In the first week of the 2022 Encampment, Encampers started forming their community, sharing their cultures, exploring the surrounding community cultures and learning about the history of resistance to social injustice. As always in the EFC approach, we ask questions and emphasize the importance of asking questions in the leadership process. Some questions that were asked by the virtual speakers are:
- How do we approach cultures that are different from ours and what can we learn from them?
- How did we get to where we are today — how do we see clearly what is in front of us using the historical context?
- How do our biases influence our perceptions; how does that relate to being a leader in our communities and nation; and what work must we do to strengthen ourselves as leaders?
On the first full day of the Encampment, Marcus V.O. Lopez facilitated introductions and taught the Encampers a songs from the Chumash culture. Every part of his presentation and discussion was interactive, engaging the young people in learning about the culture of one of the Indigenous peoples of this area, called “Chumash” by linguists, and the importance of the tomol or canoe that was revived by the Brotherhood of the Tomol in the 1970s. This was especially important for the Encampers because they were looking forward to a group tomol paddle with the Native people on Sunday in Santa Barbara Harbor. They learned about safety, paddling techniques and paddling songs. This 7-minute video is an excerpt from this lesson including a song.
On July 7, inspirational speaker, Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, EFC alum 1993 CA, gave a lively, interactive and trenchant talk focused on leadership qualities and development, stating that “you are the ones who are going to change the world” and urging them to do the work to become leaders.
He discussed perception — how we view ourselves and other people, and how we often don’t take the time to really learn about and understand others, instead making quick judgments based on appearances and stereotypes. He asked, “What can we do to make this a world where people can see all that you are?”
He compared what people usually see to the tip of an iceberg: “Looking at things at the surface level, ignoring things at the bottom. How you dress, how you dance, what you each of us has is such a powerful culture. You can’t be a leader if you let society strip you of your culture … You need to make people see; otherwise, they are going to treat you as though you don’t matter, as if your life doesn’t matter.”
Dr. Dibinga talked about what makes people work against their own interests by introducing the concept of agnotology — the study of “deliberate, culturally induced ignorance or doubt, typically to sell a product or win favor, particularly through the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.” An example is the tobacco industry showing celebrities smoking to move attention away from the fact of cancer and other diseases related to smoking.
He also quoted Lyndon B. Johnson: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” He related that to the rise of Donald Trump and the right wing. He stated that a culture where people look down on others and have a zero-sum mentality (“If you win, I lose”) is how we got here and is what has to change — for all the different issues: hate crimes against Black, Asian and Jewish people; textbook and other book banning; women’s reproductive rights; LGBTQ+ prejudice.
He asked the Encampers: “Is it okay for someone to see something I don’t see to have a discussion?” They delved into how different people can have entirely different perceptions of the same image, using the swastika as one example — an ancient symbol of home, security and wholeness that Nazis used to persecute and murder Jewish, Romani and homosexual people. He recommended the TED talk “The Dangers of a Single Story” by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Dr. Dibinga facilitated a discussion of an article by Mark Sanborn, “Why Leaders Fail,” asking the Encampers to look at which of the six reasons they most related to and share those in small groups. He also urged them to take care of themselves as leaders, emphasizing the importance of self-care resources and asking for help from mentors.
Mab Segrest, activist, writer and teacher led “How Did We Get Here, Part One (how do we see clearly what is in front of us?)” by asking the Encampers to “Turn to a person next to you and identify one issue that seems “in front of you” that you would like to better understand”. What followed was a deep conversation discussing gender, class and race issues and their intersectionality, including the key concepts of Critical Race Theory and Settler Colonialism.
Ms. Segrest shared a brief history of her childhood in a White racist family in Alabama (what she saw “up close”) to her awakening when Black students had the courage to enter Tuskegee High School. “Tuskegee was a very vibrant source of Black culture and resistance … and the Civil Rights Movement, which basically came to town with 200 state troopers. I was looking through the grass and I saw these Black kids walking across the breezeway like I used to — I saw something ‘up close’ that was very different … and I had a sense of empathy like I used to be there, I could be them … My heart opened up and that was really for me a very transformative moment.”
She went on to say that when we talk about race, deeply embedded historical feelings will come up and be present in our bodies, and we have to pay attention to that to think clearly about Critical Race Theory.
The session presented the two key concepts, with a discussion framed as a series of questions with time to discuss in small groups and bring results back to the whole group. These are basic definitions with brief excerpts from the far-ranging conversation.
CRT originated to explain how laws and institutions have been shaped by White supremacy — a form of understanding history that makes our lives and thinking intelligible. The attack on CRT by the right is really an attack on understanding history and White supremacy. CRT is any version of history that undercuts a White narrative of supremacy and superiority, and resistance to it is when we start having laws against teaching CRT.
Ms. Segrest: “What might be the appeal to White people to have a way to deny this powerful history of power, oppression and resistance in the U.S.?”
Encamper: “The poor White people who feel better than People of Color and, when it comes down to that, it creates a big divide from what was once an alliance.”
Ms. Segrest: “And what in some White people is open rebellion — that’s a very dangerous kind of movement … there is a brand of White people now who are terrified of being replaced and they’re fighting back while they think they can. They’re willing to do whatever they need to do; they are vastly not the majority, but they are seizing control of legislators and school boards and institutions.”
Encamper: “We discussed how race doesn’t actually exist and it’s a made-up tool for White people to oppress Black people.”
Ms. Segrest: “One shocking statistic from 2010 is that the top 400 people in the United States have more wealth, which is not more money but accumulated stuff, than the bottom 156 million.”
Ms. Segrest: “… Settler colonialism is part of this larger understanding of history now… it’s pretty basic in terms of accumulation and land and labor in migrations … After exploration (such as Columbus), there’s settlement, then there’s colonialism. The kind of settlement we had here is called settler colonialism, because the people who colonized came to stay.
“Settler colonialism explains the foundational processes in what became the United States: the appropriation of land from indigenous people — its theft — by settlers and what became the U.S. Army. It drew on a settler concept of private property: that individuals could own things, including other people — slaves. The second process was the enslavement of Africans to provide the labor for plantations and other means of production.”
Encamper: “We talked about how colonialism isn’t just taking away people’s land; it’s taking away their culture, their rights and, in some cases, their humanity, so if we’re using that definition, then it is still around today.”
Ms. Segrest: “… our bodies and minds have been colonized so gender is binary for everyone. My generation of social justice activists, especially queers, feminists, anti-racists, socialists — we’re working on understanding the power intersection where it’s not race over here on one planet and class on another planet and gender over here and age somewhere else. We all experience these in our bodies and our culture simultaneously, so how do we have movements that recognize the fullness of our identities and don’t say, ‘Well, you can come in this movement, but you can’t bring your Blackness into it or your queer awareness’?”
On Saturday, the Encampers explored the nearby town of Oxnard comparing resources available in different neighborhoods.
Sarahi, 2022 intern: “Today is our first big field trip and we’re in Oxnard and it’s really fun for me because I get to show people around my home town. It’s more of an exchange really because it’s not just me telling people this is where I’m from – people want to share where they are from too.”
Neveah, at the Community Roots Garden: “I’m not usually a person who is in nature because I live in a city so it’s difficult to find places like this. I’ve been enjoying the whole process of looking at the flowers and eating fresh strawberries.”
Encampers were invited to paddle tomols in Santa Barbara Harbor with members of the Chumash tribe who do this every Sunday.
Click links for videos that are slowed down to reflect the experience.
NEXT WEEK: 2022 InterGen, JULY 22-24
Join us for “Voices for Justice—2022 Livestream/Virtual InterGen”
Friday: Opening Circle, 3–5 p.m. Pacific/4–6 MT/5–7 CT/6–8 ET
Session I, 9 AM–12PM Pacific/10–12 MT/11 AM–2 PM CT/ 12–3 PM ET:
Evelin Aquino on education and restorative justice; Hausson Byrd on impact of youth culture; Omekongo Dibinga on HipHop and resistance; Litzy Hernandez on immigration; Robert Hirsch on policing; Shauna Marshall on the law as vehicle for social justice; the Pesticide-Free Soil Project on Environmental Justice; and Jason Warwin of Bro/Sis on education and community organizing.
Session II, 4–6 PM Pacific/5–7 MT/6–8 CT/7–9 PM ET:
2022 Encamper creative presentations – always an InterGen favorite!
Sunday Keynote & Closing, 10AM-12 PM Pacific/11 AM-1PM MT/12-2 CT/1-3 PM ET:
Nse’ Ufot and Miles Rapoport on the importance of voting, voter suppression and its relationship to systemic racism.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.