Recent Programs: 2017 Encampment
Highlights of the 2017 Encampment Summer Program, Hampshire College, MA
What Does it Mean to be an Activist Global Citizen? 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 skills; exposure to a range of issues, viewpoints and responses to injustice, including a global perspective; creation of an internal democratic government; and exposure to different aspects of democracy in the community.
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
The EFC’s educational methodology is based on the understanding that community is the basis of any social justice movement and activism. An activist does not work in isolation. It is important to “walk your talk” with other community members to be an effective activist. For instance, the question was asked, “How do you apply your beliefs to your everyday life here?” The EFC community was a lab for exploring these questions. The young people worked hard and delved deeply into being more honest and taking responsibility for their behavior and how it affects the health of the community. Over time, the conversation got more specific and they made more headway into the internal dynamics of the group.
Core Workshops focus different lenses on the primary question of how to “walk your talk.” 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. For instance, in the Power and Identity workshop, Encampers explored their identities and their relationship to the larger community. As part of that process, they asked the questions: Who has the power and how does that affect your identity and how you act in your world?
Through an Indigenous Lens focused particularly on American Indian perspectives and activism, Digital Stories gave the young people a powerful tool to explore issues that were of most concern to them as global activist citizens. It also gave them a skill they can take back into their community and share with others. See CORE WORKSHOPS.
Music, Theater and Dance workshops extended the global activist citizen inquiry into the areas of creative expression and deepened the experience for the Encampers. They were charged to use the arts/expressive forms express ideas to and engage community. See ARTS WORKSHOPS.
Moving this exploration out to the neighboring communities puts the theory into practice outside the EFC community in two primary ways:
- Creating a case study of Springfield, Massachusetts;
- Service Learning at several local community-based organizations.
Selections from a Case Study of Springfield, Massachusetts
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 three groups to research different neighborhoods representing varied class backgrounds. They explored the questions: How does a community hold itself together? What makes a community thrive? What hinders community progress? Who benefits from community deficiencies? Who makes the rules in the community?
Program Director Michael Carter, who grew up in Springfield, took his group back to his elementary school, William N. DeBerry School. This school, although profoundly changed since his youth, reflects one that is immersed in and reflective of the community. Historically, the community helped shape the cultural aspect of the school and the school supported the community’s needs by focusing not just on academics but also the creative arts and parent education.
Encampers with program director Michael Carter at William N. DeBerry School.
The Encampers also visited the Mason Square branch of the local library and met with library manager Jennifer Johnston, learning that the library has become a community center with a diverse membership. This library is a community resource, placing a special emphasis on reaching out to younger users by means of a planting area outside and summer reading program. Overall, they encourage sustainability and environmental friendliness.
The Encampers visited a local community health clinic, Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, where they learned about the inner workings of the community through the lens of health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. As the Encampers explored this neighborhood, possible reasons for the higher incidence of these diseases in this neighborhood became evident: A walking tour revealed only one grocery store with very low-grade produce and surrounding restaurants being limited to fast (and fried) food.
The young people had a lot to say about their experiences, particularly after visiting food stores in different neighborhoods. Some of these experiences were deeply emotional, due to their sense that the staff in some stores were uncomfortable with youth of color. The small groups reported their findings and experiences back to the larger group and used some of them in their final presentations.
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 … At least they are ripping off white people.
I say this because 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
Jennifer Johnston, library manager, talking with Encampers; Michael Carter (far right).
Service Learning Highlights
2017 Encampers had multiple opportunities for service learning in the form of five day-long “internships” at local community-based organizations in western Massachusetts. The larger group was divided into smaller groups so different groups had an immersion experience with each of the five community organizations. They learned about their organizations’ strategies and approaches, including ways to contribute to a community based on specific needs, such as homelessness, poverty, food justice and sustainability, immigration reform, promoting peace, and youth development.
Encampers were very enthusiastic about their internships and considered them a vital part of their learning experience. The response from organization staff was also glowing.
Here are brief descriptions of the organization and the Encampers’ activities there.
Gardening the Community is a food justice organization in Holyoke, MA, engaged in youth development, urban agriculture and sustainable living. http://www.gardeningthecommunity.org/
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
Mass Humanities strives to reach communities in Massachusetts whose access to the humanities has been limited due to social, economic, educational or geographic circumstances. They provided the Encampers with a range of experiences in public humanities programming, such as helping design a civil rights curriculum for youth; taking a walking tour with a local history organization; viewing a local art exhibit, visiting the Sojourner Truth Memorial and the David Ruggles Center in Florence, MA. http://masshumanities.org/
It was the most fun I’ve had … the best field trips. The staff was amazing and gave us the respect as young adults that I’ve wanted.—Madison H., CA
Everton L., NY, and Maria M., FL, working on painting project at New England Peace Pagoda.
The New England Peace Pagoda, Leverett, MA, is a “monument to inspire peace, designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace.” Encampers did painting, mural work and gardening. https://newenglandpeacepagoda.org/
The Peace Pagoda was an extremely peaceful experience. It was so new to me. It was so beautiful to see the different cultures and how they reach out to others.–Ryan C., NY
The Amherst Survival Center helps provide residents of Hampshire and Franklin counties with food, clothing, healthcare, wellness, and community through volunteer work. Encampers assisted in the food pantry. https://amherstsurvival.org/
I loved it! I want to find a place like it to volunteer where I live.–Emily S., NJ
Encampers at Nueva Esperanza with interim executive director Nelson Roman (back row, left of center).
Nueva Esperanza exists to be a catalyst and partner for a vibrant, sustainable and powerful Puerto Rican/Afro-Caribbean community in Holyoke, MA. Encampers worked on a mural project and in their Social Justice Camp. http://www.nuevaofholyoke.org/
This was an amazing group of young people that helped us increase capacity, but more importantly, they shared their wisdom as young people of color and taught me the power of youth.—Nelson Rafael Roman, interim executive director
Encampers and staff at the top of Pocumtuck Rock.
Encampers and staff hiked up the 846-foot Pocumtuck Rock in Deerfield, MA. This rigorous activity helped build community among the Encampers, most of whom had just met each other a few days earlier. This location also was chosen because a now-extinct tribe of indigenous people (the Pocumtuck) lived in the area before the 1800s, which provided an opportunity for the group to learn more about American Indian culture and history.
Boston Immigration Court
Immigration was an important topic at the 2017 Encampment, not only because of recent national events, but also since it directly affects many of the Encampers and their families and friends. Encampers prepped carefully for the trip, learning about the laws and how the process works. To start, 2017 intern Litzy organized all the young people who were affected by immigration and they made a presentation to the larger Encampment 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.
With this information, the group traveled eastward to sit 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 as immigrants fought 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.
Encampers and staff outside Boston Immigration Court.
Power and Identity, led by Delmance (Ras Mo) Moses. The Identity core workshop empowers participants to articulate and define who they are. Participants explore sub-themes such as media awareness, popular culture analysis, power in society, core values and relationships through a series of activities including role play, drama, poetry, visual art, song and discussion.
Through an Indigenous Lens, led by Mabel Picotte. In this workshop, Encampers explore the roots and meaning of what it means to be Indigenous. Participants use the Five American Indian “Isms” as a realistic framework for experiencing self-discovery and viewing society through an Indigenous lens. They use this framework to explore their own identities, communities and place in society, displaying their findings through discussion, poetry and reflective writing.
Digital Storytelling, led by Alejandro Cameron, Vanessa Pabon-Hernandez, Jonathan Davila and Zydalis Bauer. Encampers produce a short video featuring their personal experiences. They write their own scripts, record voiceover, and capture photos and videos to visually convey their story. During this hands-on workshop, they learn various digital tools and experience the power of storytelling.
Music, led by Jane Sapp. This workshop gives a creative and poetic voice to the ideas, questions and challenges of the Encampers. Spoken-word presentations and group singing are used for self-expression and inspiration. Many powerful, compelling songs have come out of this workshop.
Movement, led by Mabel Picotte. In this workshop, Encampers explore the ways our bodies move and are influenced by our surrounding environments, circumstances and emotions. They bring their cultural and community music and dances to share and create collective pieces that tell stories of struggle and triumph.
Theater, led by Delmance (Ras Mo) Moses. This workshop is for consciousness-raising, based on the dialectical theory of popular education. Encampers participate in a process of issue/theme identification, reflection, and strategizing for education and/or action addressing the issue. It is both an interactive method for giving voice and value to the target group’s concerns and a way to defend diversity and celebrate community and indigenous cultures. Image theater, personal testimony, song, games and performance poetry are explored. Skill-building activities include voice training, use of the body, use of stage, character development and creative writing.
2017 Internship Program
The EFC created its internship program to meet the needs of recent Encampers who are passionate about social justice and ready to move to the next level of learning and commitment within the EFC community. The EFC is committed to developing youth leadership in the organization and preparing interns for the nonprofit sector in social justice, education and other community-based organizations.
Interns continue the learning journey they started as Encampers, making for a meaningful work experience with a modest stipend. Last year, we had four interns. This year, we received many more applications than available placements. We responded by expanding the program to six interns. Each intern was assigned to a staff member and learned or developed varied skills, ranging from individual and group ones such as workshop facilitation, the basics of interactive teaching, research and organization, and large-group facilitation, and program evaluation.
The internship opportunity that I had with the 2017 Encampment helped to test-drive my passion for social justice … most challenging was helping to modify the curriculum based on discussions we had as a small group. That is, redirecting the youth, not implementing belief but critical-thinking skills, that would help them get to their own conclusions. It was difficult not imposing my belief system even when I wanted to, but I learned to challenge myself and therefore get to a consensus that came from the group.”—Litzy H.
2017 InterGen(erational) Weekend with 2017 Encamper Kristina and 1966 alum Vivian Calderon-Zaks.
After three weeks of grappling with their internal conflicts to build community and reflect 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.
I thought the Intergenerational weekend was great for many reasons:
- It was good to meet other people who care about justice and making a difference;
- It was great to see Emily flourishing in that environment and showing a lot of growth, even in the few weeks she had been at the Encampment;
- I loved the presentations;
- I loved that Emily came away knowing 'to whom much is given, much is required' and that she can and should run for office to make a difference in this world.—Prudence Shapcott, parent of 2017 Encamper Emily
What is important to me about intergenerational programming is seeing firsthand how the early model of the Encampment is adapting to today’s changing conditions. The Encampment is important now because more people can see why such a program is urgently needed. It can make a crucial difference if it is able to find the resources to grow and spread its influence, while creating alliances with like-minded programs in support of liberal democratic values throughout the USA and beyond.—Robert Beckwith, alum 1949
What is important to me about intergenerational programming is I get a chance to keep current with what the youth are thinking and feeling about various topics/issues. The presentations were excellent, very topical, thought-provoking, and showcased their singing, movement and spoken-word skills. For instance, I witnessed a skit the Encampers were doing on suicide. I was impressed and moved by the depth and seriousness of the topic, and they were able to present the information, be entertaining and also suggest what to do if a peer is suicidal.—Dyanne London, Staff 1981, board member
Alums from 1949 to 2016 at 2017 InterGen, including Robert Beckwith (center front), Steve Leibman (center back).
The InterGen weekend was really interesting. I was a little nervous with all the adults questioning what I’m doing, but it was wonderful to have all these people in the circle who care. They fly in from all over the country just for us. They don’t have to be here, but they have hope in the youth. And that’s what we’re here, which I really appreciate.—Grace C., 2017 Encamper
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. This year was so special and new as we truly had a broad spectrum of ages: from an alum from the first Encampment in 1946 to several recent alums from the past five years. For instance, fellow Encampers Bob Beckwith (1949) and 2017 intern Deanna Mousseau (2015) laughed and enjoyed themselves across many decades of life experiences during the weekend.
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