The EFC, combating hate, and the need for the resurgence of good citizenship in the U.S.

Update February 2020:

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Glory Van Scott!
On January 18 2020, Dr. Glory Van Scott received the prestigious IABD Scholar Award in Philadelphia, PA. This video (by Suggs Media), showcasing some of the many highlights of Dr. Glory’s exceptional career and her deep connections to the worlds of Black Dance, Theater and the Arts, was shown prior to the award presentation.

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We interviewed Dr. Glory Van Scott about her Encampment experience and why the EFC is important today. You can hear her in person by joining her conversation with Dr. Anne Klaeysen at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, May 16, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Tickets available at https://bit.ly/307ImOZ. The event is a celebration of her memoir Glory: A Life Among Legends. Dr. Glory is donating partial proceeds to support participation of New York-area youth in the 2019 Encampment.

What did you learn at the Encampment? I learned that, if you are politically active, you can make a change. The teachers would step aside and let the Encampers take a position and defend it. It was a catalyst for me to do what I have done with my life. When you finished the Encampment, you looked at the world in a different way. You knew you would use what you learned and go on and build something from what they gave you — use it and use it well.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment? We visited with Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park. We sat on the ground and she talked to us. I was taking notes and I asked her, “How do we change so prejudice will not exist?” She replied that it was up to each one of us to make this change by starting in our own backyards. This, of course, was exactly what we were learning at the Encampment.

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Glory Van Scott (center, toward right) taking notes while Eleanor Roosevelt speaks, 1953 Encampment.

What motivated you to go to the Encampment? I came from a family where we all read and we discussed politics and voting. I was aware of inequity from a young age and wanted to do something to help. When I was older, I was a student at the Abraham Lincoln Cultural Arts Center in Chicago. I loved my teachers and classes there. It was run by Quakers and we had wonderful teachers from different countries. Our teachers asked us to think about situations such as the Japanese internment camps, and taught us that we had a responsibility to care for others. An older dancer who I admired went to the Encampment and came back talking about what a great experience it was. I was ready — I knew I wanted to go!

When you arrived, what was your first impression of the Encampment? It was unreal at Fieldston! There were kids from the South, the North, all over; every culture and ethnicity. My best friend, David Rothenberg, was from New Jersey. There were so many people from everywhere — it was the ultimate gumbo!

How has the EFC influenced your life? There were so many experiences that together made a change in us. Al Black was a powerful speaker. Ies Spetter had been in Holland during the war, so he brought that perspective. There was Eleanor Roosevelt. Our discussion group was led by Warren Ramaley, who was a wonderful teacher. David and I were both talkers and it was so lively … we were swinging! It was so magnificent, what we were learning. We learned about the economy. We met lawyers. We visited the Garment District and met with the ILGWU. We went downtown to offices to see how people were working. It was such a great combination of teaching, experiences, talking and lecturing that we didn’t want to go to sleep at night — or go home at the end!

Every teacher took the time to talk with you and made themselves available to you. You knew they had your back. Frances Levenson (who was a founding member of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing) and Bernard Warshavsky were especially supportive to me when I decided to stay in New York after the Encampment, helping me to find work and lodging. From there, things moved very quickly. I worked as a secretary and went to auditions. Then I auditioned for George Balanchine and became a member of the cast of “House of Flowers,” and my career took off.

As I mentioned before, we were expected to use what we learned. When David Rothenberg (who later founded the Fortune Society) asked me to talk with some young boys who were incarcerated in a juvenile home, I was glad to have a chance to give back. I sang and spoke with them about doing things in a better way, encouraging them: “You don’t have to stay in this situation — you can make a change.”

Then Murray Phillips from the EFC asked me to come and do something for other kids through the Police Athletic League (PAL). It was awesome — we sang songs, and I taught acting and dance. That was the start of my working with young people in social groups.

Later, I was offered a lead part in the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre. When I read the part, I did not feel it represented my people well. I told my agent that I would not take the part. In addition, I let CORE and the NAACP know about this script and they obtained an injunction until the script was changed. When I was sued by the theater, I told them that my inside feelings about who I am and my people were never going to be bought — that’s the EFC. I took a stand!

The EFC also provided another direction that has guided my life. In 1955, my 14-year-old cousin Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi by a lynch mob. Having had the EFC experience, I knew that not all white people were monsters because I had been in a situation that was different. No matter what we went through in the ‘60s, having lived with the Encampment, no one has ever been able to move me away from the direction I was a part of and the reality I experienced. I did not receive feelings of hate in my heart. No one could break my spirit because I knew better. I knew what should be done and I knew there were bad people, but they are not all bad.

Why is the EFC important now? EFC is important now because of the state that the world is in now — the world needs a balm. We have to give young people a chance to stop, look and listen. To let them know that what you have in the world before you is up to you. Do not waste your life — you must do something with it. There aren’t enough years for all the things that have to be done, but you can use the time you have. We can restart our engines so we focus on helping others who don’t know the way. If you are breathing and you are not helping others, then you are not really living.

The Encampment Has Changed Me Entirely

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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.

 

 

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

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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.

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Michael Carter at the 2017 Encampment.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

The following is an interview conducted with Isaac Ben Ezra (1926-2017) before and after the 2017 Encampment at Hampshire College. Isaac visited the 2017 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.

AN INTERVIEW WITH HERB RAFFAELE, EFC ALUM 1963 PUERTO RICO AND STAFF 1969 & 1970 MONTANA

Photo Herb Raffaele on bridge

Herb Raffaele shares insights and stories from his Encampment experiences and how they completely changed his life.

What did you learn at the Encampment?

I learned many things, the most important being about governance – what it should be and what it should not. Also, how poorly governance is understood. Before the Encampment for Citizenship, I had no idea how important power and control were to some people and how far they would go to exert control.

I learned some of the wonders of diversity – new music, new foods, different perspectives, other life-styles. Despite my being from one of the most diverse cities in the world, the EFC represented diversity to me.

I learned that college (nor other formal education) does not prepare us for life. Without something like the Encampment, we live sheltered, shallow lives gravitating toward people as much like ourselves as possible. That is no way to grow or to live.

How has the Encampment influenced your life?

The Encampment completely changed my life. For one thing, I married a young Puerto Rican woman from my Encampment and had my children with her, so that accounts for a lot, but there was much more. I fell in love with the tropics, Latin American culture, its people and international issues. It led me to go to Puerto Rico on vacation and, by good fortune, get a job there for seven years doing exactly what I had been doing on my vacation.

During that period, I became the head of wildlife conservation for the Puerto Rican government – an unimaginable experience. Subsequently, I was given a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), managing all of that agency’s programs in Latin America and the Caribbean – another dream job. Later, I became responsible for the USFWS’s entire global program, managing $24 million a year in conservation programs in all corners of the world. These programs helped conserve elephants, tigers, rhinos, gorillas – the most-impressive living creatures on the entire planet.

Why is the EFC important now?

The EFC will always be important because there is no such thing as too much tolerance in the world, too much respect for others different than ourselves or too profound an understanding of what makes democracy work.

What is your favorite memory or story from the Encampment?

 I recall a number of powerful learning experiences at my Encampment. The most memorable occurred when we sought to put a new system of governance in place. A law student from South America prepared a draft constitution for us to consider. Overall, it looked very good. However, when one of the Encampers raised a concern about one of the articles, the drafter’s response was, “You don’t understand. Either you accept this proposed constitution exactly as written, or you get none of it. And besides, if you do not accept it, I am leaving.”

It was hard to believe what we were hearing. Needless to say, the fellow was nearly booed out of the place and we never saw him again for the rest of the summer! You would think such a thing is unimaginable, but at the EFC, it happened in real life.

The Encampment is all about experiences, so I have to tell two other very powerful ones.

Our Encampment was initially governed by three or four committees. Each Encamper could join as many or as few as s/he chose. This seemed incredibly democratic to me. However, this system was deemed inadequate as a means of governance by the participants, after which an Encamper got up and exhorted the group, saying that until we had elected a president and representatives, our experiment in governance was a failure. Really? This person thought that giving up self-representation in favor of being represented by someone else was “true democracy”? What a total misunderstanding of the essence of what democracy is all about.

The Encampers were given a riddle. It had four “logical” answers. However, the riddle was mathematical, so there was only one truly “correct” answer. Shockingly to me, the Encampers divided into four groups, each determined that its answer was the correct one. Then, each group selected a spokesperson to convince the others to come over to their side. NO ONE BUDGED!

Despite there being only one legitimate correct answer, once people had made up their minds, they simply did not listen. Reasoning meant nothing. If a bunch of college students could not be persuaded to agree to a single correct answer, no wonder so little progress is made on much-more-complicated issues in the everyday world and that many people make decisions that are in their own worst interest.

What motivated you to go to the Encampment?

My older brother, Thomas, participated in the 1962 Encampment in Puerto Rico and loved it, so I applied the following year. As members of the Society for Ethical Culture, a founding institution of the EFC and the site of its offices, my family became familiar with the program.

At the time I applied for the EFC, I had never been far from New York City, so the idea of going to a place as exotic as Puerto Rico was mind-boggling. At the same time, I had a general interest in governance and human rights that the EFC nurtured tremendously.

I received a scholarship so we only had to pay for my plane flight. Back in 1963, the scholarship covered something like $300, but things were less-expensive back then.

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

I do not recall my expectations, but I do recall my first impressions. As my plane landed in San Juan, I was awed by my first sight of palm trees. How different! Then, a bus drove us on what seemed like an endless trek slowly up a mountain, not arriving to our venue until after dark. The biggest shock of all came upon leaving the bus. We were greeted by a cacophony of jungle sounds that seemed to come straight out of a Tarzan movie. It was only later that I learned that this immense noise was the product of a myriad of diminutive tree frogs called coquis.

As to the Encampers themselves, the bus from the airport was full of “Americans” – U.S. participants. However, when we entered the main room of the building, a large group of Hispanic participants had gathered together, chatting vigorously in a language I had studied in school but could hardly understand when used in conversation. One particularly animated Encamper stood out and I thought, “Wow, getting along with people of such different background is going to be awfully challenging.” It was that young woman whom I later married.

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

Undoubtedly I spent the most time on governance – how can we get democracy to function in our own little Encampment community? I also participated in an economics workshop (the closest thing I could find to my real interest, which was the natural world). However, because the EFC was up in a rainforest, far removed from practically everything, our workshop could not pursue much in the way of study projects.

When I had the chance, I observed the birds around the Encampment – a passion of mine. The bird book I used for that purpose was written by none other than James Bond, an ornithologist whose name was chosen by Ian Fleming as the hero in his renowned novels. Many years later, I wrote Puerto Rico’s first illustrated field guide to the birds of the island. And many years after that, I wrote a new guide to the birds of the West Indies that replaced the book of none other than James Bond.

How did camper self-government work for your Encampment?

Our Encampment’s experiment in self-governance was a total debacle. That is, as far as organizing effective governance is concerned. Our ability to self-govern only got worse throughout the course of the summer, due to increasing distrust among Encampers. However, this was far from all bad.

Our failure to develop effective governance was an incredibly powerful learning experience. It taught me that the concept of democracy is much less understood than I had thought and, more importantly, that it can be easily thwarted and abused by those seeking power. Basically, as a concept, democracy is simple enough; putting it into practice, however, is incredibly challenging due to human frailties.

My Encampment was not unique. Governance in the 1969 and 1970 Encampments on which I served as staff also failed for similar reasons.

What field trips do you remember?

I remember going to San Juan for a July 4th celebration and while there, picking up a flyer that said, “Yankees Go Home!” The concept of the ugly American was alive and well.

What community service projects do you remember?

We could not do community service due to being in a rainforest, far from any towns and with poor transportation.

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

There is too much to talk about under this topic! One of my favorite recollections is of a very handsome fellow from Venezuela and attractive girl from New York who hit it off immediately and were always seen together, like two love-birds. The only problem was the he did not know a word of English nor she a word of Spanish. They had to call in an interpreter when they argued!

Relationships are about trust. The more different people are, the more difficult it can be to build trust, especially if there are language barriers, as there were at my Encampment. But, with the right attitude, it is very doable. Of course, not everyone had the right attitude, so how everyone got along ebbed and flowed.

Related to this question, I will tell one story from one of the Montana Encampments when I was on staff. Some of the Encampers were being robbed, apparently by one of their own. Community meetings were held and passionate appeals were made about the Encampment being a family, stealing was like taking something from your brother or sister; very heart-rending. Nevertheless, a few days later, something else would be stolen. A true community needs buy-in by all. The will of some and passionate speeches by others could not create it.

 What were some of your favorite leisure time activities?

Besides bird watching, I fell in love with Latin music. Because we were isolated in a rainforest, the Latin Americans would play music every night and dance, dance, dance. I sat there for two weeks watching until I got up the nerve to ask one of the girls to teach me the steps. After that, I danced every single dance for the rest of the Encampment!

Culture Shock

A truly fascinating experience for me at the Encampment was purely coincidental. One night, the boys decided to serenade the girls at their dorm. On the way down, I kept asking the boys from the U.S., “What will we sing?” but they put me off. Once we were there, the Latin boys broke into a beautiful love song. The girls were in awe. Then it was the U.S. boys’ turn … We didn’t know any love songs! We ended up singing some nonsense. Then the Latin boys sang another rapturous love song. The girls swooned. Again, the U.S. boys sang a clinker. And so it went. The Latin boys could have sung all night! As to us … forget it.

What a way to learn about cultural differences!

Carol Ahlum (1966 KY), Newly Re-connected with the EFC

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Why is the Encampment important now? The Encampment is important now, as always, because as alums know, the Encampment changes lives, and we need to create this experience for young people today. I recently participated in the 2017 InterGen(erational) Weekend. I loved it! My favorite part was meeting other alums and current parents. I enjoyed the Saturday performances the most because they showed the young Encampers’ creativity, spirits and views of our society. Their presentations were amazing and inspiring. What is important to me about intergenerational programming is being part of the present and future of a program that had a big impact on me.

You recently re-connected with the Encampment after a long hiatus. Tell us that story. I participated as a 16-year-old in the 1966 Encampment for Citizenship at Union College in Barbourville, KY. Ed Peeples was the director. After receiving two recent communications about the current EFC, I searched on the EFC website. In addition to being inspired about the revived EFC, I also read about Ed Peeples’s autobiography, Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism (with Nancy MacLean; University of Virginia Press, 2014). EFC alums should read Ed’s book, which includes a chapter about the 1966 EFC. After I e-mailed Ed, he asked me about my life since 1966 (See Post-Encampment Activities).

How did you learn about the Encampment? I learned about the upcoming summer 1966 EFC from an advertisement in a girl’s magazine, Ingénue (similar to Seventeen). I applied in spring 1966 during my junior year of high school, and received a full scholarship to attend. I took a bus in Allentown, PA, to New York City’s Port Authority in a skirt and jacket to meet the EFC bus at Port Authority, headed to Kentucky. My recollection is that no other girl was wearing a skirt.

 What do you remember about the program? My memories of the 1966 Kentucky EFC are of hot summer days and long group discussions. I have no memories of the assaults on us as a group or as individuals. I remember being told not to go to town alone or to be outside after dark alone. I remember the discussions about poverty, and the federal programs to bring income and services to economically poor Appalachian areas.

My workshop leader was Buddy Saylor. I have memories of feeling cared for and being listened to. I remember Buddy talking about his Peace Corps experience in the Dominican Republic and explaining colonialism and imperialism. Buddy’s workshop was about poverty and community development.

I remember fondly the week of living in the community. Three of us girls stayed with an “elderly“ woman who had two double beds with feather mattresses, including the woman’s bed. The three of us decided we would rotate, taking turns sleeping with our host in her bed, since none of us wanted to volunteer to sleep in her bed for the entire week. We each found it odd to sleep with someone we did not know. I remember the breakfasts—she fixed us eggs with thick bacon and cornbread made on the stove.

Buddy took us for a hike through the forest and taught us that if we got lost (which we appeared to have done), we should follow the creek and walk downhill. We found the way out.

Since I was headed into my senior year and planned to apply for early decision to Goucher College, I applied to take the SATs in the nearest large city in Kentucky that summer—Louisville? I took the bus back and forth. Someone must have helped me figure this out; I can’t remember who it was. I remember waiting for the tests to start by eating in a small restaurant across the street from the high school. I was aware that I was the only white person in the restaurant.

During the Encampment, I remember hanging out with fellow Encamper Missy Greer. Often our conversations were held while sitting on logs that had fallen into a marsh-like area near the dorms. Somehow, no mosquitos bothered us. I remember dancing with a black boy from Richmond. We exchanged letters but then lost touch.

Post-Encampment Activities

After the EFC, I graduated from high school in 1967 and attended Goucher College. I had a number of amazing professors, but spent most of my time organizing women’s liberation activities and attending anti-Vietnam War support meetings and trials of the Baltimore radical Catholics who raided draft boards to spill blood and burn draft records. I participated in May Day protests in Washington, DC, in May 1971 (a few weeks before college graduation). I was arrested with friends and eventually was part of the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) class-action monetary court victory for unlawful arrest.

I went on to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst to earn a master of arts in teaching degree in summer 1972. In western Massachusetts, I participated in the Northampton (MA) Women’s Center work against the war in Vietnam and Cambodia. Groups of us were arrested at Westover Air Force base (twice for me). All charges were dropped.

I then worked for the Feminist Press on Long Island, under my former college professor, Florence Howe, who founded the Feminist Press and inspired the national women’s studies movement.

By summer 1974, I moved to Philadelphia, where I worked at the Medical College of Pennsylvania as an administrative assistant. There, I started organizing white-collar workers like me into the same union, Philadelphia 1199, into which the blue-collar workers were organized. We won our election and the right to bargain collectively and create a unit of white-collar workers. After our victory, I was hired by 1199 to organize the white-collar workers at Philadelphia hospitals where 1199 already had contracts with blue-collar workers. I was successful in winning significant elections of large units of white-collar workers.

By summer 1977, I moved with my now-husband to rural Maryland (Frederick County), about an hour from my husband’s mother’s home in DC. We bought the property with my husband’s brother and two friends. I stopped union organizing to focused on creating a family.

After we moved to Maryland, I taught high school social studies over a period of 10 years in three different high schools, under four principals. I lasted until my second child was born and then found a job as a public benefits paralegal at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau. For 21 years, I represented low-income individuals who had been denied or terminated from public benefits.

Since living in Maryland, I’ve participated in but have not led political action. When we moved here, the only progressive political group we found was a very small Clergy and Laity Concerned Group. Then I participated in the Nuclear Freeze Campaign, Peace Resource Center and Women in Black. I eventually became a Quaker by becoming a member of the Frederick Friends Meeting in Frederick, Maryland. We sent our two daughters to Quaker camp through Baltimore Yearly Meeting, and then they both graduated from Earlham College, a Quaker college in Indiana.

I participated this spring in the Maryland anti-fracking campaign—we won a total fracking ban in Maryland—and I participated in the DC Climate Change March.

At age 67, I’m enjoying time reading, where we live, and watching younger people work for human rights and social justice.