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.
**Jason Warwin is a co-founder and Associate Executive Director of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol in New York City. We are saddened to report that Fred Jerome died in early February.