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.