Recent Programs: 2016 Encampment
The 2016 Encampment at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, demonstrated the power of the EFC’s unique educational methodology, which integrates a social justice curriculum with an in-depth experience of building community.
Young people from very different backgrounds from across the nation lived, learned, worked and played together. The theme of “Land and Identity” wove itself through the program’s three core workshops: “Through an Indigenous Lens,” “Stories that Connect Us” and “Greater Than Our Age.” Encampers explored their personal connections to where they were born and/or live now and the larger sphere of immigration laws, environmental degradation, gentrification, food justice and other human rights issues.
Encampers formed their own government; used Springfield, MA, as a case study; participated in a Black Lives Matter rally; explored Boston, including public TV station CCTV and METCO (an organization that works for educational equity); and sat in on immigration hearings and met with the judges. The culminating weekend brought together alums from several decades with parents, community supporters and the most recent Encampers for a fun exploration of (social justice) “Challenges and Strategies, Then and Now.”
“It’s important to look at the Encampment as what this country is really about — the whole promise of America — as the Great Experiment. Our country dared to bring different people from all over the world together under the promise that we could not just live together but grow together and become something that’s a little bit bigger than ourselves individually. The Encampment gives you an opportunity to do that. The Encampers come together with different perspectives and values, and grapple with putting together their own government for the time that they are going to live here, how they are going to govern themselves, what rules they are going to abide by — that’s a powerful lesson for life.” Steve Davis, EFC board member
The 2016 Encampers.
Many Encampers named establishing the community government as their most memorable, albeit arduous, experience. Over the course of two weeks, the Encampers struggled to find a form of government where all voices could be heard, persisting through conflict and starting over many times until they found a form that all could agree on.
“The community we have built here is so strong and so realistic. We’ve had a bunch of issues— every community does—but the fact that we powered our way through is the important part. That’s the part I think we are all going to take back with us. This is the most confrontation I’ve ever had in my life and that’s a good thing, because I’ve learned to accept that people disagree and to present my ideas in a way that doesn’t disrespect or come as an attack on someone else’s.” – Talibah
“My favorite part is the way we formed a community and challenged one another. People come from different parts of the country and they have different type of minds and they believe in their ideas, so we challenge each other. I haven’t had people challenge my ideas before. I really like that because it makes me think further.” – Favio
“I was most affected by the community government process because there was conflict and I challenged myself, even though there was discomfort. The Encampment gave me the skills to understand people’s differences and to come together to [make] a cohesive decision.” – Daysha
Black Lives Matter Rally, Springfield, MA
Sejeia speaking at Black Lives Matter rally with Iyanu by her side.
Deanna and Jaelyn at the Black Lives Matter rally.
Encamper Sejeia talks about her decision to speak out at a Black Lives Matter rally after police officers shot two African-American men. The entire EFC group attended the rally and Sejeia, accompanied by another Encamper, Iyanu, spoke to the large crowd.
I was so unsatisfied with what was being said by the speakers. People were using words that weren’t really weighted and weren’t calling people to unify. I said, we’re going to go up there and we’re going to say this chant and it will get us to be on one accord:
It is our duty to fight for our freedom
It is our duty to win
We must love each other and protect each other
We have nothing to lose
But our chains.
It was nerve-racking and empowering to be up there. I felt not so much that a weight had been lifted off me but that the people next to me were helping to pick up the weight. You don’t feel like it’s just you trying to pick up the weight of racism or sexism. You see the people in front of you lifting each other up, physically, metaphorically and spiritually, and it’s a beautiful moment.
EFC group at Black Lives Matter rally.
Springfield, MA, as a Case Study
In EFC tradition, a community nearby the Encampment summer program provided a living educational laboratory. Staff and Encampers did research beforehand and then took a tour of the city starting from low-income areas, noting what the schools look like and comparing them to the wealthy areas.
They visited the Brightwood Community Health Clinic, where they met the director and other community leaders. The director, Dr. Jeff Scavron, is knowledgeable historically and spoke specifically about how to create a health center that serves the entire community.
Pastor Smith and Jim Goodman of the Third Baptist Church, along with Clint Flint, president of the Black Men of Greater Springfield, hosted a stirring discussion with representatives Ben Swan and Carlos Gonzalez, along with other community leaders. Encampers asked about the kinds of change they could make as politicians: “What do you believe in? How can we make our communities safe?” It was an unusual opportunity to have an intimate dialog with public officials.
Local representatives Ben Swan and Carlos Gonzalez and other community leaders meet with Encampers, Springfield, MA.
Vanessa Pabon-Hernandez, leader of EFC’s documentation team, hosted a session at the local public TV station, WGBY, where she is the director of Community Engagement and Education. She created a multimedia presentation that included a discussion focused on the power of digital stories to transform people’s lives. Later that day, Anne Richmond, a co-director of Gardening the Community, a local CBO, along with other staff and youth participants, spoke about community gardens and food justice and then answered questions.
Local CBO Gardening the Community participants and co-director, Anne Richmond speaking at WGBY.
“The field trips were learning experiences and made connections. One of my favorite field trips was the (Wilder Brook) farm because I really am passionate about food access and making a difference. I connected with Gardening the Community to be able to contact them for support to further the process I have started with food access in my community. I’m trying to increase production of healthy foods and to make them more affordable for everyone.” – Aaron
The entire day was hosted by the Springfield community, including lunch and dinner. It is a testament to that community’s generosity and the connections that Jane Sapp, Todd Jones and other staff have there that they provided a feeling of belonging that is unique to the EFC experience.
Exploring Boston Through a Social Justice Lens
Encampers at CCTV.
Control room at CCTV with Encampers on screen.
The Encampment kicked off its exploration of Boston with a field trip to Cambridge Community TV (CCTV). EFC board member Dyanne London and Susan Fleishman, CCTV executive director, organized this powerful learning experience for the Encampers. The young people were interviewed on camera and got to work the camera and sound system. They also saw a movie about public TV.
“Today was a blast in Boston! We had great group discussions on social issues in the local area. We also learned how we can use media to our advantage, by using its power to make our voices heard!” — Deanna
“The experience made me feel more open to media, and how it can change perspective.” — Viseth
Encampers being interviewed by Reverend Irene Monroe on CCTV.
Encampers met with Jean McGuire (EFC alum 1948), executive director of Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) and the first female African-American to serve on the Boston School Committee, gave an engaging talk on the EFC’s importance in her life as an activist and described some of the struggles she’s been involved in concerning equal access to education and other initiatives.
Jean McGuire (EFC alum 1948), director of METCO, speaks with the Encampers.
On our second trip to Boston, Encampers sat in on three immigration hearings and then had a chance to talk with the judges. The 2016 Encampment had young people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Jamaica and Haiti. The group prepared for the trip by hearing stories of Encampers who are immigrants or whose families are recent immigrants.
“My favorite field trip would be the second one to Boston, because I got to learn about immigration and what undocumented people have to be afraid of when living in this country.” – Wade
“The conversation about immigration has [affected] me the most because I am from Houston and I knew that there were problems, but I turned a blind eye. Now I have no choice but to go back home and pay attention to the way that immigrants are treated in the United States.” — Jaelyn
Encamper Leon arranged for the group to have a special learning experience with a group he belongs to — the Boston Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). The opportunity to be in an environment where gender was discussed openly and members of the LGBTQ community could feel safe to be themselves and express themselves was moving to a number of Encampers.
“My favorite memory is when we went to GLASS and I got to learn more about the gender spectrum and be better educated since I wasn’t open to these issues at home.” – Iyanu
2016 InterGen – Passionate, Life-changing, Fun!
A powerful Encampment 2016 concluded in Amherst, MA, with the annual InterGen weekend, where 2016 Encampers and staff invited alums, parents and community members to participate in a community-building weekend.
Guadalupe speaking during presentation on immigration at 2016 InterGen.
The weekend focused on “Challenges and Strategies, Then and Now,” and the intergenerational participants shared their stories of social justice issues and how they have addressed them over the years or are doing so now. The Encampers shared their experiences from their three weeks together in multimedia presentations on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, the entire group focused on ways to grow the EFC.
“The Encampment for Citizenship has my kudos for its curriculum, which connects the past to the present and has a vision for the future. The Encampers were so full of life experience, joy and sorrow. . . artistic learners with a passion that came through during their production, which included dance, music, poetry and spoken word and showed their growth after the three-week immersion in knowledge, inquiry and fun.” — boona cheema
“What a weekend! Honored to be part of InterGen 2016, where we met former Encampers from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, etc. All shared how the Encampment changed their lives and all are doing exciting things to improve the world. We are excited that our son is now one of them.” — Kate Atkinson, parent of 2016 Encamper