“The Alumni Weekend was inspiring – I really enjoyed the groups where the young people and alums shared. It was great seeing the young people open to their personal growth and to the work of social change. They were making plans to go back to their communities and do things they feel passionate about. It’s inspiring to hear from the alums how much EFC was a transformative experience that helped them to work for change. This weekend with fellow alums and the Encampers is re-invigorating and it’s an opportunity to contribute by supporting the young people and other alums.”  — Maria M. Hernandez (79 SD).

We heard similar sentiments from the many alums and supporters who participated in the Intergenerational Weekend at the summer program. Current Encampers and alums from decades starting in the 1940s gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago to learn from and teach each other. Together, Encampers and alums created a unique multi-generational community of people who care about social justice that crosses ethnic/cultural, geographic, and socio-economic lines.

Alums from seven decades joined the 2014 Encampers at the summer program in Chicago July 18-20. This was a great learning experience for new Encampers and the alums and a fun one. It is also core to our development of a multi-cultural intergenerational network of social change activists. Encampers and alums participated in workshops and discussion groups based on topic and/or geographic location.

“One of the highlights for me was having workshops where the alums shared experiences of their careers and choices and presented that to the group and then we had small group discussions in workshops. In my case, I was part of a group that talked about working in the non-profit field. Young people asked us lots of questions, shared their experience working with non-profits and they got first-hand experience and perspective that typically is not available to them. As a result, alumni are now helping Encampers apply for college, learn dance from a professional dancer, connect with community service projects, and other life-changing opportunities that they just would not get otherwise.” (Steve Leibman, 69MT)

Elliott Black (81DC) reflects on the Education Panel: “I found my faith in the future of our nation and world being restored as I listened to each of you. The living spirit of my grandfather (Algernon D. Black, co-founder of the EFC) and Eleanor Roosevelt and Nanny Pollitzer were very much present in that room. What the founders of EFC did was to plant seeds in people, and keeping the EFC going (and resurrecting it again after periods of decline) is about planting and re-planting seeds, nurturing them, watering them so that they grow into ever-expanding trees and gardens, dropping more seeds along the way.  It’s enormously important work.”

The Saturday night celebration event summed up the spirit of this engaging community experience, further inspiring and re-invigorating the participants. Each Encampment workshop showcased their work and time together in the most creative and moving ways possible with music, dance, spoken word, and multi-media presentations. We also had the pleasure of having local Encampment families attend the event and give praise and support to the young Encampers. Jason Warwin, EFC alum from 1989, co-founder of The Brotherhood/Sista Sol, East Harlem, NY, gave a moving keynote speech at the celebration event. “I came to the Encampment with a little bit of anger, and a little sense of being oppressed. The Encampment for me was a life changing experience.  Like many of you have said already, like all the alums have said over and over again, it transformed my life . . .  Sometimes you get motivated to create change because you are angry and sometimes you just love the people. We do this because we love humanity, because we love our people, because we love the idea of freedom, of democracy — not because we hate anybody.”