth in my community and discuss the struggles they face and how to solve them. I started an open mic in the community for youth to gather and express ideas and feelings through music, acting or in any way they want. The idea behind the open mic is to invite people from outside the community who may have a negative view of our community, to witness the love in it. Hopefully, these events will help to take away the negative stigma the community carries. We also lobbied successfully for KidCare to be extended to undocumented youth in Florida, and we worked on the campaign for in-state tuition so undocumented youth could afford to attend college.

I received an award for my work for and with the immigrant and undocumented community at a city council meeting that was attended by two state representatives and two senators. I never would have done this if I hadn’t come out of my bubble, went through the discomfort and found my voice at the Encampment.

I also was involved in the Dreamers Teatro Crew, a theater group based on the teachings of Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed. The theater group teamed up with Florida State University to start a dialogue within communities, using theater exercises as a tool.

2016 was my first internship, and I learned how to notice the opportunities that come up for learning and for building community. For example, we had a section about indigenous/immigrant experiences and we were planning to go to an immigration court, but the discussions beforehand made people feel overwhelmed with emotion and information, so the suggestion was made that maybe it was not such a good idea to go. The staff encouraged a presentation from Encampers from immigrant families about why it was important to go. Also, Black and Hispanic Encampers saw how their experiences/struggles are similar and worked together on the presentation, which led to a vote and a decision to attend the immigration court. That was a difficult experience because we saw how people are hauled into court and don’t know English and are being told legalities without a lawyer. Because immigration is considered civil matter versus criminal, the court is not required to provide lawyers. Judges talked to us about how a lot of the issues did not start with them but with the policies. The court is where the policies are put into practice, but we have to fight the policies.

Clockwise from upper left: Angel (2014 Chicago), upper right (2015 Mississippi), second from left (2016 Massachusetts, far right (2019 Ventura County).

In 2019, I became a senior Intern. I did a lot more than all the other years: handled logistics and headed social media efforts, led conversations, and built leadership with all I did. For instance, I advocated for the Encampers to have a conversation without the adults. The Encampers were not looking at the roots of issues — not digging deeper. What we realized was that they couldn’t go deeper because there was tension within their own community and they were distracted. That discussion had to happen first and from experience, we knew that the best way seemed to be have a conversation without staff. They needed to take leadership/ownership of their community. I led them with questions to dig deeper and instead of being bored by the discussion, after the allotted time, they asked for more time. They chose a spokesperson to tell how it went. After that, there were deeper conversations and they were more open to exploring.

In 2020, I became one of the first EFC Fellows. We participated in a training starting in March to develop our skills further. The program directors, Juna Rosales Muller and Matt Robinson, led beautifully, which is even more amazing because they were completely new to the EFC. It was overwhelming for me during the three-week Summer Intensive because I was also working 20 hours a week at Starbucks, moving, and working with Marquise [Steward] to create the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) infrastructure. I enjoyed having conversations with the Encampers and learning from the guest speakers about how COVID-19 affected different demographics.

People bring their own experiences and relationships to the issues. I’ve learned more about building a team — the Fellows worked together well, helping each other be prepared and do the work; there was a lot of love. I also learned technical skills (facilitating Zoom meetings, creating breakout rooms, how to write a report, the laws that protect young people, and how to communicate better through email).

YAC has been exciting and fun. Marquise is passionate about what he believes in and pushes to achieve it. It’s great putting the infrastructure into place and having new people join the council. These young leaders will lead initiatives that will impact EFC. And the Encampment will continue to bring young people’s voices forward with their ideas of innovative ways to bring about change. It’s not just a trend, but a movement.

The EFC Community Is the Change — Interview with Marquise Steward

Marquise Steward, EFC alum 2015.

Youth Advisory Council (YAC) Intern/Advisor Angel Mendez interviews his fellow Intern/Advisor Marquise Steward. [Opportunities to get involved in Youth Advisory Council activities are listed at the end of this article.]

Angel: How are you?

Marquise: I’m stressed by COVID, but super-happy and grateful to have my family and friends still with me at this time. I am also grateful to have employment that incorporates my passion for social justice work.

How are you affiliated with the Encampment?

I’m currently the Youth Advisory Council rep on the EFC board and I’m also an intern/advisor. I went to the Encampment in 2015 (in Mississippi). I was also an intern (2017 MA) and then a senior intern (2018 MS).

How did you learn about EFC?

In high school, two community leaders — Jason Neal (EFC alum 1989 CA) and Nancy Marr (EFC alum 1950 NY) introduced me to the Encampment. We had an event where high schoolers went to our middle school to talk about how peer pressure can lead to substance abuse and how not to fall into the pressure by having honest conversations. Nancy Marr saw me in action and asked if I wanted to go to the Encampment. I was told it was a leadership program, and that piqued my interest. I received a sponsorship to go and the rest is history.

What are some things the Encampment taught you — skills, tools, experiences?

The Encampment taught me that I have a lot of privileges that I have to use to advance others in my community. At the time, I was 16–17 and I knew that there were indigenous people but I had had no real contact. It’s like I knew about the Great Wall of China, but if you’ve never really been there, you haven’t really felt the Great Wall of China. When you hear that there are disenfranchised people – or undocumented people, it’s like a privileged thing — to have read an article or seen in a textbook that there are people like this is one thing, but it’s different to hear about it and then you actually get to the Encampment and they are real. They are tangible — they are the people I’ll have lunch with or call or cry on their shoulder. For me, there was no more hiding behind this privilege and no more of my own individual gripe — “I’m gay and I’m Black and the world does not care for me, so I don’t care for the world.” The Encampment opened my eyes to know that a lot of things are connected. It’s even a privilege to think that you are disconnected from certain systems of oppression. If someone is being oppressed because of their status as an undocumented citizen, that still leads to you as a Black person because at one point, you were considered three-fifths of a person. History repeats itself in many different ways and it’s my job to stand up and make a change for whatever I want to see in the future … be the man I want to be.

It taught me to check my privilege. It taught me to think critically about why certain things were happening and events in history repeating — the Encampment started that process for me.

It also has pushed the trajectory of my career because now I want to work in education and diversity and LGBTQIA+ initiatives. It’s an educational camp and it’s about diversity, leadership and community-building. It was definitely a huge influence, and I owe that to the Encampment.

What was your experience after leaving the Encampment?

This was a time that Black Lives Matter was beginning to gain traction and in my heart I kept saying, “All lives matter, duh — we don’t need this divide, we just need police brutality to stop.” After the Encampment, I felt devastated that I would say something like that out of ignorance. I felt enraged. I had gone through this three-week intensive experience that really shifted gears for me. There was a lot of anger and misunderstandings; a lot of seeing things through another lens that my privilege did not allow before. Then it went eventually to a lot of understanding and depth in my character, a lot of empathy, compassion and responsibility that I take and hold to my heart. I’m still for everybody. However, I can’t be for the people who have their foot on the necks of others and don’t know it.

You gotta love that character development.

I could have developed in other ways. I wonder if I would have voted for Trump if I didn’t go to the Encampment? And, if I thought about it through the individual lens and my own experience — yes, I’m Black but I’m a lighter skin-toned, Black person; I have both parents; I have financial access; I now have a degree. All these layers can keep me away from what the truth is, although I’d like to give myself some credit — I don’t think I would have been all for Trump, but I might have been a little lenient toward Trump. I was just thinking about myself at the time.

How do you see the components that you have learned at the Encampment being used in your work?

I currently work for LGBTQA Initiatives (at Florida International University). Everything that we do in our office has to be thought about through a diversity lens. You have to take into account a lot of other peoples’ experiences. I do not identify as someone from the trans community; however, I need to understand the struggles and obstacles, and also the brilliance of the trans community, to assist better. It’s about critically questioning and critically thinking about what we are doing — what conversations are we having? What spaces are we allowing to exist? That’s something that the Encampment has taught me. We made our own community. We made community guidelines and discussed things openly. We were sat down in circles, understanding that everyone’s voice here was equal. One thing I still love to this day is the feather with the one mic, allowing that person to speak and to be heard. Everyone’s voice matters and we are all in it together at the end of the day. There was no real, singular lead at the Encampment.

Did the Encampment provide any notable opportunities to help you grow?

I’m currently an intern/advisor with the Youth Advisory Council with one of my best Encampment buds — you. I have been able to reconnect with so many inspirational young people all around the country. Back in July, with the world dealing with COVID, I thought it was the perfect time to dedicate my efforts to the Youth Advisory Council. Since then, we have received interest from recent alums to get involved; initiated and helped to facilitate a Voting Rights workshop with education director Michael Carter for the Black Student Union, funded by my alma mater Pace University; and begun the work of building a solid infrastructure with EFC staff for youth leadership to come. We are hard at work to make our goals of more youth leadership in the Encampment a reality.

Looking back, I had other notable opportunities from the time I was an Encamper. The Fall Leadership Institute held at the Blue Mountain Center in Blue Mountain Lake — I think you were there, too? That was super-cool. I wish we could do more stuff like that. It was an intensive weekend. It was amazing. I loved it and I love how the Encampment brings us to these culturally relevant areas. I love to say that I’ve been to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a museum that draws the connections between forms of racial injustice from slavery to incarceration, including a memorial to the thousands of people who were lynched.

At the 70th Anniversary Celebration, I was able to sit on a panel with the president of the Borough of Manhattan (Gale Brewer, 1968 MT alum) and talk about our different experiences and what we were doing in social justice work. I like being able to plan and lead initiatives with the Youth Advisory Council. I am able to be myself — it goes back to the family aspect. I can bring my skills to the table and refine them here at the Encampment in an accepting, warm and loving environment. I’m doing the work that I love to do thanks to the Encampment and having an impact on youth members and pushing the narrative and conversation farther. And any time I get on the [board meeting] call as the youngest board member, it’s such an honor.

Marquise (fifth from left, back row) and Angel (third from right, back row) at the 2015 Fall Leadership Institute, Blue Mountain Center.
Marquise and Angel (second and third from left) at the 70th Anniversary Celebration.
2018 Encampment at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice
(Marquise is seventh from right).

What is your advice for future Encampers?

When you come to the Encampment, be ready to not be ready. There are a lot of things that the Encampment pushes you into that you think you already know. You think, ”Oh, I know this topic, so I’m here for it.” Like I could talk about racism and feel like I have a strong stance on it, but it’s challenging because not everyone has access to those resources or experiences to fully comprehend something as deep-rooted as racism. In that moment when you are creating your community, there’s going to be a lot of challenging times and you are going to have to be prepared to challenge some of your own views. We all have things about us that are problematic. I would also say “be unready” because the Encampment is transforming you into something that has never been done before — not necessarily changing your “DNA” as a community member, but really changing the structure of how it operates. My experience as an Encamper compared to yours is going to be completely different, and that’s okay. Be ready to be unready.

For the future of the Encampment, we need you — we need your thoughts, your ideas, your passion. We need to move to the beat of your drum because you are the lifeline. Eventually our generation will fade out and we need the future generations to stand up.

As you know, the Encampment teaches you to be a global citizen — what do you think of the world today?

You know when you are in social studies class and you learn about all these things that happened in the 1900s and you think, “Wow, that’s so crazy that happened”? I’m in a place where I’m thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe this is happening right now.” This election was so important. All elections are important, but this one will set a tone for the next four years of this country. The last four years have shaken us to our core. Globally, there are a lot of initiatives that are being moved and people are becoming not just more aware of injustices, but it is now mainstream and popular to see the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter everywhere. I think my generation is slowly but surely picking up our pace to become more active in terms of social justice activities.

I like the way we are going. I like the conversations — since the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19, we will never be the same. I think we have finally kicked down a door, not the door, but a door, to having these conversations about privilege, about micro- and macro-aggressions, about pay gaps, about hiring diverse individuals and how diversity will be implemented. A lot of pledges have been made, and I don’t take that lightly. The American people don’t take it lightly, either. We are holding people accountable and demanding justice. I think it is just as serious as the #MeToo movement in terms of sexual harassment. This is something that is here to stay. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Nina Pop are some of the names whose experiences shook the world and caused it to stop. Because of that, other protests were able to come out and make changes, such as #EndSARS in Nigeria. I’m proud to see people are standing up for what they believe in. Being an Encamper tunes you into that conversation.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We are calling all EFC alums and supporters to make a change — or continue to make changes — in your community. We want you to know that the Encampment is your community. Let’s continue our work, past the summer program, to make an impact around the world. All it takes is one to influence the many.

YOU ARE INVITED

Alums from recent Encampments (2013–20) are invited to join the first Youth Advisory Council meeting on Tuesday, November 24, at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central/6 p.m. Mountain/5 p.m. Pacific. This is an opportunity to learn about opportunities for leadership in the Encampment. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88549119657

Meeting ID: 885 4911 9657

All EFC community members are invited to a community sing-along featuring Ms. Jane Sapp on Saturday, November 28, at 3 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Central/1 p.m. Mountain/12 noon Pacific.
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87295464410

Meeting ID: 872 9546 4410

For information about either of these events, email admin@encampmentforcitizenship.org.

Marquise (third from left) with fellow interns and Encampers at the 2017 Encampment.

Joanna Brandt, 1966 Kentucky and Now

What did you learn at the Encampment?

It gave me a perspective about another culture. As a city dweller, attending the Encampment in the hills of Kentucky was eye-opening. We encountered racism, subtle and overt. (There was a drive-by shooting one evening.) Fellow Encampers from Kentucky talked about feuds (still!) and moonshine-making (still!). Seeing the poverty — kids existing on Coke and baloney-on-white-bread sandwiches — still breaks my heart.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment?

Living in the “Holler” with a local family was the high point. Our host lived in a block of modest bungalows built by the War on Poverty program. However, because the folks up the block disliked our hosts for their support of integration, they cut off the water supply, so the tiny bathroom was used as a closet and our hosts had to haul water on the hood of their car, just like before the new homes were built. The day we arrived in the Holler, I got excited to see a stream running behind the houses. I ran up to it to get my feet wet, innocently picturing a pristine country stream. “Don’t go in,” I was admonished. “That stream backs up to the outhouses.” Sure enough, most of the homes still used the outhouses, for the reason just stated.

On the plus side, our hosts were lovely people. I was amazed by the wife’s ability to make delicious biscuits without measuring. Life was just so different from living in Brooklyn.

What community service projects do you remember?

We volunteered at the school/community center, leading programs for the children.

Tell us about your involvement with the work of the Baltimore Ethical Society (BES).

I am a yoga teacher certified in trauma-centered yoga therapy. I understand yoga as a healing modality that has the potential to transform individuals and society. This is how I have been involved in racial justice — working in integrated settings to create loving community, including teaching yoga and meditation to incarcerated individuals. However, for many years, I was not associated with a local ethical society.

Living in Baltimore in 2015 when Freddie Gray was killed, the injustice of his death and the community reaction spurred me to become more politically active. I started attending the Baltimore Ethical Society, where I knew ethical action was a priority. They hosted a politically oriented documentary series, offered powerful weekly platforms and collaborated with local liberal activist organizations.

I soon joined the board, am now vice president and am running for the presidency next April. Currently, our Ethical Action Committee is focused on combating climate change and fostering racial justice, from countering micro-aggression to unraveling systemic racism.

I am drawn to creating inclusive and self-aware community, so I am especially excited by the new wave of Ethical Leaders-in-Training. It’s a coming-together of what I have promoted my whole life. This multi-ethnic and multi-gendered generation of Ethical’s upcoming leaders espouses universal approaches that include [using] spirituality and the arts to address injustice. As a yoga teacher, what is especially meaningful for me is an emphasis on embodiment — for example, referencing My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, which addresses social trauma as expressed in our bodies. [Editor’s note: This was also a curriculum resource in the 2020 EFC virtual program.]

I’m also excited about recent efforts to connect the ethical societies — to create a larger community. Many societies take “road trips” by Zoom to join other Ethical Communities — and about the leadership of Bart Worden (executive director of the American Ethical Union) in creating monthly all-society Platforms, among other initiatives.

Why is the EFC important now?

The projects and training you are giving young activists inspires me. Their vision and energy is a response to the need of the times. The upcoming generation are inheritors of 1960s activism. They grew up experiencing racial integration, gay rights, women’s empowerment, a Black president, etc., so they see the benefits of liberties that have only recently become widespread. It is the perfect time to revive the Encampment.

Two 2019 Alums Aim to Help Predominantly White Institutions Create Sustainable Change

The 2019 Encampers were encouraged to choose an issue they felt strongly about and create steps to address it — an action plan. Over the three weeks of the program, Encampers looked at different issues, particularly the structural basis of and different kinds of discrimination, and observed successful social justice strategies first-hand. Mbali and a fellow Encamper chose micro-aggressions and decided to take a long view of the situation and provide guidance to institutions to make change that could be sustained, rather than a one-time discussion or conference. Working from their mission statement, “Aiding predominantly White institutions with information and guidance for cultivating sustainable change,” they came up with ideas and started assembling the pieces. “It’s like putting a puzzle together,” Mbali said.

Mbali is in first row, third from left.

While at the 2019 Encampment, she and her co-creator realized that they had a lot in common — including attending predominantly white boarding schools. The issue they would set out to address became clear when they started discussing micro-aggressions that had happened to them or they had witnessed. For instance, being asked by a stranger, “Can I touch your hair?” or being asked to represent an entire group of people in discussions at school.

These young women both want to facilitate conversations about privilege and racial bias on school campuses. Mbali explained, “These young people will be leading organizations in the future, and they need to develop a voice today. We have noticed in the last few years that there is more of a divide. Kids interested in talking about racism find it uncomfortable and difficult, and it’s hard for schools to go about changing flaws in the system without information.”

During COVID-19, they decided to focus on their in-progress website “Social Awareness for Change.” It contains resources for improving the social climate so these conversations can take place, eliminating structural discrimination and enhancing individual well-being. They have gathered articles and videos from a variety of sources that address the kinds of issues inherent in these institutions.

These hard-working young women have also constructed a series of interactive workshops exploring these issues and a resource list of websites, podcasts and social media. There is also a social media campaign to reach young people through the website. It will include survey questions similar to Buzzfeed quizzes: short, with lots of visuals. The answers to the questions would point the students to the topics that would be most beneficial to their schools.

We asked Mbali, “What resources would be helpful to you?” and she replied, “Adult allies — teachers and other adults to help in making contacts in schools so we can bring our resources to them.”

Contact Information

HOW DO WE CREATE ANOTHER WAY?

THE INTERSECTIONALITY OF RACISM, HEALTH, LAND, VOTING AND POWER

Week Three of the 2020 virtual Encampment focused on health, relationship to land, and voting rights, concluding with the 2020 Virtual InterGen(erational) Program. An overarching theme that emerged in the speakers’ talks was the importance of creating a new way to move forward, since the existing systems are not working for a majority of people. Health was considered in its broadest sense, ranging from “How does taking care of your own health affect your ability to do social justice work?” and cultural ways of building resilience to the long-term health disparities that COVID-19 shines a light on. Dr. Linda Quiquivix shared her journey as the daughter of immigrant farmworkers, through academia and popular education, and what it taught her about our relationship to the land. The 2020 InterGen(erational) Program’s keynote speaker was LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter. She is a profoundly inspirational speaker and her talk was a great way to start the InterGen.

CREATING PERSONAL AND CULTURAL RESILIENCE

Juna Rosales Muller started the week off with an interactive presentation focused on how our work for justice can be supported by personal and cultural resilience. She led the Encampers in a discussion that moved through examples of resilience that the young people saw in their own lives and communities to an exploration of ways to build or strengthen inner resources. Encampers mentioned breathing, drawing and singing. Juna added suggestions of other varied cultural resilience practices — such as humming, rocking, chanting, meditating and protesting — that can be done alone or in groups. She invited the Encampers to think about how they might create a piece of art to share a story of an injustice in their communities. InterGen participants were able to see the results on Saturday.

COVID-19 SHINES A LIGHT ON RACIALLY-BASED HEALTH DISPARITIES

Tuesday’s guest speaker was Jon Kerner (EFC alum 1965, Berkeley, California), an expert on health disparities, with more than 40 years of experience. His presentation launched with the question, “Which groups are affected by race and structural racism?” Answer: all groups viewed as being non-white. Through several examples drawn from the locations of the 2020 Encampers’ home communities, he showed that non-white groups are more affected by disease across the board. He explained that health is determined by a number of social factors, including education, income, employment, housing, health systems, transportation and more. He asked the young people to look at which of these determinants they might want to focus on when thinking about making changes in their communities. The Encampers spoke of several things that concerned them: people of color being more likely to be essential workers, at higher risk for contracting the disease; lack of access to good health care, sanitation or healthy food; people “blowing off” masks and partying in large groups, and some governors encouraging that behavior in some states.

Jon stressed the importance of community-based health initiatives through three examples: Salud America!, the Delta Health Center and Thunder Valley CDC Wakinyan Opha. He also showed a slide illustrating “Health Disparities — Then and Now” that included a 1966 quote from Dr. Martin Luther King: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane” and current statistics such as “Black American mortality rates for COVID-19 are 2X higher than for other races.” The discussion continued with Encampers delving more deeply into the social causes of health disparity, speaking from their own experiences in their communities.

HOW DO WE CREATE THIS OTHER WAY?

Dr. Linda  “Quiqui” Quiquivix, an EFC organizational partner in Ventura County, shared her life journey and her quest to understand the current system of land use and labor, and to look for alternatives that are more life-affirming. “I am the daugher of immigrants in Oxnard. It is a largely industrial agricultural community about an hour north of Los Angeles,” she said. “Growing up, we see where our food comes from and we see the very exploitative nature of food-growing intimately. Many of our familes work in industrialized agriculture and we hear so often that we should not work in agriculture; that we should go to school instead. So that’s what I did.”

“… I wanted to know why Los Angeles was the way it was — why we have freeways instead of subways, why Compton is Compton and Malibu is Malibu. In an Urban Geography class, I learned the history of the way it was developed … and none of it is inevitable. There are ideological reasons for the way the world is built.”

She took that curiosity to Palestine, where she began to think more about the importance of land. A further deepening occurred when she visited Chiapas, Mexico: “I didn’t really understand about the land until I walked with the Zapatistas … They are trying to figure out how we can build another world, rather than assimilate into this one dominant world; how we can respect other ways of being and living. Since then, they have created their own economy, their own cooperatives, their own schools, their own clinics, their own justice system — not as individuals but as a collective.”

What that showed her was, “We don’t have to relate to the land in an exploitative way and we should not relate to the land in an exploitative way. The land can be very healing — it can be a possibility for us to create those other worlds.” She left academia to explore popular education and anti-racism work, eventually deciding to work on a farm. She found a job as an educator at “The Abundant Table, a nonprofit farm started by radical leftist Christians with a social justice bent at the local university that has evolved in many ways to try to address some of the injustices of agriculture and pesticides and farm labor. We are now a worker-run cooperative.” Quiqui shared a slide showing the Oxnard Plain in southern California, where the farm is located. It lies between two rivers that have been depositing nutrient-rich sediment onto the plain for hundreds of thousands of years.

Oxnard is circled on the slide.

“A lot of people don’t know Oxnard; it’s a place you drive through to get from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara … you see strawberry fields, one crop — a monocrop. Our farm at The Abundant Table is not a monocrop farm though we do grow strawberries in a small patch. We’re a farm that is focused on community. We grow a lot of different crops. We then distribute boxes of food to the community — it’s organic. Sadly, that means that only folks with money can afford it because organic food is very labor-intensive, so it’s more expensive. I was hired to expand that program — community-supported agricultural boxes for farmworker families at highly subsidized prices so they have access to healthier food … We also talk about the importance of different relationships to the land for autonomy, liberation, for freedom. The capitalist system takes people off the land so we only have our labor to sell and have to buy everything. So we have to be employable because, if we are not employable, we have no food, no water, no shelter .… It’s a racialized system that devalues so much of life and the world to extract profit … the question for us is how do we create this other way?”

2020 VIRTUAL INTERGEN

Friday’s featured speaker, LaTosha Brown.

BLACK VOTERS MATTER — AND WE NEED A RADICAL RE-IMAGINING OF AMERICA

The 2020 Virtual InterGen launched with more than 60 participants — Encampers, alums, parents and supporters — from around the country, meeting with LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, powerhouse speaker and singer. She started with the song “Eyes on the Prize”: “Well, the first thing I did right, was the day I started to fight/Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on, hold on/keep your eyes on the prize and hold on, hold on.” Her talk was packed with information and a passion for justice.

Ms. Brown started by outlining the history and the components of Black Voters Matter, saying, “it’s a power-building organization that I, along with my partner Cliff Albright, founded in 2016 … We asked,  ‘What is missing — what do we need?’”

1. “Politics had begun to be held hostage by political parties and candidates in this country … the constitution doesn’t say ‘we the party, we the candidates; it says we the people’… When half of the country is not engaged in the process, fundamentally that is a weakening of democracy … 50% of the people are not even engaged in the process of demonstrating their own agency, of shaping their destiny and holding people accountable.”

2. “We wanted to create an organization that could support building from the ground up … we believe in the power of grassroots movements and organizations … just like trickle-down economics doesn’t work, trickle-down power doesn’t work either …”

3. “Voting has been reduced to a participation activity — voting is the extent that people participate—No! that’s not how we see voting — we see anything we are doing in that process is about building power … we unapologetically say, we want and deserve power … getting more resources in our communities, having a representative reflective democracy, having a government of people who are aligned with our values — that’s what’s critical and important to us …”

“Our theory of change is that we believe that there is already infrastructure in place and people in grassroots groups in communities all across this country—and in the South where the majority of Black people live—that’s where you usually see the least amount of political investment—that’s where our people are—and not only our people but when we’re thinking about this country right now — Welcome to the South! We all are living in the South right now … guess who is running America right now? … We are all now dealing with policies that are being driven out of the capital of white male patriarchy—white supremacy — which has rooted itself in the South.”

“There is hope, though, because when I think about the roots of civil resistance and civil rights and voting rights in this country — where do you think about? The South. A lot of the potential and power in this country is actually going to be [that] as the South goes, goes the nation. It has been the seat of white patriarchal power in this country and it has to be disrupted. But it’s going to take an effort of all of us to make sure we are disrupting it in a way that is literally ‘Don’t we deserve an America that looks like this [Zoom] screen looks right now?’

… to get there, … we have to take on and change systems and take our democracy back … When I think of the founders of America as a nation, and I love the Declaration of Independence, I love the idealism around that, but they created a document that says “all men are created equal” and did not honor that because they had limited vision … I’m particularly thinking of the Encampers who have to think beyond being a citizen — you are the founders of a new America. I want your ideas and your vision of the next generation of democracy — what does … a democracy look like that actually guarantees, supports, protects and prioritizes the rights of citizens — and voting? That we treat people as human beings and don’t put children in cages … that women who are a majority in the country are represented in the numbers. That … we have different ethnic races and genders. The beauty of America is all the different offerings we have.”

In response to an Encamper question, she ended with this point: “What will the future of voting look like? You will determine that — you don’t have to accept a broken system. We’re running this like a relay. I’m going to move my part forward and then you move your part forward.” She asked us all to participate in this exercise: “Close your eyes: Imagine America without racism. Sit with that a minute … now open your eyes. How many people couldn’t envision America without racism? It’s usually maybe one person at the most … how will we ever end racism in America if we cannot envision it?

 “We spend so much time responding to those that we already know have limited vision that we miss the opportunity of creating a new vision. The answers to everything we want to know, we already have. We have to take the time to use our radical re-imagining of what we want, and do the work to create and bring that into being in the world.”

Saturday’s morning session was devoted to small groups where Encampers shared their ideas for action plans — specific ways to make positive change in their communities — with alums, parents and supporters. The Encampers then asked questions of the other members of the group, drawing on their areas of experience. This format allowed for some in-depth exploration of issues such as addressing racism in schools, creating a recycling system in a boarding school, gentrification and voting rights.

In the afternoon, the Encampers shared what they had been learning and thinking about in the summer intensive in creative ways that ranged from drawings, paintings, slide shows and poems to a music video.

“I’m inspired by the social construct of authentic learning. As an educator, this is the way we need to allow youth to learn. Find their passion, what is important in their community, learning and connecting to see various perspectives and creating a action plan to improve their communities …” — Veronica Rauschenberger, EFC organizational partner and supporter

“I had been in a state of despair for the past few months over the direction the country is heading. The InterGen has given me reason to have hope, and to know that continuing the effort for change is worthwhile. The determination of the youth and creativity is inspiring.”— Jackie Frank, EFC alum 1971 Arizona

Intergenerational conversation is important because social justice work can be tiring and I know how negative one can get … By talking to younger people who haven’t been worn down by the system you can share that experience with someone who is really positive and also give them a head start.”— Lilia, 2020 Encamper

Seeing leaders leading from their heart. What’s my commitment? It’s more a renewal of my commitment to justice and equality.” — Ronald Pineda, EFC alum 1992 California

“Thank you, organizers — as a parent, I am so glad about the work the Encampment does with the young people and the intergenerational knowledge and skills-sharing that occurs.” — Demetria Shabazz, parent of 2020 Encamper

“My commitment is to the youth! You inspire me.” — Steve Davis, EFC Board

“I’ve been inspired by the personal vulnerability and courage of today’s Encampers and by the desire of alumni to be supportive. I’m committed to spreading the word among Ethical Societies, where the Encampment started.” — Anne Klaeysen, EFC board member

“AMAZING presentations. Thank you all for being you and for your inspirations. This is the Encampment!” — Carol Ahlum, EFC alum 1966 Kentucky

People in my [InterGen] breakout group encouraged me to make my action plan work – to go in ready to make a change. It’s inspiring and helpful that people believe that I can make this plan work and make a difference in my community.” — Nicholas, 2020 Encamper


Continuing thanks to our stalwart editor, Ruth Thaler-Carter, EFC alum 1970 New York. Any errors were made after her edits.

WHY IS QUESTIONING IMPORTANT?

Questioning is the core of the Encampment. We are teaching young people to go deeper as they grapple with complex social issues. Without that, we aren’t adequately preparing them to go forth as change agents, because the world is complex and filled with contradictions. It’s also important for them to understand the historical context of issues so we learn what worked well and what didn’t, and we are better prepared not to make the same mistakes.

”Teaching the questioning process lights the fire of curiosity and teaches a skill and a way of looking at things that can be applied to all areas of one’s life. There is power and energy in questioning, and that dynamic energetic process can serve as a motivator. Any effective social justice movement has to include questioning, internal and external. For instance, if you can bridge conflict or controversy — that is, two different points of view, ideas, perceptions, or experiences coming up against each other — then you have a different level of communication. In some ways, to have deeper communication, you have to allow for differences to surface.” – Margot Gibney

In our Week Two review, we look at how questioning was woven through the workshops and some of the controversy that came up.

“What does this phone have to do with social justice?”

On Monday, Jane Sapp led a discussion that demonstrates the power of critical thinking — a core part of EFC methodology. She began by holding up a cellphone and asking the group to wonder about the “who/what/why/where/when” of it. Encampers asked questions that covered the economic, political, social, cultural and personal context. A short list of their questions includes:

  • Whose labor helped to make it (and what are conditions like for them)?
  • What is the carbon footprint (and disposal issues)
  • Where was it made (and what is the political situation there)?
  • How does the phone affect the user — and the people around them?

Jane:  “Keep digging!”

Encampers:

  • What does your income have to do with the kind of phone that you have (and the stigma associated with not having an i-Phone)?
  • Are we complicit in the exploitation of workers who suffered to make the components in this phone (and do we become comfortable with that over time)?

Jane: “Is there something political about this phone?”

Encampers:

  • Can politicians use the tracking on phones/social media to change election results in swing states?
  • Who was in the testing group for this phone — was it diverse?
  • What about phone companies that have political affiliations we don’t agree with?

Jane: “You can use this questioning to unpack any topic or issue. You can think this deeply and critically about anything you are doing. It helps us when we are doing social justice work by making our strategies strong and helping us to understand the people we are working with.”

The group then had a spirited discussion of police brutality using this method. Jane led them through questions such as, “How did we get here? “Why are Black men and women being killed?” “Why are police the way they are?” “What started it all?”

The thread of questioning continued on Tuesday with Taylor Branch, EFC alum (1966DC) and author of the civil rights movement trilogy The King Years. He spoke briefly about his Encampment experience — including the mixed-race group being picketed by the Klan, and “endless sessions about strategy — it was fascinating to see how people from different parts of the country approach the issues.” He went on to talk about his early civil rights experiences in southwest Georgia, where John Lewis sent him to register voters in the summer of 1969. He felt completely lost: “All the preachers threw me out — I got arrested, I was terrified. Ultimately, I recommended three counties for voter registration projects, headed by women — midwives who had a natural authority in the communities where people were terrified.”

In response to an Encamper’s question about what made him turn away from his pre-med course and become a writer, Taylor said: “All the questions that the civil rights movement raised about the depth of religion, the depth of your civic faith, in equality, and what non-violence meant — those questions went much deeper in me than any commitment to medicine.”

Questions focused on similarities and differences in the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements.  One similarity that drew more questions was about the power of images, such as Emmett Till’s battered body or George Floyd being suffocated.  “… the power of images that break through people’s resistance and their reticence to get involved … That’s a beginning. The question that I tracked through the books, through people like Bob Moses and John Lewis and many of the others around Dr. King, is you have to figure out a way to take those images and fashion them into something that can take root — a goal —that you can explain, that you can organize around, that you can move forward — and the answers are never easy. They argued all night for years about what the process should be, what the message should be, how they could get people to come out for their demonstrations, what the goal was. The similarity is we have issues and a readiness, a quickening, which you had in the civil rights movement around sit-ins and that you have around police demonstrations, around Black Lives Matter. They are similar in their beginnings, and where the Black Lives Matter movement will go from here is really up to you guys.”

Toward the end of the session, an Encamper raised this question: “There’s an important conversation happening, at least in my end of the virtual world, where people are talking about who gets to do anti-racist work and who gets to tell anti-racist or Black stories and should White people be able to profit off of Black people’s stories and stories about Black-led movements? I’d like to know, in regard to that conversation, where is it that you fall and when you were writing your books and your new book, why did you think you deserved to be the person to tell that story?” After Taylor’s reply, the discussion continued in the breakout groups.

On Thursday, Nexooyet Greymorning, (EFC staff 1978–80) led the Encampers in a series of questions exploring indigenous issues. It was a powerful example of EFC’s teaching approach starting with: “What do you think it is like to be indigenous?” Answers from Encampers who identified as indigenous and those who didn’t led to the next question: “If justice was crafted for indigenous North Americans, what would it look like?” Again, answers ranged all over the spectrum and there was a discussion of educational, political, even religious issues associated with justice for Native Americans.

Nexooyet continued by asking, “How many people were here before Columbus?” The answer: Numbers vary but probably around 48 million. “How many are alive today?” Again, numbers vary but around 4 million. “What happened to 44 million people?” This led to discussing what is genocide and what is ethnocide. The Encampers, staff and fellows read aloud from the powerful “The Unraveling of a Colonized Mind,” written by Jana-Rae Yerxa, Anishinaabe from the Couchiching First Nation (https://twitter.com/janaraey?lang=en). The discussion then focused on one of her points — that Native Americans have been taught that their language is unimportant and have internalized this belief, leading to more loss of culture. This has become a crucial piece of undermining Native American sovereignty and treaty rights by the U.S. government, motivated largely by greed for the large deposits of natural resources under many reservations.

On Friday, Faya Ora Rose Toure’ circled back to civil rights history, the power of images to motivate people, the sit-ins and voting rights. She gave an in-depth look at events, particularly focused on Selma, Alabama. Here are just a few excerpts: “People here in the South saw those horrible pictures that were exposed in Jet magazine because the White press would not publish the pictures. Emmett Till’s mother insisted they be shown because she knew that her son would just be another dead Negro boy thrown into the Mississippi River. She was courageous and showed those pictures and young people throughout the South … said, ‘We are not going to take it anymore —we are not going to be treated as sub-human in a place that calls itself a democracy’ … they insisted that democracy is a part of what I have a right to.’

… So the sit-ins started in Greensboro, North Carolina, but it happened in other places that you’ll never hear about … they took risks that we do not even think about today. That’s why I always say that things did get better after the civil rights movement — but it was mainly because of the courage of young leaders who dared to be agents of social change when there was very little protection from the government. What’s happened with George Floyd is highly unusual — someone arrested within a week of killing a Black man—that is almost unheard of. Young people back then risked their lives literally each time they sat at a lunch counter to challenge discrimination….

And the same thing happened here in Selma, but the most-valuable contribution came when the students decided to protest about voting rights because people couldn’t vote in this place called a democracy. You have to understand the hypocrisy of the system to understand what it takes to be an agent of change. In 1963-64-65, there were less than 100 voters here in Dallas County. Next door in Lowndes County, there was not a single registered Black voter on the rolls in a county that was 7580% Black. And you had the elders like Sam and Amelia Boynton and C.J. Adams, a veteran, who long before Dr. King came here, laid the foundation for this movement. When Bernard Lafayette from SNCC came here in 1963, he began to organize young people —you know why? Because old people were too scared excepting a few people. Bernard Lafayette trained the young people (and some elders) in non-violent protest. Young people from the surrounding counties began to join the movement — silently — there was no national coverage at first … Then more elders joined a meeting at the Tabernacle Church, and that became known as the first mass meeting of the voting rights movement.”

Jane Sapp played a recording of Faya Rose Toure’s song “I’m Gonna Lift My Sister Up” for the Encampers as an example of arts activism. View the 2018 Encampers in Raymond, Mississippi singing this song.

2020 Encampment InterGen with featured speaker LaTosha Brown

Friday, July 24, 3:00 5:00 p.m. Pacific/4 6 Mountain/5 7 Central/6 8 Eastern

Featured speaker, LaTosha Brown presenting on the work of Black Voters Matter & open discussion related to Ms. Brown’s presentation and the question “What has given rise to the current movement?”

Saturday, July 25th (2 sessions)

9:00 11 a.m. Pacific/10 12 Mountain/11 1 Central/12 – 2 p.m. Eastern

2020 Encampers share their ideas for and questions about their post-summer-program action plans in intergenerational Social Justice in Action break-out groups.

1:00 3:00 p.m. Pacific/2 4 Mountain/3 5 Central/4 6 Eastern

Encamper Final Presentations, Intergenerational Discussion & Closing.

Register Today—If you cannot participate in all three sessions, let us know which one(s)you will attend.

Leadership in Crisis

Steve photo 2 sized for wordpress

By Steve Davis, EFC Board Member & Founder and CEO of the Institute for Human Relations, Inc.

June 5, 2020

Watching on television as another person of color dies unnecessarily at the hands of people who have taken an oath to “Serve and Protect” American citizens floods me with emotions. They first hit me all at once and then rise separately in a vicious cycle until I am almost paralyzed. Flashbacks of my own encounters with “the law” make me realize how fortunate I am to not have suffered a similar fate. I give thanks to my parents and grandparents for teaching me how to respond to police officers: “Yes, sir; no, sir”; move slowly; and never try to run away.

My emotions are compounded when I think of how the parents of those victims must feel, having taught their children the same lessons, and yet having to watch their children’s lives taken away on television as the children practice what they were taught! I can’t imagine the depth of pain, conflict, anguish and confusion they must feel as all the television networks replay the event in a cruel cycle of “breaking news.”

Unfortunately, this is not new to black Americans, and it is not new to white Americans. Just in the last few weeks, similar situations that did not make the breaking news have occurred in Georgia, in Kentucky and in other areas of America. Take a look at the USA Today article Police Killings of Black Men in the US and What Has Happened to the Officers.

I do not make this reference to vilify police. They are people who have taken a solemn oath to “Serve and Protect” us. They are people who put their lives on the line, every day. Many of us have family members who serve in law enforcement, and we are so thankful when they come home each day after their shift — and terrified by some of their accounts of their day.

However, something is wrong! Some individuals believe they are above the law, there are systems in place that support that attitude and behavior, and systems are repetitive.

In 1971, Dr. Robert Carkhuff performed an in-depth analysis of a report from the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission, which was formed after the riots of the summer of 1967. One outcome the report revealed was that the disorders were not the result of isolated incidents but a Cycle of Social Failure; a cycle that began before the founding of this country.

In his book The Development of Human Resources, Dr. Carkhuff outlines key principles of social failure. In summary, they are:

  1. Create a situation in which one group is systematically conditioned to experience itself as “superior” over another group that is conditioned to experience itself as “inferior.”
  2. Create and sustain the exploitation of the oppressed group by the “superior” group to create a state of frustration.
  3. Periodically raise up, then dash, the hopes, opportunities and initiatives of the oppressed group to create a state of aggression. This phase depends upon whether the power holders act or do not act to address the grievances of the oppressed group. No action is an action. It means that they choose not to care.
  4. Make the exploited group explode in uncontained fury by providing the conditions that enable the “superior” group not to act upon the grievances of the oppressed group.
  5. Perpetuate the cycle of social failure by providing the conditions that enable the “superior” group to engage in repressive behavior toward the first group. These are the same repressive activities that led to the original exploitation and privation.

In recent history, this cycle has repeated itself in situations like Watts; Newark, New Jersey; South Central Los Angeles; Little Rock; and Ferguson, Missouri, and now we are watching it once more play out “live” on television. However, one thing we do know about cycles and systems is that they are repetitive. If they are repetitive, then they can be anticipated. if they can be anticipated, then interventions can be planned. The question for our leaders is “What is your plan?” Surely, after so many iterations of the cycle, one would expect there would be a plan. However, there are no signs that a plan exists or, if one does, that there is any initiative to implement that plan.

On the opposite end of the same page are the protesters. The definition of protest includes organizing as a way of publicly making opinions heard as an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy, or of undertaking direct action and attempting to enact desired changes themselves. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Protest is the language of the unheard.” The first step in his strategy of organized protest was to bring those in power to the negotiating table. There can be no resolution without conversation. The last act before going to war is to cut the lines of communication! Even in my day of college sit-ins, the goal was to bring the administrators and leaders out to discuss our demands. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference provided intense training of their activists at places such as Highlander Folk School and on many college campuses. Protesting was a skill, with standards geared to achieving mutually beneficial results.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing today, aside from those with the deliberate intent to be destructive, is a result of untrained, impulsive, highly frustrated individuals without a plan or standards. If the goal is to resolve the problem, keeping in mind that the events that initiated the protest are only a symptom of a deeper problem, there must be a process that leads to a dialogue about the root cause of the problem. There must be ownership of the source of the problem, and an action plan implemented that is monitored, evaluated and continuously improved until the problem is resolved or turned into a mutual benefit.

There are key elements to an effective protest:

  1. Define the issue, who it affects, what those effects are, and the consequences of those effects (upon both those directly and secondarily affected).
  2. Identify who is directly producing the effects, who is encouraging those people producing the effects, and who has responsibility for the initiators and their supporters.
  3. Create a protest strategy that should include goals, objectives and tactics.
  4. Design methods to implement the tactics.
  5. Select the people to implement the tactics.
  6. Train those people in the strategy, goals, objectives, tactics and implementation methods, and the possible personal consequences of their action. If they don’t know the why along with the what, and if they don’t know the risks along with the how, they won’t be properly prepared.
  7. Select the right people to lead the protests, and teach them how to:
    1. Select and train protesters.
    2. Identify, remove or neutralize those who want to use destructive methods, or who want to disrupt the protest.
    3. Collect information and observe protest opponents to understand their motivation and the probable methods they will use to stop and/or eliminate the protest.
    4. Develop counter measures to their opponent’s methods.
  8. Teach them the interpersonal skills to engage with their protest targets so they can lay the groundwork for change and how to:
    1. Motivate and coordinate large groups of people to keep them on task and path.

Problem-solve and adapt to meet changing conditions and opportunities.

  1. Continuously improve what they do by studying and reflecting upon past events.
  2. Transition from protester to change implementer and help those who have been protesting make the transition to being change implementers.
  3. Involve the opposition in making and supporting change.

Ideally, this will provide protesters with a “Hip Pocket” and Guide to Constructive Protesting.

Once the protesters have a plan, we have to again ask our leaders, “What is your constructive plan for a mutually beneficial resolution to a crisis?” Leadership makes all the difference! Out of a crisis comes the opportunity for true leadership. During a crisis, you find out who you really are. A leader’s responsibility to respond reveals their ability to respond! Is the response constructive or destructive? An effective leader would have a plan to respond to each level of protest. The plan should include what you need to do before, during and after each level of protest so we don’t repeat the same behaviors that got us here in the first place.

Dr. Carkhuff’s analysis of community and government leaders in 1968 found that they had no plan to:

  1. Prevent the crisis.
  2. Anticipate the crisis
  3. Alleviate the crisis — only have a plan to suppress the crisis; only a plan for

repression.

Now, 50 years later, we have to ask how much better our national and community governments have become at leadership, in equal opportunity and at social justice. If repression is still their only response, then we have to protest, but if destruction is our only method of protest, then there’s little hope we will ever address the root cause of this crisis of opportunity and justice. We will continue to wonder who will be the next family to watch their loved ones lose their lives needlessly on television … again.

Dr. Carkhuff concluded his analysis with this sobering prediction: that the price of continuing to do what we have been doing is staggering. “There can be no victory. This is a conflict which the Black American cannot survive. This is a conflict from which the white American cannot recover.”

We are staring squarely in the face of a choice between continued Inaction or action for social change that can reverse the Cycle of Social Failure. What is our plan? Without a plan, the outcome is predictable. I strongly suggest that we all read or reread Dr. King’s final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. There is no guarantee we will have another chance.

Steve Davis is a member of the Encampment for Citizenship board. He is founder and CEO of The Institute for Human Relations, Inc. During his forty years in Secondary and Higher Education, he has impacted thousands of lives as an Educational Administrator, Diversity Practitioner, and Athletic Coach. Mr. Davis also played in the Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl Football Classics for Penn State University.

He can be reached at stevedavis@ihrinc.org

DSC_0644 steve davis with pomfret youth 70th

Steve Davis with Encampers (K.C. O’Hara, Talibah Alexander, Angel Kermah, Wade Atkinson) at the 70th Anniversary Celebration, 2016.

Two New Voices Join the EFC Education Team and Share their Vision for the EFC during COVID-19

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing our two new program directors: Juna Rosales Muller and Matthew Robinson. They join Education Team members Michael Carter, Jane Sapp and Margot Gibney in creating the 2020 summer program. They are dynamic youth educators, ready to engage virtually with Encampers from all parts of the country this summer. Here are just a few highlights of their backgrounds, what inspires them and their vision for the Encampment 2020.

IMG_0272 Juna Rosales Muller

Juna, you come to the EFC with an extensive background in working with young people, environmental justice and the arts. Would you tell us about your formative experiences?

I was born in Los Angeles and my parents later moved to Ojai, California. Both my parents are an inspiration to me. My mother is an early childhood educator who specializes in anti-bias education, children’s music and literature. My father is a multimedia artist whose work and relationships in the Chicano Art Movement in Los Angeles inspired my creative esthetic and community-based ethics. I come from a line of teachers, lawyers and activists. My family home is a place of music, art, tasty food and lively discussions of justice.

At Colorado College, I became engaged in political ecology — the sharing of land and resources across cultural divides. In both urban and rural environments, access to and governance of resources is deeply political. One example is the current global health crisis — people’s lives are deeply impacted by the politics, spatial relationships and communities in which they are sheltering. Finding ways to increase equity and dialogue about our basic needs is essential. We will be looking at many aspects of this in the Encampment 2020.

I have spent the past 10 years working in the field of experiential education, with a particular focus on arts and justice-based education. This included co-founding and co-teaching Spiral, a young womxn’s farming intensive held at Dig In Farm in Massachusetts, as well as working with many other youth organizations. Most recently, I was program director at a nonprofit called Quail Springs, which educates youth and adults about cultivating regenerative human communities.

Matt Robinson crop plus

Matt, what about you?

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. My parents are also an inspiration to me, along with young people, art and dancing. My mother is a quiet storm. She always reminds me to be mindful of my spirituality, no matter what course I am pursuing. It is like what Jane Sapp said to us about teaching and facilitating: “You can know the policy and the practice, but you need heart and inner peace to make it work.”

I relocated to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College and majored in international Studies. Originally, I wanted to understand cultural politics, diplomacy and the way laws work in a global way, but stepping into a classroom to teach as part of a local field experience changed the course of my studies and my life. I went on to get my master’s from Georgia State in Educational Policy Studies. There, I focused on using arts integration as a framework for school improvement. I loved my experience and, since then, my focus and work have both evolved. I like to position youth to be problem-solvers and creators who can use different forms of art as a framework for social justice. That’s one reason why I am excited about the EFC’s methodology and look forward to applying it in a virtual way this summer.

What drew you to apply to the Encampment?

Juna: I was hungry for the focus on justice and equity while working with young people in experiential, arts-based ways. I trust in young people’s innate sense of justice and want to continue to center their voices. I consider teaching a sacred vocation, and I’m continually learning. It feels both exciting and challenging.

Matt: I’m in no way a traditional educator. It’s a calling, and I have always done well at building relationships, both in the classroom and as an administrator. That said, the four walls of a school are limited. I was looking for a space that would allow me to do what I know and am passionate about: to engage young people with experiential learning and art with a social justice focus.

Juna, would you tell us about one way that you have used arts for community organizing?

I’ve spent the past 10 years working with the questions of how to integrate arts into social justice work. Included in that is the hope to find ways we can share our cultures that make the process joyful, celebratory and meaningful. One example is a project that came out of a teaching internship through the Woolman Semester, a school focused on the intersections of peace, social justice and sustainability. I started leading trips to the U.S./Mexico border — it was a beautiful cross-section of experiences for the youth and for me. I felt compelled to share these stories. I had an image of quilts made up of clothing left behind by people crossing the desert toward the U.S. border. We collected the clothing and I began making quilts that respond to the exclusionary nationalism expressed by many toward immigrants. I’ve been lucky enough to take this participatory project to community centers, museums, galleries and universities in the years since. The project, Mending Patriotism, aims to provide a space for learning and exchange about the issues of border-crossing, human migration and national identity (http://mendingpatriotism.blogspot.com/).

Matt, would you tell us about your experiences with Hip-Hop Education?

I was inspired by a powerful Black female professor of social justice education, Dr. Bettina Love, who is a leader in the Hip-Hop Education movement. At the 2013 March for Education, she spoke, with two students, about the lived experiences of engagement with Hip-Hop Education. I was deeply impressed by their sense of selves and ability to speak publicly. Hip-Hop Education uses music and other forms of culture to affirm identity and create a platform for deeper learning that is culturally relevant to individuals and their respective communities. Hip Hop Education informs a part of my own teaching and research. I have used it to build classroom culture, improve fluency skills in mathematics and English language arts, and strengthen the sociocultural awareness of professional educators.

Juna and Matt, what inspires you?

Juna: Laughter, meaningful conversations, beauty, drawing, working with clay, music and singing, taking walks, planting seeds, cooking, sewing alone or with others. And I’m over the moon about getting to collaborate with Matt! He’s such a skilled person with incredible expertise —and heart, kindness, enthusiasm, appreciation, laughter and affirmation!

Matt: Teaching and learning, working with young people, the fine arts, family, growth, gratitude, and reflection. Working with Juna is a dream come true — we are the epitome of collaboration in terms of thinking things through and creating experiences that are intentional and holistic.

What is your vision for the 2020 Encampment?

Going virtual is definitely new territory for us all. That said, we are excited by the possibilities a virtual program opens up for connecting young people across the country. We are creating an immersive experience that is supportive of the young people’s lives and the social justice issues that engage them. We will use the virtual medium to make connections across boundaries and learn about the communities in which the Encampers live. We’ll focus on personal and community awareness and provide tools for artful thinking and integration. We’ll be exploring health equity issues; community resilience; and understanding ways to work for social justice through local, state and tribal governments.

We hope we’ll also have some fun as we create a network of support and inspiration that continues beyond July. That will include working with the young people through the fall to support their action plans. Each Encamper will identify a social justice issue that they want to address. They’ll receive tools and support throughout the program and beyond to carry out their action plans. Our intention is to continue the EFC’s tradition and adapt to the conditions we’re in with COVID-19, doing our best to integrate the arts and creativity at every turn.