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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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
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.
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!”
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?”
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 theirreticence 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 75–80% 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
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.”
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.
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.”
Create and sustain the exploitation of the oppressed group by the “superior” group to create a state of frustration.
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.
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.
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:
Define the issue, who it affects, what those effects are, and the consequences of those effects (upon both those directly and secondarily affected).
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.
Create a protest strategy that should include goals, objectives and tactics.
Design methods to implement the tactics.
Select the people to implement the tactics.
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.
Select the right people to lead the protests, and teach them how to:
Select and train protesters.
Identify, remove or neutralize those who want to use destructive methods, or who want to disrupt the protest.
Collect information and observe protest opponents to understand their motivation and the probable methods they will use to stop and/or eliminate the protest.
Develop counter measures to their opponent’s methods.
Teach them the interpersonal skills to engage with their protest targets so they can lay the groundwork for change and how to:
Motivate and coordinate large groups of people to keep them on task and path.
Problem-solve and adapt to meet changing conditions and opportunities.
Continuously improve what they do by studying and reflecting upon past events.
Transition from protester to change implementer and help those who have been protesting make the transition to being change implementers.
Involve the opposition in making and supporting change.
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:
Prevent the crisis.
Anticipate the crisis
Alleviate the crisis — only have a plan to suppress the crisis; only a plan for
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.
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.
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, 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.
EFC 2020’s virtual approach will connect a network of young changemakersduring this global health crisis and nurture resilience and agency among them.
“The Encampment truly cares about the success of young people. The program does a great job of connecting youth from all over the country and cultivating their visions. I learned so much about myself, my community and the issues that affect others. I was able to connect my ideas with the ideas of other youth around the country, and I gained a new perspective.” — Sarahi, 2019
JULY 6-25, Monday-Friday plus July 25
In 2020, EFC centers its community-based and arts-as-activism learning approach on:
health equity issues;
understanding ways to work for social justice through local, state, tribal and national governments;
effective responses to social justice issues;
and getting out the youth vote.
Participants will learn and practice the powerful strategies of critical thinking, action planning, and using creativity and the arts in working for social justice.
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
Get information about how to get involved with local or national Get Out the Vote organizations or campaigns
Learn to use the creative process to work for social justice
Draw on the arts as an organizing tool for change in your community
Use the arts to get out the youth vote
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
Learn from social justice leaders across the nation
Grow your network of intergenerational changemakers
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
“The Encampment changed the course of my life. I became conscious of social justice issues through the curriculum and through my fellow Encampers, who became like family to me. I realized the importance of my voice, and the power of my generation to make change. It was also a great addition to my college application.” — K.C. O’Hara, 2014
As always, the fees are on a sliding scale ($50–$1,500), 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.
Jason Warwin, second from left. Picture from an Ethical Schools podcast* on The Brotherhood/Sister Sol.**
An Interview with Jason Warwin,
(1989 Encampment, California)
What did you learn at the Encampment? I am a proud Encampment for Citizenship (EFC) alum. The Encampment was my awakening. The EFC gave me an opportunity to learn about issues that were affecting people around the world and to put my own experience with oppression into context. The experience has never left me. As it did for many alumni, the Encampment empowered me to find my calling and shaped the trajectory of my life.
How has the Encampment influenced your life? In 1994, several years after my Encampment, I founded a youth development organization called The Brotherhood/Sister Sol. For over two decades, we have been at the forefront of efforts to provide support, guidance and liberatory education to Black and Latino youth in New York City, helping them understand and overcome the obstacles in their lives and develop the skills to combat them. My work is just one of countless programs throughout the nation that stem from young people’s experiences nurtured at the Encampment for Citizenship. That makes the EFC’s impact, both directly and indirectly, truly beyond measure.
Why is the EFC important now? As we look at the state of the world today, it is clear that we need the Encampment. We are witnessing a new era of racism, xenophobia, bigotry and violence spreading throughout the world, stoking hatred and divisiveness amongst peoples. In this environment, it is critical that we cultivate programs that will help young people come to terms with our current reality and the issues that impact our lives — programs based on dynamic civic education focused on social justice.
The Encampment gives them community, skills and programs where they can engage in learning about and discussing critical issues amongst peers from various races, creeds and origins. Where they can make sense of the world, and find ways to build solutions together. Where they can develop a passion for social justice, and learn to turn that passion into positive action. This is the EFC’s crucial work with the next generation of civic leaders and activists.
What motivated you to go to the Encampment? I had a couple teachers who recommended the program to me. My teachers and my parents encouraged me. They saw my leadership potential and thought the Encampment would be a positive experience. I don’t remember how it was funded. My parents certainly paid for part of it. We may have gotten a scholarship as well.
What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn? I believe my group studied the struggles in the Middle East. I remember feeling that there were serious problems in the world that most of my peers knew nothing about, and cared nothing about. The studies/discussions helped me to realize the connection between history and current events, and fed my love of learning.
What field trips do you remember? I remember travelling into San Francisco to volunteer with a food distribution organization. We packed grocery bags with dry goods that were given to low-income families. I also remember going to visit Yosemite.
How did the Encampers get along? We had Encampers from across the country and some international. It was a very diverse group: White, Black, Latinx and Native American. I was amongst the younger Encampers; it was the summer after 10th grade. I recall everyone was eager to make friends. There were some cliques that developed, but I did my best to connect with lots of different folks.
There was a crew of POC (People of Color) folks from NYC and other major cities who had similar experiences to me, but there were folks from the Midwest, rural Canada and other rural areas who had an entirely different way of life. And White folks as well whose experience was quite different from mine.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to share? After attending the Encampment and having a life-changing experience, I learned that my great-uncle, Fred Jerome, had also attended the Encampment — in 1958 (Berkeley). My uncle was a founder of the Progressive Labor Party, and his father, V.J. Jerome, was chair of the Communist Party USA’s Cultural Commission. Needless to say, the Encampment had a major influence on both of us. Last summer, 2019, I was proud to send my son Mazai to the Encampment. EFC has become a family tradition! Jason at the 2016 Encampment InterGen(erational) Weekend with Encamper parent Velada Chaires and EFC board member Beth Mattison reporting back on their break-out group.
Aurelia Brazeal speaking at the Encampment for Citizenship’s 70th Anniversary.
How has the Encampment influenced your life?
My EFC experience set me on the path to become a career U.S. diplomat and ultimately a three-time Senate-approved U.S. Ambassador. This early exposure to experiential learning approaches underscored the importance of democracy, of cultural competence and of building bridges.
What did you learn at the Encampment?
In 1963, at my Encampment in Puerto Rico, as a young African-American, I did not believe I could say to my fellow Encampers, “as a future leader of my country, I am here to tell you …” When the young Latin American Encampers actually made such statements, I became intrigued. What gave them their confidence? What cultural differences made them so brave? Could I, an African American and a woman, expect to be a leader of my country? These, and many more questions, focused my attention on the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy — a primary objective of the 1963 Encampment.
Your Encampment was in a rural camp in Puerto Rico — can you tell us more about that?
I remember the rustic camp buildings and the critters, including mice, in the camp buildings. There was a swimming hole in the rainforest where some of us went swimming. Driving up/down the “mountain” road to the camp and visiting the beach. I also recall the sessions where we tried to hammer out an system of governing ourselves, which we never achieved because of the differing American and Latin American parliamentarian systems and cultures.
Why is the Encampment important now?
Now, we need the Encampment more than ever. Is it as dismaying to you as it is to me that the very issues we all worked on decades ago are still at the forefront of our nation’s challenges? In these perilous times, there is a need to pass along to young people some of the very precious lessons I learned in the Encampment. In a globalized world, we cannot demonize the “other”; to do so challenges our sense of humanity. We have to be bridge builders. The EFC is a living experiment in participatory democracy with a lifelong impact. Just one aspect is that young people can see that their informed and compassionate activism can make a difference.
Today, I can think of no single program that is more important in shaping the next generation of activists we so desperately need than the Encampment. Encampers will provide the agency to find new and creative solutions to our nation’s challenges. The Encampment gives youth both hope and skills to work toward their vision of a better world for us all.
Note: Aurelia Erskine Brazeal is a retired American diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, United States Ambassador to Kenya and United States Ambassador to Ethiopia.
What did you learn at the Encampment? I learned the importance of activism, education, knowledge, and involvement in the community. We learned the critical importance of being aware of political views on both sides including those views by divergent groups that we may be wary of, both from the Left and Right. Stokely Carmichael, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and other political/community leaders were speakers at our Encampment. The EFC emphasized the importance of being informed and of making a difference
How has the Encampment influenced your life? The Encampment taught me not to be shy to take risks—to explore and journey into unfamiliar life experiences to enrich one’s self. Upon returning from my EFC experience, I joined three other Hispanic students at the University of Southern California to organize the Mexican American Student Association (MASA). USC recognized MASA as a Hispanic student organization for the first time ever.
In 1970, I won a three-year management internship with the U.S. Government, thus becoming part of the first group of Hispanics in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, & Welfare Management Intern Program. My first intern assignment was at the HEW in New York City. I worked on assessing the federal government’s impact upon urban cities receiving federal dollars for community/social improvement in cities such as Hoboken, East Orange, Passaic, N.J.; and Buffalo, South Bronx, N.Y.
In the ‘70s, while working for HEW in Washington, D.C., I left my desk in an obscure Washington, D.C. office to join a hundreds of marchers on Pennsylvania Avenue who marched in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union. We were protesting the work lives of those who worked in the farm fields across America. I was sprayed with tear gas that afternoon, and later returned to my desk in that obscure Washington, D.C. office building.
In addition, after working for the U.S. government for 47 years, I did not feel compelled to join the ranks of Beltway consultants to enrich myself with money. I chose the honorable profession of a school bus driver in my local community. Been doing that since retiring in 2015. What a blast!
Why is the EFC important now? Balance. The extreme right, and Nationalist Right and current administration are destroying our democracy. When I was a young Encamper, the threat of the Soviet Union then was a constant in the news. Now, Russian assets may be influencing our elections and government.
What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment? My EFC roommate, now a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Parting the Waters, America in the King Years, was back then my great friend and social partner during those weeks on campus at the University of Maryland. We had good times, getting hyped up on the importance of social justice, and making a difference in our community.
What motivated you to go to the Encampment? In 1966, my college political science professor at East Los Angeles College, Dr. Helen Miller Bailey, strongly encouraged me to attend. She paid for my expenses. A 2014 Book of her Life by author Dr. Rita Soza captured my own Life story as a Chicano growing up in East LA. The Book is entitled: “Helen Miller Bailey: The Pioneer Educator and Renaissance Woman Who Shaped Chicano(a) Leaders”
My interest was taking a risk to get out of East LA. Had I stayed in East LA during the summer, I probably would have been like many friends at the time – in trouble with the LAPD, in jail or on the streets, even though I had reluctantly applied for, and won admission to, the University of Southern California.
I wanted to learn how I could make a difference working for the US government. Moreover, I wanted to get a J-O-B and stay out of trouble with the law.
When you arrived, what was your first impression of the Encampment? I saw many pretty girls and lots of White folks. There were many students who had “funny accents” (Russian, French, and Southern U.S. country-speak such as my roommate Taylor had (He was from Georgia, I think)).
What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn? We learned about the political landscape and interrelationship of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. I was impressed that high-level politicians and community activists came to speak with us or were willing to have us visit their offices.
How did the Encampers get along? How did this change over the time you were together? In the beginning, some were aloof and avoided others. In addition, cliques formed. However, we all got along. Some stayed with others who they felt comfortable with—folks like themselves. That was okay since we had time during the evening hours to all be together. We all were young. At first, many of us were Introverts, like me, who soon became, outward and more able to interact because of the EFC experience. There were tensions initially with my roommate Taylor and me. We didn’t talk much during our initial times living together, but later became close friends and at the end, I became an emotional wreck, tearing up when we said goodbye.