Encampment Alum Interview: Shauna Marshall, 1970, Great Falls, Montana

We interviewed Shauna Marshall who is a Professor Emerita at Hasting Law School, San Francisco, CA. She began her career as a trial attorney for the US Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.  Later, she joined Equal Rights Advocates as a staff attorney working on impact cases, policy initiatives and mobilizing campaigns on behalf of low-income women and women of color.  She then spent four years in the Stanford and East Palo Alto community, lecturing in the areas of civil rights and community law practice at Stanford Law School and directing the East Palo Alto Community Law Project.  She served as Hastings Associate Academic Dean from 2000 – 2002 and Academic Dean from 2005 – 2013.  Professor Marshall writes in the area of community law practice and social justice. Her greatest joy is mentoring future social justice advocates. She is married to Encampment board member, Bob Hirsch (70MT).


What motivated you to go to the Encampment? I wanted to do something where I was working with a community to help that community. I didn’t know about social justice in particular but I wanted to serve. And, coming from a mostly-white suburb, I wanted to meet a wider diversity of teenagers, especially teenagers of color. A friend had gone in 1969, Ezra Swerdlow, and he recommended the Encampment. Then I went to the library and read about the EFC.

When you arrived, what was your first impression of the Encampment? Actually, my first impression was before we got there. I signed up to go to on the Encampment with a girlfriend. We wanted to travel on the EFC chartered bus but we signed up late and didn’t get a spot so we ended up going on a greyhound bus. I was excited when I saw the diverse teenagers on the chartered bus even if I wasn’t on it. And to make matters worse, our greyhound bus broke down in Montana before we made it to Great Falls. The Encampment sent a van to pick us up with a couple of staff members. Everyone was so welcoming that I thought, ‘This is going to be a great experience!’

The accommodations were bleak; we were housed in the Heisey Memorial Youth Center gym. There were two rooms for 40 girls. We had bunk beds with 12 girls in one room and 28 in a larger room. All 40 boys were in one room. At the first meeting of all of the Encampers, the director stood up and turned the meeting over to us and told us we had to build our own community, develop our rules; essentially we were responsible for designing a civic democracy. We felt overwhelmed at the task.  We were all high school students, some of us had had part- time jobs, had been involved in student government but we had never designed an entire system from scratch.


What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn? One topic that was new to me and changed my life was the introduction to the women’s movement and feminism. As a young woman of color, I realized that summer that for me to be successful I would have to tackle barriers put before me because of my race and my sex. I had always understood racism but not sexism. I was probably heading down a career path that involved social justice but the Encampment confirmed that that was what I wanted to do with my life. I became a lawyer and spent many years working on issues of discrimination facing low-income women and women of color. I later became a clinical law professor; again, I think the Encampment inspired me to teach and help create the next generation of social justice activists. The EFC staff were great role models and I wanted to replicate that experience in some way.

That summer I learned many things, my world was expanded. We had a speaker from the John Birch Society. He presented a point-of-view that was both controversial and antagonistic to Encampers. I thought it was amazing that he had the nerve to come to tell us about his bigoted hierarchical organization. We also had someone come from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Their approach to “supporting” Native Americans was patronizing, demeaning and with an intent to maintain the status quo.  The Encampment created an environment where we were allowed to challenge the views of the presenters and to probe more deeply. I also learned about the lives of small family farmers and their struggle to maintain their way of life through the Montana Farmers’ Union. I learned that it is possible for people from diverse backgrounds to form a community and to break through cultural differences and perceived barriers.


How did Encamper self-government work for your Encampment? We were thrown in the deep end of the pool and told to swim. There was a regular time for meetings. I can’t recall who led them. Perhaps we rotated? These were intense meetings. We dealt with the mundane—like how late people talk or listen to radios given that we were all living in tight quarters.  And, there were deeper issues, like the one recounted below in my most memorable experience. The Encampent did set our schedule for meals and programs but we had to figure out the other rules for the community in town meetings. Staff would help guide us if we got too out of control. It was a great lesson in community democracy.

What field trips do you remember? Montana was beautiful. We went to Glacier National Park. I remember the beauty of the glaciers and Lake McDonald. We hiked and climbed the Bob Marshall Wilderness. In addition, we went to the Montana Farmers’ Union Family Camp. We played softball and had a campfire, something which I had not experienced being a city-suburban girl. The farmers who were members of the Union were struggling to keep their small farms and their livelihoods but were being pushed out by agribusiness.


What community service projects do you remember? I worked on a tutoring program for Blackfeet Indians who attended public school in Great Falls.  The program was developed in the summer for the following fall.  The program was designed so students would tutor each other. We were in charge of getting together the logistics and materials. I got to visit the next summer and see that the program had taken off.


How did the Encampers get along? How did this change over the time you were together? By working together on projects and building a democratic community, we became a close and connected community even though at the beginning, we weren’t sure we had that much in common. Like any group of 80 kids, cliques formed. My clique was very diverse with Black, White, and Latina kids.

We had an incredibly gifted staff. They were smart and psychologically attuned to the needs of teenagers.  And they were young enough that we saw them as hip (ages ranged from 20s to 40s). They knew how to ask questions when needed and diffuse situations when necessary. By participating in workshops, projects and town meetings together and by doing fun outings together like camping and hiking we formed a community.

What were some of your favorite leisure time activities? Basketball, and we had a Black performance group. Our group learned African dance and drumming and we sang, read poetry, danced and drummed for the other Encampers and at community events.

How has the Encampment influenced your life? Well I met my husband (Encampment board member, Bob Hirsch 70MT). That was a big deal! In addition, as I mentioned earlier it influenced my choice of career.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment? The most memorable experience was a community meeting during which we learned that some Encampers had had personal items stolen. Some Encampers suspected that one of the black Encampers, a guy from Harlem, had taken the items. A few white Encampers, while well meaning, made comments that displayed racist assumptions and were quite naïve. We talked really late into the night. We weren’t going to end that meeting until someone came forward and we reached resolution on how to handle the matter. I don’t exactly remember how it was resolved but I do remember that we ended up having heated arguments until we had a “break-through” late into the night. That meeting was a turning point; we became a closer community, one that was more open with one another. By the end of the session, it was heartbreaking to leave – being wrenched from that close community.

You participated in the 2014 Intergenerational Weekend in Chicago. How was that for you? What impressed or touched you most? It was great. I was put in a group led by an incredible staff member Michael Carter who had us do great interactive exercises. Most impressive were the Encampers—they were amazing. They were smart, honest, talented, and enthusiastic. The performance at the end was educational and entertaining. 

Where do you see the EFC going in the 21st Century? I’d like to see it grow, thrive, and serve more students from diverse backgrounds. It is important that privileged youth attend. The year I went to the Encampment, there were three Encampments held in different locations. Those were different times. People were more concerned about civil rights and the anti-war movement was growing. Parents were more likely to send their teenagers to the Encampment so they could explore issues of social justice.  Today, parents are more likely to send their kids to programs that enrich their students’ educational opportunities, like camps focused on technology. Our society has become very competitive and focused on money-making opportunities and it is a challenge for the Encampment to recruit a diverse group.

Any thoughts on the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act? It’s interesting to look at the erosion of some of the provisions and the way disenfranchisement has taken hold. We have to look more broadly than the Voting Rights Act. Now there are so many more sophisticated ways to inhibit voting, i.e. screening tests, having insufficient numbers of ballots in certain urban areas, limiting voting times and eliminating or restricting mail-in voting.


Do you see a connection between the Encampment and Ferguson, Missouri?

The Encampment can make a difference by providing young people with the tools to take on the causes of injustice that create events like Ferguson.

Interview with Aaron Richardson (2014 Encamper) & Beth Ward (Aaron’s mother)

What made you decide to come to the Encampment? My mom told me that it was a social justice program with a democratic aspect. When I read up on it I liked it that discussions would be specific as opposed to slight.

You wanted an intensive experience? Yes.

BW: I liked that too and I knew that Aaron was moving toward social justice.

So your mom told you about the Encampment and then you read about it but what was the strongest influence on your decision to go? I knew the basics but having my interview with Mike (staff member Michael Carter) really made a difference. He knew about the workshops and what the schedule would be and what the days would look like. I liked the one-on-one conversation.

It’s the end of November so you’ve had a long time to think about your Encampment experience.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind? The circle discussions, especially at night. And, specifically when Ms. Sapp was calling us out on interrupting during an event that day. She made it clear that we were all responsible for the whole group. A lot of groups miss that. For example, with my club, everyone is responsible; it’s not just ‘do your own thing’.

I remember the activist Barbara Ransby (Social Justice Initiative at University of Illinois at Chicago). She was interesting. She talked about capitalism being at the root of issues. And that different psychological issues cause disbelief in feminism.  Issues a lot of people wouldn’t want to touch on. I self-identified as a feminist before the Encampment but I came out really strong as a feminist in the group of males and as an ardent supporter of girls who identified as feminists.

For our workshop (Agents of Social Change), we had to choose five issues that were most important to us.  We chose music, education, violence in our communities, feminism and medical assistance. I chose feminism along with three girls (Alexis, Kaiyana and Rachel). We had to give reasons why we chose the issue, give solutions to specific problems, and present to the group for problem-solving. Mike asked me, How does it feel to be a male feminist in a group of females? I said, ‘Not only should men be feminists because it’s the right thing to do but if you have people in a social hierarchy then a lot of people have the privilege not to think about women’s rights. Men can leave it to the women and if men are always in power then it’s not going to change. Not being involved in struggle and not helping is remaining ignorant.’  I’m in a position of power as a male then if I talk about it, it brings a different audience to feminism.  I’m not just talking about Black issues. If I talk about it then it puts a light on what the women and girls are saying already. Maybe they will listen to them directly.

BW:  I figured EFC was right up his alley and that he would love it. We have been active in social protests since he was a baby in the stroller. I knew that the Encampment would mean the making of an activist. I like the fact that he made friends so quickly. Even though he didn’t talk about it. I think it was an overwhelming experience —  and that he had so much fun. I wish he could do again. I noticed that his connections with everyone have been outstanding. The kids seemed to have formed a really cool bond and I feel a little like an ‘outsider.’ Fine with me! I’m just appreciative that this was something that he was able to connect to, make friends, and LEARN from. When he told me he met Fr. Michael Pfleger, I knew things were going in a direction that he needed. The EFC is a part of how he is becoming who he is supposed to be.

What’s the strongest piece that stayed with you and stands out? What is something you would tell someone your age? There were a lot of opposing views and some of kids took it strongly. But the attitude of the staff kept the Encampment together. They helped make things happen and things were not random but connected for each day and week. There were specific events and activities based on the topics for that time.  We met Father Michael Pfleger of Santa Sabina Church and then we went to the Korean Cultural Center. It was great watching them dance, and do spoken work and other performing arts. They make spoken word videos on immigration issues and they send them to members of Congress asking them to do something. They really seemed like they were into it. That was an interesting mix of young people, not just Koreans but African-American kids too. I still think about that. There are many issues going on about immigration now I didn’t know anything about it before EFC

So it opened your eyes, exposed you to issues in a way you hadn’t been before?  It’s a big issue for some of the young people at the Encampment. One person in my music workshop is the son of farm workers who are un-documented. We got to talking and he told me he wished Congress would pass the Dreamers Act so he could try to be legal citizen and get to go to college. I talked with the other kids in this same position and it’s something that is always subconsciously bothering them even though they don’t talk about it. It’s big—like talking to someone after a death in their family. They don’t know how their life is going to go. So I’m wondering how the government is going to handle it.

It’s a living breathing human being. Yes, and some people don’t think immigrants have rights and they are against the Spanish language being used here.

What was difficult? Think broadly from beginning to end. The transition from at home to the start of the workshop. After that, I was engaged mentally and physically for three weeks. Proposing ideas to people and not being able to explain well why I believed what I did was hard. Choosing a type of government was hard. Some people didn’t know what I was talking about; some people knew exactly what I was talking about; and some people were against it. The first week we came up with a type of government to run the camp. Eventually we got down to idea of small committees to make rules for different things we do in the dorms and in sports. When we first started to talk, we were going off into different kinds of governments. I remember a girl saying communism sounds good because everybody shares. Then someone made some reference to history and someone else blasted them on that point. We passed around a feather to take turns talking. But we were all working together, educating each other. We made that connection.

Summed up, what did you walk away with? A sense of support –at the end it wasn’t “take your stuff and go.” More like: “Take everything you did and go home and do something with it. Have a meeting about what you do when you get home. We’re going to follow you and help you. Staff really cared about us and our issues.”

Do you feel like you changed?  I found out that anything in the realm of social justice is possible if you have connections. Social justice is community. It’s not a game where you see who can do this or that. It’s getting people together.

Beth: I know something is happening although he doesn’t tell me a lot (laughing). He joined a couple of organizations and started a club at school.

How have you put your experience to work? My friend Jake and I started a social justice club at school. We wanted it to be an activist club – world awareness and activism. We take different articles, look at the biases, look at extremes on both sides. We talk about it and then make a group decision about where to stand on the topic. It’s not a leader-based thing; we want everyone to get involved. We facilitate but anyone who wants to can talk. We have open discussions, not a school class.

‘There are more girls than boys and when we came up with the first topic—feminism— it was proposed by a girl, Margaret. We plan to do activities and have an event at the end of each topic. For feminism, we had a bake sale and gave the proceeds to the Springfield YWCA. Everyone baked something. We made over $100. We may go on to the next topic or go back with feminism. We could go back to that.  I’d like to discuss males’ roles in feminism and females’ roles and get to a deeper level of what boys and girls think about feminism. Guys say “Oh, I agree with it” and girls know what it really is. It will be hard and difficult but if we are going to have a tight group then we have to get into that. “

What support do you need from EFC? I have thought many times to ask for help with my ideas but I don’t tend to reach out. I’m independent and make too many mistakes. My friends check me all the time. It means a lot to know the EFC people support you very specifically. They know what we are doing. They know what it is and what it stands for and how we’re doing it.”

Are you interested in returning? Yes.

What would you tell a peer? How would they benefit from participating in the Encampment? I’d look for someone who doesn’t have a voice but you can tell they want to do something. They are interested in some way in doing some sort of social justice work and not sure how to go about it, what direction to take. I didn’t know how to go about the club before the Encampment.

BW:  Yes, someone interested social justice. These issues are so important. We need to develop more young leaders. In politics not enough of us are being represented in the decision-making process in communities or nationally. There’s a tendency to take what comes versus running the machine. If we let the kids learn how things work from the ground level and they build way up it will be different.  Parents don’t want to send kids away. It’s taking a risk but someone who believes in social justice has to have no fear. You have to believe in what you’re saying and you stand by it if you want to make change. Don’t wait for someone to hand it to you. Send your kids and let them find out how it works and go from there.

AN: Yes, do it despite the fear but do it because something else matters more.

How two 2014 Encampers put their EFC skills and commitment to activism to work at their school

This account was created through an interview with Steve Davis, Director of Diversity and Community Relations at Pomfret School, Connecticut, with added comments from Rachel Godfrey (14IL) and K.C. O’Hara (14IL).

Steve, tell us what you witnessed.  K.C. and Rachel were able to lead the school in a powerful response to an incident with sexist and racists texts that targeted students and faculty. KC showed a Power Point that portrayed students with racist and sexist slurs they had been called. They also took some of the Yik Yak comments and magnified them and put them on a big screen. Someone behind the curtain read them out loud. One of the texts read: “17 new black students” to which a reply was: “yes, 17 too many.” Another comment called “dibs” on a young woman for a dance. That girl stood up and said, “First of all you spelled my name wrong and second there’s no dibs on a person,” and walked up on stage. Another text said, “Don’t look to get an award if you’re not Asian.” A young Asian woman stood up and said, “I’m proud of my awards but I also work for them,” and joined them on stage. A teacher stood up and said, “Yes, I’m a teacher but I’m also a mother, a wife and I’m not a coward,” then made her way to the stage.

Rachel came out and read a statement, ending with I challenge you all stand up for what’s right. Be a leader for good. . . Reflection is needed. Effort is needed. Honesty, with each other, and with ourselves, is needed. Call out your friends when they’re rude. Have uncomfortable conversations. Embrace change. It starts with the small things, but it makes a great big difference. I cannot change Pomfret alone, no matter how hard I try. It takes our community to make Pomfret the best it can be.”

Silently eighty youth leaders came up on stage. It was so powerful.  We were saying who we are as a community and there was a standing ovation. And, five or six kids turned themselves in. I was proud because the young people who took lead were Rachel and K.C. The Encampment empowered both of them.

The Yik Yak incident was an impactful experience for Rachel. She knew that there were lots of different people at Pomfret with lots of different opinions about things. She knew that there were people out there who had these beliefs but she had not really run into them and had conversations – especially about gender equality. Rachel commented, “When the planning was going into the programming, I was scared. Not scared to talk to my peers, but scared that the place I had called home for so long seemed to be becoming unfamiliar territory to me. But the whole idea and planning was student-driven, and getting to be the head of that, and working with KC, made me remember why I loved my school in the first place. I also became aware of how pertinent teamwork was to success; without the individuals that stepped forward to help us, we would’ve truly struggled. We had to trust each other, and when we finally did, the magic happened. We were able to open up the floor for uncomfortable conversations at school, and learned how to address social obstacles.“

When K.C. was asked about his experience, he replied, “The Encampment inspired me to create positive change in my community and take initiative using the leadership skills and the knowledge I gained at the Encampment. I would not have been able to be a catalyst for such change in my school community if it weren’t for the confidence I gained this summer. To get the community to be willing and able to have difficult conversations about race, gender, and sexual orientation, I used the social skills from the Encampment to draw on for strength and information. Without the Encampment I could have never made such an impact in my school community.

Steve, can you tell us some backstory? The incident started with Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app that can be used for gossip and it occurred at the beginning of the school year taking us by surprise. The young people arrived on Saturday and we had a convocation and chapel service on Sunday welcoming everyone back. Our head of school made a powerful statement about ethics, specifically, “What do you do when no one’s looking?” The very next day sexist and racist texts appeared on Yik Yak targeting students and teachers at Pomfret.

Pomfret School prides itself on fostering a sense of community and diversity. And even though we understand no one is perfect, it was a wake-up call to realize this sort of thing was going on below the surface. We knew that who we are was going to be determined in the next 48 hours. The administration brought faculty and student leaders together to decide what to do. An all-school assembly was called several days later. The head of school opened the assembly likening the incidents to terrorism—a modern version of the Klu Klux Klan where people under the cloak of anonymity threaten people. He told us, “That’s not going to happen here. Together we are going to find the people who did this and make sure it does not happen again. He had the phone numbers that were tied to the comments and had already been in touch with the company and the state police to release information.

The assembly set the tone for the whole school. It forced us to be our best selves. To look at what us ugly and to admit we are not the perfect community that we would like to be. The fact that these things were being texted (and said) being  exposed validated a lot of students and opened the eyes of those who were unaware of this undercurrent. This was a call to arms led by Rachel challenging, “Stand up for what’s right.” They received a standing ovation and that sent a big message. As a consequence the school is monitoring Yik Yak and we all have a goal: How can we treat each other better?