What Does it Mean to be an Activist Global Citizen? Plus a Look Ahead to the 2018 Encampment.
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 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.
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
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
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.
2017 InterGen(erational) Weekend with 2017 Encamper Kristina and 1966 alum Vivian Calderon-Zaks. Photo: KC O’Hara.
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.
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.