The Encampment Has Changed Me Entirely

deanna aaron and x at cctv dyanne london

Deanna, Aaron and Akeme at field trip to CCTV in Boston. Photo by Dyanne London, EFC board member

Deanna Marie Mousseau, member of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, was an Encamper in 2015. She participated a second year in 2016 and became an intern in 2017. She is currently in her second year of college.

How has the Encampment influenced your life?

The Encampment has changed me entirely — I realized that I don’t have to give into the pressures to fail that I feel from society. I may have to try harder, but now I know that I have power within myself to create change. The EFC has shown me this and influenced me in my career path. I have been a part of the community for three years and I have been introduced to a huge network of remarkable people. Even outside the program, the Encampment offered me support that has contributed to my success today. The Encampment has opened many doors, allowing me to have more opportunities. I am also blessed with lifelong friendships with a lot of beautiful people.

What did you learn at the Encampment?

What I learned through the Encampment is that we have tools within ourselves that help us achieve our goals. Some of these tools are our voices, our strength in numbers, and the power of knowledge. We looked at how people did this throughout history, learning about what worked in their organizing efforts. We learned that we could practice different types of social justice work by getting involved in communities.

I also learned more about myself, and the direction where I wanted my life to go changed. My ambitions got bigger and I really started to realize what I am capable of. A big thing I learned was how to be a truth seeker. My summers spent with the Encampment were always ones of correcting false history or assumptions, to gain a better understanding of the social sphere I live in today.

Before I came to the Encampment, I was very unaware of my own environment, and I didn’t think about communities outside my own. I have always been open-minded, which is a great perspective to have when participating in the program. It allows you to really grasp the different cultures you get exposed to while with the group. It is such a diverse group, with so many stories to tell. This atmosphere of acceptance you get while at the Encampment, in a sense, proves to the world that we as human beings are capable of thriving under the same roof.

As an intern, I loved watching the youth and seeing the changes they made from their arrival to when they returned home.

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

In my head, I was like, “This is no typical summer camp!” I was expecting cliché campfire songs, beach volleyball, and arts and crafts. Right away, I was thinking, “Thank you mom, for sending me to this summer camp because it was not what I thought it was going to be.” I knew we would focus on national issues and I was expecting a huge learning opportunity, but I didn’t expect to experience as much growth as I did. When I came to the Encampment, I was told the history of it, the purpose, and the agenda. I was very excited because I met other youth I could relate with and the staff made me feel very welcomed.

What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn?

My first summer, we spent a big portion focusing on the Civil Rights Movement. We were in the heart of the South and we got an intense experience learning about the movement. We learned about the racial tensions that had deep roots in the south and how the history impacts modern times. We also learned how to organize and what we could do ourselves to create change.

Another big topic was immigration. We had youth who had first-hand experience, and that offered a lot of perspectives to the group. I remember many good discussions and presentations on immigration. We could learn about these things in creative ways that made it fun to be involved. The Encampment is great at teaching youth how to use resources for their own projects. We learned skills to get people engaged and we looked at what people did in the past that helped create the biggest change.

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

I think at the beginning, we were all kind of easing into getting to know each other. Once we all realized how much we had in common, and how we could relate on the problems we faced, we were able to connect. One thing I loved is that the Encampment offers such an accepting feeling and we could share bonds that we couldn’t get anywhere else. Suddenly, our race, ethnicity, and gender, etc., did not matter; only who we were and how we wanted to make the world better mattered, so we were all able to function as a community.

How did Encamper self-government work for your Encampment?

The best version of self-government I have seen was the summer of 2017. It was hard to get the group to agree on an absolute form of government, but the Encampers could come up with basic positions to offer the group some boundaries. They made community agreements and voted on people to be elected officials. It seemed to have worked out just fine, and the youth took the positions seriously.

What field trips do you remember?

The most memorable trip I remember taking was during the 2015 Encampment, when we went to Selma, Alabama. We dove into the history of Bloody Sunday and racial inequalities. We got to see some phenomenal museums, including an interactive one where we experienced a slave trade simulation. It was so incredible to experience that because we have been learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and that fieldtrip made what we were studying a reality.

Going to Immigration Court and sitting in on court hearings was another huge insight. The Encampment takes us places where history is learned hands-on, and we can see injustices upfront, so we can decide what actions are needed to improve the situation.

We took trips to Black Lives Matter events, all types of museums, many trips to local businesses that served the community, and places of scenic beauty — a variety of trips that made the group bond stronger and where we also got to see the depth of issues this country faces.

 What community service projects do you remember?

We did things like participate in helping other communities with events. One time, we went to the Choctaw Reservation and helped with their annual powwow. We became part of their community and they became part of our Encampment community. We also did service learning at different locations, getting involved in the local communities.

What were some of your favorite leisure time activities?

I loved to swim during our down time. We would do trips to the beach and check out hiking trails. Often, we all sat around and talked about different debates.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment?

In the summer of 2016, at the beginning of the program, we were all still getting used to each other. We climbed Mt. Monadnock on a rainy day. It turned out to be more strenuous than anticipated and it seemed to never end. As a group, we helped each other, and it brought our group closer. It gave us some good laughs and it was a great way to start off the summer.

Why is the EFC important now?

The Encampment is important because there is a critical need for people to take action. As the world faces difficulties, we are going to need leaders. The EFC brings youth forward who are willing to engage in their communities and are interested in activism and organizing. It is what we all shared in common — our passions for changing the world and leaving it better than we found it. It offers skills and knowledge that will help youth make their mark on society.

 

 

Advertisements

2018 Encampment, Raymond, MS: Experiences that grow activism and a vision of a truly democratic world

Jane 2017 EFC crop

Jane Sapp at the 2017 Encampment.

Program director Michael Carter and education director Jane Sapp share their vision for the 2018 Encampment.

What stands out for you in the 2018 curriculum?

Michael: I’m excited that we have a powerful curriculum focused on voting rights and education reform that the Encampers can take back to their home communities. These themes came from conversations with local grassroots organizers in the Southeast, but their importance and intersectionality are universal. We are linking the Encampers with local youth (and adult) organizers so there can be a true exchange that increases understanding of strategies for change that lifts up the spirits.

Jane: One of the objectives is to provide experiences that grow the young people’s activism skills. These include mentoring the Encampers to design and lead a workshop session; field trips to local civil rights museums like the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation (Selma CTNR) where Encampers can learn movement history and see what local activists are doing today; and service learning opportunities with Southern Echo, the ACLU and the Nollie Jenkins Center.

One of my favorite ways to build activism is our trip to Duck Hill, MS, for their July 4 celebration. The young people will not only meet community activists from different generations, but get to share that community’s culture in an authentic setting. They will also help with an environmental clean-up project.

We understand that the Encampers will have a chance to work with Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, MS, and a lifelong community activist who is currently working for education reform.

 Jane: Yes, education reform is a place where young people live — they are in schools directly experiencing the inequalities in the system. At the Encampment, they will learn about a range of experiences and hear from a variety of people working in education reform and its challenges. There’s an opportunity to work with the mayor. Joyce Parker, director of Citizens for a Better Greenville, will bring a deeper understanding of the School to Prison Pipeline. We will meet with girls from the Nollie Jenkins Center who are organizing against corporal punishment, which is still legal and directed mainly toward Black youth. We also will have an evening of dialogue with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians about their educational system.

 Voting reform is a major focus at the 2018 Encampment in this election year.

Jane: Yes — simply put, we want to help young people understand why it’s important to vote. Part of that is understanding the history and struggle for the vote. We will introduce them to current state and local activists who will focus on electoral and legislative politics. They will be involved in voting-related activities, including research, getting the word out and collecting census data. The idea is to help them think of themselves as young citizens, actively engaged and ready to contribute to their communities and country.

Michael: We provide experiences of democracy in practice, and that enables them to envision a truly democratic world where everyone has a voice.

What are you most excited about?

Jane: The young people have the opportunity to interact with other young people who are organizing for social justice. We are supporting the growth of the youth movement. By going into local communities, the Encampers get to see the realities and the complexities of the work for social change. Of course, I’m also excited about the arts workshops, and especially what will come out of the music workshop!

That brings us to the 2018 InterGen(erational) weekend.

Michael: This weekend will be youth-centered, with the Encampers lifting up the knowledge they have brought with them that was strengthened at the Encampment. The Encampers will be facilitating workshops for adults and youth. They can practice the skills they have been cultivating, share what they have learned with some mastery, and engage in challenging conversations across traditional cultural and generational divides.

 Jane: We want to demonstrate what young people are able to bring to the conversation — this moment we’re in right now, where we are seeing young people begin to rise — despite so much that is thrown in their way to discourage them. Now is the time when we need to be there to give them our support and share whatever they feel will be helpful. It’s also an opportunity for us to learn from them about what this movement is and what can sustain it.

The Urgency of Now

Support the newest generation of changemakers at

EFC’s 2018 InterGen Weekend, July 20–22, Raymond, MS.

Find out what this year’s Encampers are passionate about and participate in youth-led intergenerational, cross-cultural and inspiring community activities!

Contact us at admin@encampmentforcitizenship.org or 831-515-6775.

IMG_0232 (2)

Michael Carter at the 2017 Encampment.

 

Rachel Miller (1978 Fieldston) On Her EFC Experience & Why It’s Important Now

IMG_7778 (2)

What did you learn at the Encampment?

I learned so much that it’s hard to know where to begin. The most important insight was acknowledging racism and its impact on all Americans. Coming from a small, mostly white town in upstate New York, I knew very few non-white people and had a naïve vision of celebrity-based racial equality, if I ever even thought about it. (I did have a strong sense of difference, though, as a member of the only Jewish family in my entire rural, conservative K–12 school system until I was in high school, when my family moved.) The Encampment introduced me to urban life, and made me stare in the face of racial inequality and question the link between race and poverty. It made me acknowledge the stain I bore (and bear) as a white American and begin to formulate reasonable approaches I could undertake to addressing racism — a lifelong formulation, to be sure.

 What motivated you to go to the Encampment?

I was active in union-side labor activities in my hometown and someone I knew through those activities was familiar with the Encampment. I believe his sister knew about it through a friendship with Bob Factor, a professor of labor studies and an Encampment staffer. My friend gave me a brochure and application. I wanted to be with people my age who shared my interest in progressive politics, especially labor-related.

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

Hot! We slept on cots set up in a chemistry lab at the Fieldston School in Riverdale, without air conditioning (I didn’t have A/C at home either, but it wasn’t as hot). I also remember feeling excited that the people around me, many of whom looked different from me, would likely become my friends. Finally, I remember marveling that kids dressed differently from me. At my high school, there was a strong dress code depending on your social group. As a sort of “hippie” (a few years too young for the actual classification), I wore only certain kinds of jeans, shoes, T-shirts. I found the anything-goes dress code of the Encampment utterly liberating from Day One.

 What topic did you spend the most time on at the Encampment and what did you learn?

I chose the workshop called Work and Society, led by Bob. We worked on the boycott of the JP Stevens textile company, a campaign I’d already been active on at home for several years

We spent many evenings in discussions about poverty and race. I remember two staffers very well in these conversations: Kwame and Alvaro. They forced us to consider — and I mean really consider — why urban slums were full of people of color. It was such powerful consciousness-raising. In retrospect, it may have been a little bit of “aware-ifying” rather than getting us to read and think. Kids often didn’t know how to answer Kwame’s loud questions and he would tell us we would have to stay in the room until we answered him, until we came to some kind of consensus about why people of color were disproportionately poor in the U.S.

How did camper self-government work for your Encampment?

I don’t recall much about this, but I know we Encampers must have resented some of the rigidity or control that the staff exerted because in the last week or two, we organized a kind of mutiny called Operation 6:20. At 6:20 p.m., in the middle of dinner, we stood up and executed an elaborate plan to “take over” the program, treating staff harshly to give them a taste of their own medicine. After an hour or two, I suppose we loosened up and discussed what we were doing. But the whole affair involved extensive planning, leadership roles and more. After they caught on, the staff were proud of us! I still think of us sometimes when the clock says 6:20!

 What field trips do you remember?

I remember a powerful day of farm work in Goshen, NY. A few hours of back-breaking labor were enough to help us all appreciate the heroic work of the impoverished farmworkers who picked our produce. I think we slept on the bus all the way back to the city.

I also recall a trip to the country — I don’t know where, but here the difference between city kids and the rest of us emerged, with mostly good humor. The city kids freaked out about the insects while those of us from rural and suburban areas were struck by the fancy “city clothes” our urban friends brought along for country activities like hiking!

I also remember a field trip that our workshop made to one of the Potemkin auto sales shops. I think the purpose was to see high-end cars when we’d been studying disenfranchised labor. It didn’t mean much to me since I had no idea how much cars should cost.

Our workshop went repeatedly to Bloomingdale’s, where we hung out in the housewares section distributing pamphlets encouraging customers to boycott JP Stevens. We were asked to leave on numerous occasions but figured we’d keep trying.

 What community service projects do you remember?

I remember learning the term “sweat equity” through a day-long community service project at Banana Kelly, a community development corporation in the South Bronx. We helped to clean up a lot strewn with junk. The lot was going to be turned into affordable housing and a community center. I was incredibly inspired and believe that day nurtured a strong interest in community development, which I have pursued in my career.

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

I think we generally got along well, but there were exceptions. One girl, who had been sexually assaulted some years earlier, had a traumatic experience when Encampment classmates tried to throw her (and others) in the stream of a loosened fire hydrant on a hot day. They didn’t understand how frantic her shouts of “NO!” were. That created tension for a while.

I also recall a pretty good-natured tension about what kind of music we would listen to for dancing — the white kids wanted rock, the black kids wanted R&B, the Latino kids wanted salsa. (I don’t remember what the Asian or Native American kids wanted.) We learned from each other.

One girl had a physical disability as well as an accent (she was not a native English speaker) and I recall some discussion about how she felt belittled. In general, while cliques formed, I think we made an effort to resist them — like sitting at tables with different people (not just people who looked different from us, but people we felt we hadn’t gotten to know as well).

We had our age and times in common and that was powerful stuff. Of course, our backgrounds were so different. I recall mostly a healthy exchange of difference — like turning each other onto our respective favorite musics (how did we do that without iPhones?!) and books and favorite classes and college plans. I remember consciously trying not to gravitate toward the people who were most like me. In fact, I may have started off on the wrong foot with a lovely Canadian woman who brought her guitar to play folk music. It felt too close to where I came from and I think I ignored her at first.

 What were some of your favorite leisure-time activities?

We liked to hang out and listen to music. I remember one of our favorite songs was Santa Esmeralda’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”! And Le Freak and Last Dance.

 How has the Encampment influenced your life?

I came to the Encampment with an already-developed commitment to social change, but the particular focus — combating racism and promoting tolerance — was strongly influenced by the Encampment. I wrote my college application essay about my experience at the Encampment; was a charter member of a group on campus called the Student Committee on Racial Awareness, which conducted workshops for student groups on racial bias; studied U.S. history with a focus on immigration and diversity; and have had a career dedicated to ending poverty and inequity through initiatives in public health, workforce development, community development, immigrant and refugee resettlement, and child welfare.

 Why is the EFC important now?

The importance of cultivating tolerance and understanding during this most trying time is obvious. Of equal importance is developing leaders from among enlightened young people. That hate, intolerance and untruth can parade as “official” is unacceptable and can only be met with regime change, and that will only happen when current and future generations of leaders come forward to challenge the status quo.

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.

 

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

 

2017 ENCAMPMENT SUMMER PROGRAM, HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE, AMHERST, MA

What Does it Mean to be an Activist Global Citizen? Plus a Look Ahead to the 2018 Encampment.

IMG_6390

Community discussion.

This theme and related questions were integrated throughout the 2017 Encampment summer program. While there is no one answer to the question, the curriculum components provide an exploration that includes an immersion experience in multi-cultural living; development of critical-thinking and organizing skills; exposure to a range of issues, viewpoints and responses to injustice, including a global perspective; use of arts in community-building and organizing; creation of an internal democratic government; and intergenerational support network for social justice action.

As part of this exploration, the Encampers struggled with the challenge of building a community based on each person’s voice being heard — including in dissent with majority decisions. They developed a decision-making process and ways to confront the conflicts that emerged. All of these curriculum components form a framework for approaching any social justice issue and provide the basis for their lives as activist global citizens.

“… I don’t know the answers to all these questions, but what the Encampment is really teaching is how to be a citizen on a local, national and global level. We are building relationships for a better world because it is the only one we have.” Favio A., 2017 Encampment

CORE WORKSHOPS

Core Workshops focus different lenses on the primary question of how to be an activist global citizen. At the Encampment, the personal is political. Encampers get a chance to know themselves and their fellow Encampers better, and make connections to the larger social justice issues that affect them. This year, there were three core workshops.

Through an Indigenous Lens, led by Mabel Picotte, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, who introduced concepts and rituals from American Indian traditions. She was joined by two American Indian Encampers and an intern, and together they brought rituals from several different traditions to the larger Encampment group. Jada, an Encamper from Martha’s Vineyard, shared a welcome dance. Ronnie, a young man from the Tiospa Zina Tribal School, brought thank you and prayer songs from his culture.

This became particularly meaningful when Ronnie convinced the members of his core workshop, “Identity and Power,” to focus on the theme of “What can you do to be free of suicide?” He was responding to several suicides in his home community this past year. The other Encampers understood the urgency of addressing teenage suicide, both on the reservations and off. Ronnie shared several suggestions from his nation, describing and demonstrating the use of the sweat lodge, prayers and prayer songs — one for after suicide — and a thank you song to the grandfathers “for allowing us to be alive and living with others.”

Power and Identity, led by Delmance (Ras Mo) Moses, empowers participants to articulate and define who they are, and analyze popular culture, power in society, relationships and core values through the arts and discussion. We interviewed Ras Mo after the summer program and he shared two exciting surprises in the curriculum:

“I saw amazing growth in the young people in the skill of writing linked with critical thinking, some of whom had never done any creative writing. Keep in mind that there was such a range of quality of education from boarding schools to public schools in under-resourced areas. They helped to pull each other up, using words and kindness. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s important. They walked out with expanded vocabularies and better writing skills, and there were so many bright moments reflected in the final presentations.

“The Encampers worked hard on gender dynamics and sexism, since the Encampment is a microcosm of the larger society. We included discussion on sexism’s impact on men, including concepts of masculinity. The young women chose to tell the young men what it feels like when you experience sexism, provoking empathy versus intellectual understanding. They did a dynamic role play within the larger group that produced responses such as ‘I saw myself in there’ from the young men. For many of them, this was the first time they were having this conversation about societal expectations for men and women in relationship and community.”

Digital Storytelling, led by Vanessa Pabon-Hernandez, Alejandro Cameron, Jonathan Davila and Zydalis Bauer, helped Encampers produce short videos featuring their personal experiences. They wrote their own scripts, recorded voiceovers, and included photos and videos that visually conveyed their stories. During this popular hands-on workshop, they learned various digital tools and experienced the power of storytelling.

Vanessa and crew work with local TV station WBGY Springfield and facilitate workshops that require young people to think critically about issues within their own communities that they would like to share with others. The process of creating a digital story also includes a series of questions that the young people must grapple with to make the story come to life. What’s the issue? What’s the story? How does it affect you/others? Why is it important? View their digital stories.

IMG_5921

Encampers exploring Springfield, MA. Program Director Michael Carter on right.

A SLICE OF COMMUNITY*

*Selected from the larger case study of Springfield, MA

The Encampers engaged in a three-hour immersion in the community of Springfield, MA, investigating the nature of the community, the people and the infrastructure. They divided into groups to research different neighborhoods representing varied class backgrounds. They explored questions such as, What makes a community thrive? What hinders community progress? Who benefits from community deficiencies? Who makes the rules in the community?

The groups went to schools, a library, a health center, a barbershop, a fire station and several food stores where Encampers found a wide variety of foods, prices and attitudes toward youth of color.

A spoken-word response to the Encampers’ food store experiences:

Big Y is a massive place for a grocery store. It has everything for a family to have. The smell is wonderful. Plastic? Well, at least for a grocery store, it should have pretty cheap food, right? Look at this watermelon — it’s the same size as the watermelons at Food Zone. All right, how much is it? $7 — are they crazy? Oh, that’s not membership — all right, how much is it with —$5. That’s outrageous — a watermelon at Food Zone was .39¢ per pound. 

I am surrounded by white faces staring at us, giving us looks. You can feel them judging us. I really don’t know what to do since at Food Zone, I felt welcomed. The employees we talked to there, they smiled, they showed human emotions. As I walk down the plain, white aisles surrounding me, I find myself feeling bland, manufactured, and my uniqueness slipping away to adjust to my new surroundings. I felt welcomed at Food Zone, but why is it different here? I loved Food Zone in the lower-class community. It had uniqueness; it was truly diverse; and I could smell food, not plastic — and I love food. I feel that all grocery stores should follow Food Zone. Be unique, diverse, enjoyable, CHEAP. And all should serve different cultural food items instead of corn dogs, chicken, potato wedges and other greasy food. —Carlos

IMG_6274

Encampers at Nueva Esperanza with interim executive director Nelson Roman (back row, left of center).

SERVICE LEARNING HIGHLIGHTS

I loved it! I want to find a place like it to volunteer where I live.–Emily S., NJ

2017 Encampers had multiple opportunities for service learning in the form of five day-long “internships” at local community-based organizations in western Massachusetts. They learned about their organizations’ strategies and approaches in addressing specific community needs such as homelessness, poverty, food justice and sustainability, immigration reform, promoting peace, and youth development.

Encampers were enthusiastic about their internships and considered them a vital part of the EFC learning experience. The response from organization staff was also glowing.

The 2017 Organizations included Gardening the Community, Mass Humanities, New England Peace Pagoda, Amherst Survival Center and Nueva Esperanza.

I found a new enjoyment from gardening that I never knew I could have. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I was helpful. —Everton L., NY

I learned how to be just a little bit better at presenting to a crowd. For instance, as part of my internship at Mass Humanities, I had to present the curriculum that Arthur, Favio, Viseth, and I made to the staff. This curriculum was for children 5-10 years old and was based on exploring the reconstruction era and modern racism doing interactive activities. —Madison H., CA

20170711_123619 (3)

Encampers and staff outside Boston Immigration Court.

BOSTON IMMIGRATION COURT

Immigration was an important topic, not only because of recent national events, but also since it directly affects many of the Encampers and their families and friends. Encampers prepped for the trip by learning about the laws and the process. 2017 intern Litzy organized the young people who were affected by immigration and they made a presentation to the larger group about their experiences. Then Litzy met with Margaret Sawyer, an advocate for the ACLU Immigrant Protection Project of Western Massachusetts. Together, they designed a presentation to help undocumented youth to know their rights, including what to do if approached, and to help other youth become allies.

Next, the group sat in on immigration hearings at Boston’s U.S. Immigration Court. The federal judges on the cases they witnessed made time to meet with the group afterward. The process was made real for the Encampers as they saw the actual place and had the opportunity to watch immigrants fight for their citizenship, sometimes without a lawyer or the ability to speak English. To witness these hardships was a deeply emotional experience for the Encampers. This understanding was energized by the opportunity to meet several judges and engage in discussion with them, and gave the Encampers a new perspective on immigration issues and their role as global activist citizens.

DSC_5605r photo credit KC O'Hara

2017 InterGen(erational) Weekend with 2017 Encamper Kristina and 1966 alum Vivian Calderon-Zaks. Photo: KC O’Hara.

INTERGEN(erational) WEEKEND

After three weeks of grappling with their internal conflicts in building community and reflecting on their roles in community, the young people are able to share their experiences with alums and friends of the Encampment. It is extremely important for the young people to articulate their experiences and learning journey. Alums connect with the young people as they reflect upon their own experiences as Encampers. Alums also share their knowledge and wide range of expertise in the world of social justice. Alums are often able to share wisdom about how to navigate through the world of activism and truth-seeking.

DSC_5411rev

Alums from 1949 (Robert Beckwith, first row, middle) to 2016 at 2017 InterGen, Steve Leibman (center back).

I look forward to the InterGen weekend all year long! It’s my annual infusion of hope and it keeps me going throughout the year. Alums come from many decades to meet and support the newest Encampers.

 The high point of the Intergen Weekend for me is always the Saturday night presentations and report- back to the EFC community. We alums help the young people prepare to present what they learned and we encourage them and build their confidence. This year, we had representatives from local community agencies there as well, cheering on the young Encampers.

 It’s always eye-opening to see the world from new perspectives, through the young people’s talent with spoken word, dance, song and drama. The energy, talent and determination of the whole group is amazing and truly not to be missed! The whole experience is so inspiring!–Steve Leibman, alum 1969 and board treasurer


KNOW A YOUNG PERSON WHO IS INTERESTED IN SOCIAL JUSTICE?
SHARE THIS EXCITING OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE THESE CRUCIAL ISSUES WITH LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS AT:

2018 ENCAMPMENT, JACKSON, MS

FOCUS ON EDUCATION REFORM
AND VOTING RIGHTS

JUNE 30-JULY 24, 2018

APPLICATION MATERIALS AVAILABLE SOON. EMAIL OR CALL 831-515-6775. To learn more about the EFC: encampmentforcitizenship.org.


 

ISAAC BEN EZRA, MEMBER OF THE FIRST ENCAMPMENT IN 1946, AND LIFELONG SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATE

It is with sadness, that we report the death of Isaac Ben Ezra on October 4, 2017. This interview was conducted before and after the 2017 Encampment at Hampshire College. Isaac visited this year’s summer program where he shared his life story—a one-person record of the great movements for human rights in the 20th and 21st centuries. He also participated in the 2017 InterGen(erational) Weekend at the culmination of the summer program. Featured photo was taken at the summer program (photo credit KC O’Hara, EFC alum 2014 Chicago).

Isaac grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the son of Jewish immigrants. He lived through the Depression (when 17 million people were out of work) and WWII—the war to end fascism. His life’s work was founded on the belief that justice for all is central to our democracy. He was part of the labor and civil rights movements and advocated for better health care and senior rights. He died on October 4, 2017, but remains an inspiring example of the Encampment experience and perspective.

Isaac left school at 16 to work to support his family. He was active in the Educational Alliance (originally a settlement house for immigrant Jews), which offered classes on citizenship and provided recreational and social service programs.

The Educational Alliance sponsored Isaac for the first Encampment — in 1946 at Fieldston School in New York City. By 20, he had a history of organizing on the Lower East Side, including leadership in the Boy Scouts and wartime activities such as canteens for youth and victory gardens. Isaac said of the Encampment:

I learned the world was a bigger place—this was my first contact with young people outside of NYC. There were many different political views one had to learn about. It was exciting! I realized that many different communities were struggling for a better life. The  EFC helped me to better understand many kinds of political perspectives and created a menu of choices. We got to see how broad life was, depending on who you were and where you lived. For instance, the Farmers Union was very progressive. The EFC represented a vision that felt better and included many points of view. One thing was central — we were trying to understand the world we inherited and the different kinds of movements that existed for social justice. The EFC community was what I was looking for politically and got me interested in the trade union movement.

One of my teachers, Lawrence Reddick, was a Black professor, from a southern Black university. I was impressed by his contribution — he made sense to me — I learned from him. It made me sensitive to the struggles of Blacks in America. I went on to participate in civil rights activities.

 We were breathing in so many ideas — it was a great, exciting time — and most important were relationships. We could learn about the struggles in different parts of the country from other Encampers as well as the curriculum. For instance, I met Black coalminers and youth from the Farmworkers Union. EFC was one of the learning experiences that helped to shape me and seek the skills I needed to be a community organizer for justice.

Isaac was also a gifted sculptor and, with a scholarship, attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School for a year after the Encampment, working at night. He then began working at an art store and became an organizer and shop steward for CIO District 65. He taught himself drafting and was able to get a job and work his way up at American Bridge and then U.S. Steel. He worked first assembling steel for buildings and bridges, in very arduous conditions, to support his family.

Isaac married Hilda in 1950 (coincidentally, she had been a candidate for the 1946 Encampment). Their children — Aaron, Amy and Lucille — were born in 1954, ‘56 and ’58, respectively. Isaac credited his 55-year marriage to Hilda for the great joys in his life and for the support that made it possible for him to be the activist that he was and follow his dreams.

In 1954, Isaac and Hilda bought a house in Levittown, Pennsylvania, which was then a new community. He joined the Defend the Black Family Movement there, protecting the first Black family that moved into this white community, which had an active KKK and John Birch Society at the time. Isaac remarked, “In 1957, I went to Selma in a delegation of five people from Levittown. We stopped at a shop in Bristol and bought a solidarity wreath that we gave to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as he stopped at the AME church. I was famous for 15 minutes and life continued after that.”

With the arrival of the polio epidemic in the U.S. in 1961, Isaac challenged the county health board and the American Medical Association (AMA) in their opposition to creating public polio clinics. Despite many obstacles, he succeeded in organizing $1-a-shot polio clinics in a local public school, operated and run by community members, including volunteer medical professionals, which served 75,000 people. He organized support for Medicare and challenged both the John Birch Society and the AMA on this issue. He worked devotedly on the successful campaign to pass a moratorium on foreclosures in the Pennsylvania state legislature during the mid-’70s recession. As a result, although U.S. Steel closed down many plants, thousands of steelworkers’ families were able to remain in their homes.

Isaac organized the 1968 Busks County “McCarthy for President” movement and was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement; trade union movement; and United Farm Workers’ struggle for healthy working conditions, safe food and fair wages.

During this same period, Isaac established and became director of the Ombudsman Project for Middle-Aged and Older Workers in Philadelphia, a national pilot project. As a result of this work, and despite his lack of an undergraduate degree, Isaac was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. Graduating in 1979, he became the recruitment director for Lincoln University, a Black college in Pennsylvania. He helped working and/or minority individuals to gain their masters’ degrees in human services. Eventually he established a social work private practice specializing in divorce mediation and child custody, while continuing with varied community activism.

At age 70, Isaac and Hilda moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, to be closer to their daughter, Amy Ben Ezra, and her family, who had recently moved there. Isaac became active in his new community, was elected to the Town Meeting on which he served for 14 years, and began doing a TV show called Conversations on the local public access station, Amherst Media. He produced shows for 16 years, and some of these shows are still aired periodically. “It was a great opportunity to learn another skill, and I found an ability to communicate and organize around free speech,” he said. Isaac also served as the town representative on the Amherst Media Board for nine years and as board president for four years.

Despite serious physical disability and pain due to accidents, Isaac continued to pursue his lifetime work for justice and served as an inspiration to so many others in his community.

In 2010, Isaac received the Jean Haggerty Award for Community Service, which recognizes individuals who believe in and demonstrate the importance of community engagement to obtain social change. Upon his retirement from the Amherst Media board in 2014, he was awarded a certificate of congressional recognition based on lifetime achievement and steadfast dedication to justice work. Congressman Jim McGovern gave special recognition to his Amherst media TV program Conversations for entertaining and informing the community for many years. In addition, his leadership as president of the board of Amherst Media was named “transformative” in strengthening this important resource for the people of Amherst.

McGovern went on to say: “For six decades, he has fought tirelessly to create a more just society — through efforts to combat inequality, improve public health and serve underserved communities. He has a strong commitment to racial equality, organized a free polio clinic, campaigned for Medicare and is an advocate for universal health care. His community organizing and devotion to bettering the world around him has had an impact on countless lives. Isaac’s activism serves as an inspiration to others.”

Bill Newman, Western Massachusetts ACLU president, thanked Isaac for “… showing us all that the purpose of community TV is to build community … That kind of media brings us together not because we necessarily agree, but because we can talk to each other and find the good and precious in each other.”

Unexpectedly, at age 90, Isaac rediscovered the Encampment in his own backyard, here at Hampshire College in Amherst. It was to his great delight that he could reconnect with the Encampment, share his history as a founding member of the first Encampment in 1946 and participate in some of the current activities. He visited the July 2017 Encampment to share some of the early EFC history and his own, and to listen to the concerns of the Encampers.