INTERVIEW WITH TED FLOYD, 1952 FIELDSTON, FOUNDER OF THE CHICAGO CHAPTER OF THE EFC ALUMNI ASSOCIATION

Ted Floyd with Chicago alums Margot in 1991.

Alums Laura Porter, Ted Floyd, Wong Jamison, and Margot Gibney, 1991.

Ted, what did you learn at the Encampment?

I learned how the city, county and state governments worked by sitting in on their sessions. I also learned how the United Nations worked. We participated in discussion groups, workshops, field trips, film forums, seminars, etc. One of the field trips I participated in, as a member of the International Affairs workshop, was to the United Nations, where our group sat in on the Economic and Social Council’s deliberations on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If my memory serves me fairly, the United States and Russia vetoed every vote during those deliberations.

Among the lecturers who came to our Encampment were: Dr. Margaret Cartwright, a world-renowned African-American anthropologist; Dr. E. Spetter of Columbia University; Hans Roger; Dr. Ralph Bunche; and many more.

How has the Encampment influenced your life?

The Encampment has influenced my life in lots of ways by what it taught me. For instance, I never would have had such a love for learning languages except for our experiences at the UN. About 10 years ago, I taught myself how to communicate in 14 different languages by working at the library for long hours.

When I went to college, I was president of the Student Government Association, and a member of the NAACP Youth Council, Dramatics Club and the Speech Club. In 1961, I ran for mayor of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, in a non-partisan primary election. I received 89 votes out of 28,827 total. I knew that it was impossible for me to win this election, but it has always been my belief that an African-American must run in every election. I searched for someone to run for either city councilman or mayor, but no one would step up, so I ran.

Ted, tell us about how you came to start the Chicago Chapter with other area alums. In 1987, recovering from a car accident, while still on crutches, I did some community outreach. I started searching for and contacting people in Chicago who had attended the Encampment for Citizenship. I found many alums, and one of the first meetings we had was at Phil Sandro’s home on the northside of Chicago. At that time, we learned that the Encampment had folded in the early 1980s, but another Encampment was being started and that it would begin in the summer of 1987.

We had several other meetings and then we formed the Encampment for Citizenship Alumni Association-Midwest and began recruiting youth between the ages of 15 and 18 to attend. From 1987 to 1996, the Chicago Chapter of the Encampment for Citizenship Alumni Association sent 27 youth to the EFC for six weeks. This was no minor feat, given the program costs and airfare. For most of these youth, this was their first experience outside of Chicago, some had not even been to downtown Chicago. For some, it took them away from gang-related situations.

I’ve stayed in touch with most of these young people for whom the EFC made a crucial difference in their lives. These youth have become teachers, health professionals, artists, deejays and more. We continue to recruit youth in the re-established Encampment, sending two youth to the 2017 Encampment and helping to fundraise for their program fees. We are looking forward to sending several Chicago youth to Mississippi this year.

Why is the EFC important now?

EFC is important now because of the climate of the nation. We are seeing a resurgence of racism, with white citizen councils regrouping. The heads of our government are setting this hate-mongering tone.

 What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment?

The entire camp was fortunate to visit Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We had lunch with her and each of us took pictures with her, and she talked with us for an entire day. She told us lots of things — talked about politics and the way things worked.

 What motivated you to go to the Encampment?

Our social science teacher in my junior year introduced the EFC to us. He had us compete in an oratory contest. As the winner, I got a chance to participate in the Encampment. When I learned what it was about, there was nothing else to do but go.

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

I was striving to meet and interface with other races but, being from Florida, I had not had a chance to do that. When I got to the EFC, I had the chance. More than 250 youth from 30 states in the U.S., the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Denmark, Germany, France and Greece met that summer to literally solve the problems of the world and help to make life better for generations to come.

What field trips do you remember?

The UN, and Eleanor Roosevelt, of course. We also got free tickets to Broadway shows, including “South Pacific,” starring Ezio Pinza, and “The King and I” with Yul Brynner. We got to see the Dodgers and Yankees, and to meet Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.

 How did the Encampers get along? How did this change over the time you were together?

When the Encampment broke up and we were ready to go, there was not a dry eye in the place. We were bonded.

 

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MICHAEL CARTER ON COMMUNITY WORKSHOPS

Captions: Michael Carter leading collaborative workshop at Calhoun School. Breakout group’s illustration for their presentation on sexism.

We interviewed program director Michael Carter about our new educational component: collaborative community workshops. These workshops were initially designed to help Encampers practice building community after the summer program and address uncomfortable topics in their home schools or communities as a basis for change. What became apparent quickly is that there was a greater need, including in schools or organizations that had not yet sent Encampers.

These collaborative workshops use arts, community building and a critical thinking approach to inspire action in schools and community organizations. They address issues in a particular community, with youth agency being a common theme. The young people identify problem(s) and are encouraged to dig deeper to understand underlying causes. Using the arts and other modalities, they can develop immediate actions to respond to the issue(s) in either an individual or collective way. Every workshop asks: How can you be an agent of change right now?

These workshops reached more than 400 young people in 2017. More workshops are scheduled for 2018. Early feedback has been positive and we look forward to giving many more young people and their adult allies a modified experience of the Encampment (which often leads to young people applying for the summer program).

Michael, do you have an overall goal in all the workshops, no matter what the content?

Yes: for the young people to see themselves as a community and as active members of that community who are capable of effecting change in an EFC way. Then, each workshop is tailored to the specific needs of those young people. They are questioning their understanding of the world. They don’t always understand that they have the answers until they go through this process.

How did you create the format?

The workshops came out of our summer program experiences and conversations with Jane [Sapp, our education director]. We were looking for creative ways to articulate ideas. We didn’t want a lecture — the young people must do the work of inquiring and creating. I have found through the summer program that when you ask young people to articulate their thoughts using a creative medium, it forces them to be more critical in their thinking and discourages rhetoric. They think deeply about an issue and how they can convey their message in the most effective, sometimes heart-wrenching, way without embarrassing themselves.

Have you seen any shifts in thinking so far?

Yes — on a basic level, engaging in the EFC approach shows young people that they can have conversations about uncomfortable issues — and can therefore address those issues at school or elsewhere. This seems like a simple idea, but for some youth, they had not previously considered that they could effect change about their concerns. This experience is inspiring and motivating.

“It helped me see that the problems with identity and change are not just at my school.”

 “We were able to discuss topics that we normally don’t discuss as a group. Gave me great ideas and solutions for problems at school.”

Why would a school or community-based organization want to host one of these workshops?

The benefit of having a workshop of this nature is that it empowers young people to think of themselves as a collective and to lead as a collective. This leads to investigating the ways that they can improve where they are. Any institution would agree that there is always room for growth. Young people have concerns and perspectives that are often not thought of by adults but affect them. Since the school/organization is there to support them, it’s important that their concerns be heard. It’s often easier for a third party to elicit honest responses, so this is a service that EFC can provide. This opens the way for young people to articulate their concerns and imagine how to create solutions for those issues along with their adult allies.

“Michael Carter is an ideal workshop presenter for young people. He knows his material inside and out, but doesn’t lecture or condescend. He elicits from participants their own knowledge and experience, providing them with opportunities to speak up and share their opinions. His exercises are designed to create new connections that can develop into long-lasting relationships. Kudos!” — Anne Klaeysen, Leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture

“The Encampment for Citizenship: It is an inspiration for those involved in progressive ideals and helps the younger generation understand the challenges they too will need to face so the world can always have hope for the future.” — Mirta, Upper School Spanish teacher, Calhoun School

 “I’ve never seen our students so fully engaged in conversations about social justice and human rights. The workshop leader was able to bring out responses and participation in the students that might not have happened in a regular classroom setting with their own teachers. This was an experience that the students will not forget.” — Debbie, Community Service Director, Calhoun School