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Summer Action Camp in California:
A NASCO Approach to Ending Oppression

By Steven Kelly, NASCO Director of Education & Training

This August 15-19th, NASCO will launch its first major new educational program in years: the NASCO Anti-Oppression Action Camp. This co-op camp follows up on years of organizing from the People of Color Caucus (POCC) within NASCO to implement organizational strategies for inclusion, as well as several courses, a keynote speaker, and a theme addressing "power and privilege" at NASCO’s annual Fall Institute, and the subsequent amending of the organization’s bylaws and policies.

The POCC, with support from allies in NASCO’s active membership, Board and staff, has identified the crucial necessity for training and resources tailored for deep skill building on issues of oppression in our collective communities. Through observing a multiplicity of communities attempting anti-oppression work over time, a few things have become clear to NASCO. One was that there needed to be more training than has been happening over the past few years. Another was that there needed to be more time to truly explore the depth of these issues. Also, creating changes that are both practical and tactical requires space for personal transformation, as well as for intellectual examination of the distinctive obstacles to inclusion in cooperatives. The answer, or at least the beginning of one, seemed to be the cooperative development of leadership within local groups focused on addressing several sorts of issues. These leaders would go through a program investigating privilege in their own lives, then attain skills for dismantling oppression in communities, and finally strategize on how to take that work home to their specific co-ops to affect local culture, policy, and inter-personal dynamics.

This has been developing as "the NASCO approach" to privilege and power, but there never seemed to be enough time to really move through the process as a cohesive group of peers. To fill this gap, we dreamed up a cooperatively-run Anti-Oppression Action Camp as an incubator community, where skilled and concerned co-opers could come together from across North America to exchange their own ideas for, and experiences in, healing problems back home. By bonding together for an entire week in the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada forests in Northern California, we will build a precious trust with one another as a group – and this really needs to be step one in making lasting change around power and privilege.

The co-op camp program allows for that cohesion through planned games and activities, as well as free time to hike in the Sierras, swim in the local streams, and share music and stories over the evening camp fire. The real skill building comes from outside trainers who bring years of experience in anti-oppression training to share with the campers. The emphasis will be on anti-racism work, which the POCC and others have highlighted as a crucial cornerstone of oppression work within NASCO co-ops. In this, the POCC is supported by data from a 2002 survey done by Devon Greyson, then the Active Member Representative to the NASCO Board, which showed that in our co-ops women, queers, Jews and other traditionally under-represented groups were comparatively more included in co-ops and nearby campuses than in the broader community. People of Color, by contrast, were at best just as under-represented in our co-ops as they are on campus, and in some places much less present in our co-ops than on campuses. Furthermore, co-opers of color tended to not hold positions on co-op boards and staff, and seldom were involved with co-ops enough to participate at policy-making levels of NASCO.

Using time-tested method’s like Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, NASCO camp trainers will work with co-op experts to create a unique anti-oppression program tailored specifically for co-ops and collectively run organizations. We’ll also share camp duties cooperatively through work shifts like trail maintenance, dining room clean-up, and chopping fire wood. Fresh organic food will be provided three times a day including yummy vegetarian and vegan options from local produce. As the day winds down, there’s a local bar down the road from the camp grounds where campers can decompress.

Located outside of Quincy, California at UC Berkeley’s Baker Forest of Meadow Valley, the camp is just an hour from Reno, Nevada, and a five hour drive from the Bay Area. Camp fees are $250 per person for active members and $300 per person for non-NASCO members. Modest scholarships will be available, and if you would like to make a donation toward our anti-oppression education fund, please contact NASCO staff. Check our website for more information or to apply for the Anti-Oppression Action Camp this summer. You may also contact with any camp-related questions.


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