The Encampment changed our lives. We want it to do the same for young people who can't afford it. Why? Because, as our own stories testify, diversity of all kinds and inclusion are at the heart of the EFC experience, and the heart of the change we need in this country.
We're mother and son — EFC alums separated by 38 years and connected by our amazing common experience.
Karen: I was 16 years old when I arrived at the 1980 Encampment in Washington, DC. I was surrounded by kids from all over the country and the world: different races, different languages, different backgrounds and incomes. The Encampment for Citizenship had a profound effect on my life. I stepped far out of my comfort zone and ran for student council, I spoke in front of my entire school about the need for diversity in my nearly all-white community and I wrote articles for my school newspaper.
In college, I majored in architecture and urban studies, focusing on the inequity of funding that goes into urban vs. suburban transportation systems. Later, I combined my architecture and planning skills with my social justice mission in a career as a developer of service-rich affordable and mixed-income housing.
My worldview, my career, my life choices and the values I instill in my children have all been guided by my Encampment experience.
August: At the 2018 Encampment in Raymond, Mississippi, I learned a lot about the lives and past experiences of people from around the country. This is important to me since, like my mom, I live in a relatively homogenous bubble in Massachusetts. Three weeks with my fellow Encampers began to punch holes in that bubble. I gained an appreciation of diversity, different life experiences and other ways to think about the world around me.
And I learned a lot. On one field trip, we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It was a harrowing portrayal of America's long, vicious history of violence against African Americans. But it was the story of Caleb Gadly — a young man who was lynched in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1894 — that got to me. What separated his story from all of the others was where he lived: His home wasn't far from the small town where some of my family members have lived in for generations. I realized it was likely that those responsible for his death bore some connection to my not-so-distant relatives. Learning about Caleb Gadly brought the history memorialized by the Equal Justice Initiative to a much more personal place. I'll never forget that.
We both know that more than ever, these tumultuous times demand that tomorrow's leaders learn to solve problems by bringing us together, not separating us. The Encampment is all about creating ways for everyone — no matter where we live, the color of our skin or whether we can afford the Encampment — to learn to live and work together. Your support of the Encampment for Citizenship makes this possible. It encourages students to understand and be conscious of the struggles faced by people outside their own communities.
We need your support. Please give generously today to sponsor young people from different backgrounds at the 2019 Encampment in Camarillo, California, where the focus will be on immigration, labor and environmental issues. Join with us in creating your family legacy of Encampment participation and impact.
Karen Gray & August Kane
P.S. The Encampment depends on individual donations to make up the difference in program fees for families who can't afford the full costs — your support makes a big difference! Donate today. Help make sure every qualified applicant has a space at the Encampment this year.