On January 15, 41 alums and supporters had an informal intergenerational Zoom conversation about how to navigate institutional racism. 

This month’s topic was suggested by the 2022 Encampers as they went back to high school and college, meeting with challenges in their education connected to racism in their respective institutions. “We have a sense of lacking a voice and being in an oppressive environment. It really hinders your ability to work and learn the best we can. Issues arise like wealth disparity and unequal influence on the administration’s decisions.” —Basil (EFC 2022)

The InterGen Café was initiated and organized by EFC alums from the past 10 years with the support of older alums and staff. The Cafés create informal discussions linking the most recent EFC alums with the network of older alums to address challenges they are facing as they continue to work for social justice and find their way in the world. The InterGen Café is one way that we can build ongoing support and mutual inspiration for our collective social justice work as a broader EFC community.   

Madison Hernandez (EFC 2017+) shared the origin of the InterGen Café: “I wanted to create a space where recent and older alums can connect and discuss current issues in a space like the annual InterGen [at the summer program] that would continue throughout the year and bridge any gaps in our community that has so many people in different areas and fields.”

Litzy Hernandez (EFC 2015+) led a grounding process for the group entitled “Weaving Together Sustainability: What Keeps Us Going?” [ https://padlet.com/] Participants were able to type in the resources that keep them going. Just a few include being in nature; art and poetry; “my mother — I hold on to my mother’s hard work and love to give me the opportunities she wished she could have received”; music; capacity for empathy and willingness to articulate the need for change; community; friends and family; “how far I have come in life — I never gave up.” Litzy ended this activity by saying: “We’re sharing wisdom and ways to make sure that we’re here in the future.”

Deanna Mousseau (EFC 2015+), of the Kul Wicasa Oyate and Oglala Sioux Tribe, continued the grounding by introducing a land acknowledgment of her traditional homelands: “We are still here, and we remain here because of our seven sacred sites. I’m talking about the South Dakota/Midwest region. Anywhere you reside in the United States, you’re on original indigenous territory. I am taking this time to acknowledge that, and to encourage anybody who would like to be an ally in equity and reparation for indigenous people to take some time to educate yourself on the territory that you live on, and the original people that occupied that land.” [https://native-land.ca]

Roni King (EFC 1971) gave a warm welcome and introduced the guidelines and structure for conversation, emphasizing sharing the time, speaking from one’s own experience and adding resources in the chat. The group broke into smaller groups to allow everyone to get their voices heard, then returned to the main meeting room to share highlights of their conversations.

Takeaways from the group discussion:

  • Many private school administrations fail to provide any tangible support for students of color when they bring up concerns. Melanie (EFC 2022) told us, “I am a co-head of a social justice dialogue club, and we meet every Friday. We are trying to find more time and space within the school year to open these discussions, and be able to talk about racism and homophobia. But, unfortunately, the institution is not very open to those discussions.”
  • Sarahi Noyola (EFC 2019) reported on her group: “We discussed the different approaches that we took, or are taking, with institutional racism in the education system. We talked about three strategies:
    1) “Direct action — in my high school, there was a lot of military recruitment targeting low-income, black and brown students. I started organizing a group of youth, and we did a series of protests, and we sat down with the administration and tried to come to some sort of agreement. We also educated the youth at the high school by organizing a journaling program. It was independent from the school and we would write about it, and have meetings and discussions about it.
    2) “Adriana [Diaz, EFC 2019] brought up building community and celebrating culture. She was part of a group here in Oxnard that started a club at her high school that brought together indigenous youth so they could have a space to hear from each other.
    3) “Basil brought up community support — showing up for whatever efforts are going on at your school, and collaborating with other schools, because then you hear from other people’s experiences which most likely are very similar to yours.”
  • Maria Hernandez (EFC 1979), who is a public K–12 principal, suggested identifying other staff members who can be allies. That way, students do not feel alone and other administrators provide guidance for language/approach.
  • Steve Davis, who works in the private school sector, suggested something similar. He reminds young people that the role to support young people is embedded in their job description of all staff.
  • Danielle Lansing (EFC 1993) offered another perspective based on her experience in tribal education: for those of us who are going into the professional world to be more rigorous with where our energy is going by researching before going into the workforce. She reminds us that there are spaces where our skill, love and experience can be appreciated and respected.
  • Madison (EFC 2017+) said her group discussed finding your community and that finding allies is very important for movement forward, as is sharing the music and art. “Not everything is going to work out all the time, and you have to know when to move on versus when to push forward. It’s important to believe in yourself and your goals.”

Participant Quotes:

“I want to continue to be part of the EFC community and go to events like the one on Sunday because I feel it is so important to have these conversations with older alums” —Melanie (EFC 2022)

“In response to Melanie’s experience, I was shocked that her school is taking this tack right now (not acknowledging racial and ethnic prejudice, homophobia, to the extent of not allowing young people to talk about these issues). She has drawn on the Encampment, and on the staff, and other people who have been involved in the Encampment for strength in knowing what to do. This shows how important it is to stay connected with the youth who go to the Encampment because they are facing issues when they go home that we need to know about. We wanted to offer her as much support as possible, and we recounted some of our experiences when we went back to our high schools or colleges after our encampments in 68, 69, 71, 93.” —Jackie Frank (EFC 1971)

“Young people need older people who have lived and experienced on their side. We need their support and acknowledgment; I feel like events like the InterGen Cafe are valuable for us to bridge a gap.” —Imani (EFC 2022)

“The meeting is filling me with more hope in our collective future. It’s a pleasure to see everyone, and listen especially to younger Encampers. I’ll look forward to more meetings. Peace to all.” —Richard Rosenblatt (EFC 1968)

“This demonstrates how incredibly important the Encampment continues to be. I am dazzled by the strength and clarity of some of the most recent alumni!” —Elliott (EFC 1981)

Litzy (2015+) said that the first InterGen Café of 2023 served as a personal reminder that when the space is offered and cultivated, the following can come about:

  • “A sense of belonging. The EFC is not only a memory of a space that once held you as a young person years ago. It is also an active and committed community that you can come back to where you are valued and heard.”
  • “People have a place in their communities. They are not passive members of their home towns. Rather, like others in the space, we are all collectively figuring out how to enact the agency we already possess in meaningful and strategic ways.”


Group online collaboration — https://padlet.com/

Land acknowledgment — https://native-land.ca

Institute for Human Relations graphic on People of Color in Primarily White Institutions: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19mD0sjiolsAnidbGhGIPaP2ueFYbzKYX/view?usp=share_link

Embracing Equity, a cross-racial coalition working together to embrace equity: https://embracingequity.org/resources

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Next month’s InterGen Café takes place on Sunday February 19, 3 p.m. PT/4 p.m. MT/5 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. ET. The topic is mental health. We’ll be sending out more information in the next couple of weeks.