Art and Empowerment
The Art of Protesting: Kids take creative approach to activism at camp in Ben Lomond
While most summer camps get kids out of the house and give parents a break, a group called Art in Action is nurturing the next Michael Moore — the controversial filmmaker who created "Fahrenheit 9/11."Oh good grief. Did someone pick up a rejected Dharma and Greg script and run it as news?
Art in Action’s "art and empowerment" camp is being held at the Quaker Center nestled in the redwoods of Ben Lomond. Campers at the 10-day retreat attend workshops on cultural activism, nonviolent action and alternative media.
"The reality is that the media is not actually showing what’s really going on in Iraq," said Jouse Bustos, 19, of central Los Angeles. "By doing this mural, I’m showing what’s going on.And pray tell, Mr Bustos, when you were in Iraq last?
Bustos is one of 25 young people attending the camp. For 10 days, they learn to say "no" to military recruiting, racism and war, and "yes" to eco-justice, community and love.Struggles with reality, struggles in which reality has had six kinds of crap kicked out of it before lunch time by the look of it.
Campers spend their time making banners, writing poetry and choreographing dances that represent a vision of "positive alternatives to the madness of war and oppression."
The hours spent building giant puppets and talking about how to influence the rest of the world culminate with a performance for the community Thursday night at The Attic on Pacific Avenue.
"Art is the best way to communicate social messages," said camp founder Alli Chalabi-Starr, who grew up in Santa Cruz but now lives in San Francisco. "We want to inspire young people to get involved."
Chalabi-Starr, 37, gave up a career as a modern dancer to start Art in Action five years ago.
Each year she invites people ages 17-25 — mostly from low-income families — from cities across the country to attend the camp, which has been held in Nevada City and Half Moon Bay.
"Queer, working class and youth of color are strongly encouraged to apply," an Art in Action postcard states.
The cost of camp, up to $750 a person for meals, lodging and workshops, is mostly covered by donations, Chalabi-Starr said.
In the middle of an uncomfortably warm afternoon, campers — trying to dodge the sun and grab a spot under a towering tree canopy — are absorbed in various activities.
Some glue together pieces of newspaper that will become the giant puppet unveiled Thursday night — the divided face of a Muslim woman and woman of color from the United States.
Stamped across the face will be an American flag, said camp co-founder Maryam Roberts of San Francisco.
The face "represents silence forced upon both women by their governments," Roberts said. "There is a feeling of silence."
Pamela Chavez, a student at UC Santa Cruz, said the conversations at camp have helped her express the frustration from growing up as a Costa Rican migrant who moved at least 14 times with her family before settling in Hayward.
"It’s really cool," Chavez, 21, said. "More than anything I’ve learned a lot from the other youth here about solidarity and the struggles everyone has gone through."