An Eye-Opener

More from our Guest Blogger, Rachel G., from the 2014 Encampment!

Note: Each morning, the Encampment begins with a Morning Inspiration, prepared by youth and/or staff.

07/16/14

During our morning meeting period, the Encampment group received inspiration in a form that was different from the usual. The Through An Indigenous Lens CORE Workshop shared a piece of what they had been learning over the last few weeks with the entire group. We started off greeting each other in Lakota Sioux, sharing a personal greeting with each other that helped ensure a happy beginning to the meeting. A warm aura filled the room after “Tawn Yawn Wachin-Yong Kay ye/yelo,” meaning “I’m glad to see you,” was said from Encamper to Encamper. Then it was time for the movie: Reel Injun.

Reel Injun followed an American Indian man as he traveled from his home to Hollywood, the place that had portrayed American Indians in several different ways over the years, leading to the creation of stereotypes of different tribes. As we watched the film, we looked for The Five -Isms of the American Indians. These included Tribalism, Nationalism, Indigenism, Indianism, and Individualism. We discussed where these “-isms” were seen in the movie, and the roots of each.

What made this session interesting was the intrigue that came from talking about something that we don’t normally talk about. Often in workshops and such, discussion about American Indians or anything involving the Indigenous peoples of the world gets overlooked. But this workshop, and those who are involved in it, have opened the eyes of many of the Encampers to issues around the portrayals and stereotypes that surround a culture very different from a majority of our own. Along with learning about the power of assumption, we also learned about how much power the media can hold over a nation’s thinking. We ended the meeting with a closing phrase of “Tok Shaw Ah-Kay Wachin Yong Keen Ktay Ye/Yelo,” meaning, “I’ll see you again.” There are no good-byes in the language, and the familial sense in the community was high because of this.

Love

Today we welcome Guest Blogger Rachel G. — one of our 2014 Encampers. Enjoy this peek into ENCAMPMENT 2014!

07/14/14

When entering the Encampment family meeting place this morning, the Encampers were surprised at the sight in front of them. Names were written on pieces of cardboard and placed into the center of separate boxes. It appeared that everyone had been grouped by who they spent the most time with, or in a box of “isolation” if they were seen as people who didn’t spend much time with others. Annoyance seemed to be the common feeling amongst the Encampers, as one of the staff members went on to explain the activity. Encampers were told to answer three questions:

  1. Who is in your box and why?
  2. Who is not in your box and why?
  3. Is this okay?

The staff then left the Encampers to tackle the questions.

After the staff left the room, the youth began to yell about how the staff had no right to box them, and how it was offensive. But after the group began to simmer down, many members of the group began to speak up and were well received. We all believed that we had our core groups, but that we all reached outside of our groups and did not isolate anyone. And for those who were told they were isolating themselves, they spoke on how they even reached out to everyone, but felt comfortable in being alone. To prove our point, we lifted the tape creating the boxes and created an even larger box, putting all members of the community inside.

Once the staff came back in, we discussed the conclusions we had reached. The conversation slowly transformed into a discussion about love, and the idea of expressing “simple love” in all of our interactions with each other. Through tears, anger, and laughter, the Encampment group came to the conclusion that in order for our community to thrive, we needed to learn how to love not only each other, but ourselves.

Jane Sapp: Program Director for Encampment 2014

The Encampment is proud to announce that Jane Sapp, internationally-known singer, songwriter, cultural worker and educator, has been hired as the 2014 Summer Program Director. Her work focuses on the cultural dimensions of community organizing and social justice work.  Jane has worked at the Highlander Center and she was a Mel King Fellow at the Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT.

Cultural work uses insights and practices from the arts. Because the arts can move within our spirit and our soul, transformative experiences are more possible…and transformation is at the root of social change. A story, a song, for example, can deepen our understanding and move us to action in ways that words cannot.
—Jane Sapp

Sapp
JANE SAPP 
Photo by Ellen Augarten 

Jane Sapp is a cultural worker who engages with disenfranchised urban and rural communities in the United States. She is a powerful, highly-regarded performer, song-writer, recording artist, and educator. Her music reflects the blues and gospel sounds of her Georgia youth and is deeply rooted in the spiritual, religious and historical experiences of the African-American world.

She has recorded four albums, and her performances have been featured in concert halls (including Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger), colleges, and community centers throughout the U.S. and in Sweden, Canada, Senegal, and Mali, West Africa. She was a Senior Fellow at MIT’s Center for Reflective Community Practice. As an educator, Jane Sapp has developed techniques to help the silenced find their voices through the arts. Her community-based cultural development programs have been the subject of an hour-long documentary “Someone Sang for Me” by Julie Akeret (Filmmakers Library 2002) and three scholarly studies. She has lectured and performed extensively at colleges, conferences, and community gatherings.

At the Encampment summer program, Jane will oversee the integration of arts into the curriculum and lead a song writing workshop focusing on articulating the concerns the young people bring to the program. Jane’s popular songwriting workshop in 2013 produced the group song “Looking”. Click here for film clip about the process of creating that song. Together, Jane and the other staff, will integrate the arts into the overall program and help Encampers to develop a social and individual consciousness through the artistic pathway that is most organic to them.

Encampers will choose a social justice project related to the social issue that resonates most with them and the community they come from. They will all leave the summer program with finished creative projects- a song, a book of poetry, etc., that will aid them in the implementation of their projects and as a way to share their Encampment experience.

Core staff will follow up with the Encampers to help with the implementation of their projects and to help them to connect with local arts and organizations that have a social justice focus. Through the Encampment regional alumni groups there will be opportunities for youth to share their Encampment experience and garner additional support for implementing their projects.

Another critical function of the tools of art and culture is the ability to connect. Through our culture and creative expressions, we are connected to our own humanity and reminded of the humanity of others. By infusing our work with the practices of cultural work, (stories, song, dance, ritual, spoken word…we create movements, institutions and communities where our knowledge, strategies, values, spirit and humanity can thrive.
—Jane Sapp  

Fortune in My Eyes: A Conversation with David Rothenberg

David Rothenberg, EFC ’53, author of Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion, recently shared his recollections about his life-changing Encampment experience. It was an inspiring history lesson about the role of the Encampment before the more well-known stories in the struggle for civil rights in the US.

When you meet people and you care about them, and then you can’t sit in a restaurant together, it becomes an issue for you. I can argue about democracy and what’s fair, but it comes down to I have an investment in people I love. A passion for justice is ignited through this in-depth experience.

Rothenberg

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

Civil rights. . . this was the 50s and the notion of civil rights was on our minds even if not on the rest of white America’s. We had inspiring speakers that particularly stand out for me: Judge Julius Waring1 and Josh White2. This was my first real experience of being close to black kids. The nation was essentially segregated. I had a sense that was intrinsically wrong and I had participated in summer sit-ins in DC with Students for Democratic Action. But the Encampment gave me an in-depth experience of living and learning with people of other races. We became close in a special way that has remained with me all these years. I made friends there that 60 years later, the conversation just picks up wherever it left off last—like Glory Van Scott, who later became a Katherine Dunham dancer.

 

What did you learn at the Encampment?

One person can make a difference! This was really emphasized. If you remain silent you won’t have any impact. But if you speak up, other people will listen. Years later, I founded the Fortune Society, a self-help program that works with formerly incarcerated men, women and youths who have had trouble with the law.  I had a successful career in the theatre when I produced an off-Broadway prison drama “Fortune and Men’s Eyes.” Preparing for the play, I joined the actors for a visit to a city jail. That first visit told me the prisons were an exercise in institutional futility.  I later learned that released prisoners were muted, unable to speak about their experiences because it would eliminate their job and housing possibilities.

Fortune Society began in my small theatre office with a handful of volunteers, mostly formerly incarcerated men and women.  Today we have a staff of over 150 and it is the most formidable organization in the nation dealing with re-entry. Over the years, I have acknowledged what Fortune gained from my summer with EFC.  It gave me the tools and the confidence to fight societal shibboleths.  That summer was a starting point for me and an opportunity to find my own voice.

 

What field trips do you remember?

I have a picture right here of me standing next to Eleanor Roosevelt. She had just come back from the USSR so the NY Times was there. I was thrilled to meet her. She is one of my first political heroes. The entire group went to Wall Street one day—an unusual occurrence for Wall Street! We were of course a mixed group and we were very conscious of how we were perceived, of being stared at. You just didn’t see a gang of mixed-race kids. We also went to places where I felt very much at home in this mixed family. Greenwich Village (where I later decided to live), Lewisohn Stadium3 in Harlem, that’s where we had social times. We had to be selective where we went. A group of us talked about the Encampment on the Buddy Bowser and Sarah Harris radio show on WLIB4.

 

What is your favorite story, or memory, from the Encampment?

After we had a speaker, we would gather on the lawn and break up into discussion groups. I loved it— it was stimulating and emotionally satisfying. I was bored through high school. There was no challenge and teachers discouraged questions. They viewed them as disruptive. We talked about the history of political parties. EFC encouraged questions and analysis. We had wonderful speakers that I mentioned earlier. I can still feel the sense of it after 60 years. It was only 6 weeks and I am still clear that it was an important ingredient in my education and who I am. We couldn’t bear to part at the end so we all went to my parents’ house in Teaneck NJ. They were away but came home to find 20 kids all over the living room. My parents were cool because everyone was so great! There was no drinking—we just wanted to stay together.

Another great outcome is that I got to go to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico because I met a Navajo youth at the Encampment. He invited me and I stayed for the weekend and witnessed a dance ritual with the family. It was wonderful! How many Jewish kids from NJ end up as a welcome guest that way?

 

David, you lead a very busy life. What are you up to now?
I’m very much involved with the Fortune Society. For instance, I’m going down to “The Castle” this evening for the regular Thursday meeting. I have my radio show on WBAI “Any Saturday” every week (http://wbai.org/). In April, “The Castle”—a play I co-authored—is playing in several locations in the New York area. I participate in a large extended family and community of friends that I love.

FOOTNOTES

1Judge Julius Waites Waring: A US federal judge who played an important role in the early legal battles of the American Civil Rights Movement. After divorcing his first wife and marrying the Northern socialite Elizabeth Waring (born Elizabeth Avery), Judge Waring quickly transitioned from a racial moderate to a proponent of radical change.

2Josh White: A singer/songwriter/civil rights activist who influenced many others. When the Associated Press interviewed Harry Belafonte following White’s passing, Belafonte said, “I can’t tell you how sad I am. I spent many, many hours with him in the years of my early development. He had a profound influence on my style. At the time I came along, he was the only popular black folk singer, and through his artistry exposed America to a wealth of material about the life and conditions of black people that had not been sung by any other artist.”

3WLIB: Also known as Harlem Radio Center; had studios in the Hotel Theresa, a center for the social life of the black community of Harlem. Many famous people of color, including Fidel Castro when he appeared at the UN, stayed at the Hotel Theresa because prestigious hotels elsewhere in the city refused to accept black guests.

4Lewisohn Stadium: Besides sporting events, the stadium was used for performances by Ella Fitzgerald, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philarmonic, Marian Anderson, Eugene Ormandy, Pete Seeger, Leontyne Price, Yehudi Menuhin, and many more.

Encampment Alum Interview: Ed Peeples

We interviewed Ed Peeples, alum 1957 New York, and Encampment Program Director, 1966 Kentucky, just as his memoir is about to be appear in bookstores. Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism, tells the surprising story of a white working-class boy who became an unlikely civil rights activist. Born in 1935 in Richmond, where he was sent to segregated churches and schools, Ed Peeples was taught the ethos and lore of white supremacy by every adult in his young life. . . . Covering fifty years’ participation in the long civil rights movement, Peeples’s gripping story brings to life an unsung activist culture to which countless forgotten individuals contributed, over time expanding their commitment from civil rights to other causes. This engrossing, witty tale of escape from what once seemed certain fate invites readers to reflect on how moral courage can transform a life.” (University of Virginia Press)

A couple of chapters in the book are devoted to Ed’s Encampment for Citizenship (EFC) experiences and provide engrossing reading. In the meantime, Ed shared a sneak peek with us of some of his Encampment memories.

Ed, what was your first impression of the EFC? I loved it. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a bunch of liberals and I hadn’t seen any in their natural habitat. I had a lot of time to ponder—360 miles—as I drove up from Virginia in my ’48 Chevy. At that time, I was so isolated and alone, painfully alone. Family and friends had rejected and harassed me. I was longing for good company of the mind. I drove across the George Washington Bridge and into the Bronx where I first saw Fieldston School. I went to the dining hall where people were gathering. And they were all so erudite, informed, eloquent—White and Black youth. It was a powerful experience coming from my segregated South. My first thought was that, “I don’t measure up” and I felt inadequate, scared about getting the bum’s rush. But no one was unkind or unwelcoming.

At our first official meeting, I was so honored to meet Al Black (co-founder of the EFC) and Bill Shannon. Al gave an inspiring speech and I thought, “I’ve got to learn to speak extemporaneously like this man.”  We then introduced ourselves. There were great stories. And there were also people like me—who had been raised to be more passive, retiring, humble—Native Americans and Blacks and White Southerners—people just like me who didn’t express themselves much at first. There was a charge made to the group from Al Black that I thought is really what the EFC is about— an obligation to take it all in and take it home and do something with it.

Tell us about a memorable experience. There were so many. We went to the U.N. where we heard Ralph Bunche and many other distinguished speakers. But one memory that really stands out for me was the night of our banquet. Alice K. (Nanny) Pollitzer (co-founder of the EFC) was about to give a speech. The podium was near a large glass window behind us that faced the parking lot below. As she stepped up to the podium, we heard repeated shouting and racial epithets from outside. Then a stone crashed through the window and hit Nanny on the back of the head. Nanny, who was about 86 at the time, pitched forward. She righted herself, ignored what had happened, and went on to give an inspiring talk urging us “Go forth and right the world!” When she finished, we all stood up and screamed and clapped. It just turned on the buttons inside of everyone. We thought, “I will never retreat from this again.” We wanted our commitment measure up to her example!

What did you learn at the Encampment? I learned that I deserved to think more of myself—maybe I am somebody. That was the principal effect and lesson and that I was never alone again. I now had a reference group that I was a part of no matter where I was. I could refer to the Encampment experience, its attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Also, I learned a lot about different ethnic groups. Encampers came from all over the country and world and I came to feel the sense of justice resounding around our country. I saw that my views were not my sole property but part of a world communion. We were charged to “Go forth!” It doesn’t matter about lack of support. You are speaking up for the rights of people throughout the world. You are a local agent of a world community. Get on with it! And, I was never alone again.

How has the Encampment influenced your life?  Never being alone gave me a sense of self-certainly about the righteousness of standing up for justice. Even when I was in the Navy, I stood up for things—challenged racism, engaged in sit-ins and community organizing. I had become more forceful, less cowardly.  I wrote a LOOK magazine letter-to-the editor about the failings of the military. I was not a pacifist when I went in. I felt obliged to serve and protect our country but that’s not what they use the military for and I spoke up about it. Sometime after I left the military, I wrote my master’s thesis on the fight for desegregation of the schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Later, as a university professor, I agitated for good jobs, health care, and decent housing for all, pushed for the creation of African American studies courses at my university, and worked toward equal treatment for women, prison reform, and more.

The Encampment gave me the support and tools at exactly the right time to become the civil rights and human rights activist that I have been for 56 years. One reason why I was persuaded to write this book is that real change, the kind that occurs over time, like desegregation, is not solely dependent on iconic figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Yes, they inspired us but the people who desegregated the South were ordinary, usually unnamed, people (often women) who stood up for what was right day after day, got beaten up and disparaged, for years until it was done. I’m talking about segregation here, not racism. Often a historical account of a social movement focuses on iconic figures but I am talking about a culture of activism that anyone can embrace and participate in right now in their home community. The EFC prepared us and charged us to “Go forth and right the world!”

Ed, in 1966 you were Program Director for the first Southern Encampment. I understand this was a harrowing experience. Can you tell us something about this?

It would be impossible to give you a quick answer to the events of that six weeks and I do cover it in the book at length. Very few in the county, including well-meaning local whites, suspected the virulent white supremacy that lay just below the surface of Barbourville life. I can say that the repeated verbal and even physical assaults made on the Encampers actually ended up validating several of the EFC main principles. First, the geographically, racially and socio-economically diverse group bonded into an integrated community breaking down psychological barriers and building trust between people who society would have assumed were fundamentally dissimilar. Second, these young people had witnessed a visionary prospect—they had “been to the mountaintop”—and knew they had become the special bearers of this message as they left for their hometowns. They had become part of a world communion of witnesses to what can be. Third, by their work in the community, Encampers were making lots of local friends. They did things that ranged from clearing creek beds to reading to young children to organizing a neighborhood newsletter and activities associated with promoting greater citizen activism.

Ed, you were instrumental in EFC’s re-launch in Richmond in 2013. I was delighted that the EFC Board chose to push the Encampment re-start button in Richmond. I was also grateful and proud how Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) stepped into a major supportive role.  We could not have pulled it off without John Ulmschneider and his remarkable staff at the VCU Libraries.  My great hope is that the Richmond rebirth demonstrates that the Encampment is back and can once again fill more generations of youth with the strengths and fire it left in us Encampers in its first fifty years. Go forth! To Chicago!

—————————-

Ed’s book is available from the University of Virginia Press. You can also find it on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble. Or order from your local bookstore. If it sells 1000 copies, it can made into paperback and used in classrooms to inspire a new generation of social justice activists.

Ed Peeples is Associate Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine & Community Health at Dept. of Preventive Medicine & Community Health, Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the recipient of the Riese-Melton Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Cross Cultural Relations”, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1983. He is the father of four daughters: Suzy, Katy, Cecily, and Camille. He lives in Richmond, VA with his beloved life partner of over 30 years, Karen Wawrzyn.

Before and After the First Encampment of the 21st Century

July 1-15, 2013 marked the first Encampment of the 21st Century! The Encampment experience came about through the efforts of Encampment volunteers and staff, combined with the committed participation and adventurous spirits of our first group of 21st Century Encampers.

The goals for the summer pilot program were high:

  • Give a socio-economically, geographically, and ethnic/culturally diverse group of young people a brief experience of what the Encampment can be.
  • Solicit feedback from the Encampers about their vision for a “21st century Encampment program.”
  • Engage more alumni in Encampment-related work.
  • Make connections in several new communities for youth recruitment.

These goals were met and exceeded! Current and past alums emerged ready to move forward, with greater understanding and increased commitment.

2013 Encampers came with their own expectations:
“…to learn about leadership…practice self-government, and explore current issues with other young people.”
“…to meet new people and hear their stories.”
“…to get out of state and explore independence, to get ready for college.”

In follow-up conversations with the young people, these results shone through:

  • They met people that they never would have met in ordinary life and got to know them in a deeper way that made one person exclaim, “We are like family.”
  • They learned about leadership: “I learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was—how to adjust, cope, and be a leader.”
  • One Encamper remarked on the role of group process:
    “We started out kind of rough and we progressively got better until we got to the point we could have discussions without tripping each other. So in terms of being a facilitator, that’s very helpful for me. The connections that we’ve been able to form in just two weeks, it was just amazing.”

Plans are underway for the 2014 summer program, which will take place at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Contact efcyouthprogram@gmail.com for application materials.

2014 Summer Program News!

This summer, 30 teens from a wide variety of backgrounds will live for three weeks in a multicultural Encampment community where they will explore in-depth issues of concern to them and our society. They will participate in the life-changing experience that has created decades of social change activists—and make life-long friends.

The 2014 Encampment will take place at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The program will be housed in a beautiful, modern dormitory featuring spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

Our summer recruitment drive begins now! Please contact efcyouthprogram@gmail.com for more information, and spread the word. Application materials are available on our website and also here:

Youth applications are due by March 3 for early acceptance; April 15 is the application deadline.

We are also seeking applications for the 2014 Program Director and for 2014 Summer Staff members. Information is available here:

Job applications are due by February 24. Questions? Contact efcyouthprogram@gmail.com.

“The Encampment program is based on the assumption that to learn to be a citizen the individual must have an actual experience in democratic living and citizenship in a democratic community…It is not enough to learn the principles and ideals of democracy. We learn democracy by living it.” —Al Black

The goal of the Encampment is to develop responsible, informed, effective, and courageous global citizens. At the Encampment, youth of different religious, racial, socio-economic, and national backgrounds learn the principles and practices of democracy by living it. The Encampment provides young people with an experience in addressing community problems and equips them for the responsibilities of community participation and democratic action. Our purpose is to help young people learn what it means to live in a true democracy and how that connects with issues of personal responsibility and responsibility to and for a group, community, nation, and world.

This summer’s Encampment will bring back the workshop format, which enables Encampers and staff to dig into a topic in-depth over the course of the 3-week program. This work will be supported through speakers and topic-related field trips. Encampers will grapple with the challenges of developing a community decision-making process (community government) that represents and takes into account the opinions and thoughts of all community members. Staff and Encampers will relate the issues that arise in the Encampment community to the larger societal issues they are investigating. The staff will use the time-honored Encampment process of questioning to help Encampers understand the relationship between what may seem like a personal issue to its larger societal context. This process challenges youth to think more deeply and completely. As social issues are discussed and examined at the Encampment, they take on personal meaning, because they are expressed through the lived experience of individual youth whose lives embody the issues in various ways.

These transformative experiences ripple through Encampers’ lives as a lifetime resource. Encampers’ ability to rigorously interrogate issues and situations prevents them from falling prey to dogmatism and unthinking action. Their experience of multicultural, democratic living equips them to live and work in a complex, diverse world. Encampment alums participate thoughtfully and responsibly in local, national, and global communities.

The 2014 Encampment is the next step in developing the 21st century Encampment programming and building a sustainable organization. Join us in this valuable work, and help build a new generation of leaders committed to justice and democratic action.

2013 Encampment