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.