Training In -- Action Camp on Vashon Island

  Action Camp, August 14-21, Vashon Island

by Sandra VanderVen

Want to get involved in a local activism training so you can learn how to lead in our actions against greedy corporations and politicians who choose rich CEOs over working Americans?

The Backbone Campaign’s Action Camp begins on Aug. 14 and continues through Aug. 21.  Activities will include community organizing techniques, strategy and action planning, art for social change, earned media, fun and exciting activism, and kayaking.  People will be coming from all over the country to teach and attend this event.  The camp last year culminated in the now famous Target Ain’t People video, and this year’s camp will include a surprise adventure as well.

I called Bill Moyer, the Executive Director and the creative genius behind the Backbone Campaign to ask him about it.Sandra VanderVen: Bill, can you tell me a little about the camp?

Bill Moyer: This is the first year that Action Camp has grown beyond creative activism like banners and nonviolent protest tactics. We've expanded to include a circle of very talented community organizers. We're going to give people a whole spectrum of tools. People enter into activism at a variety of levels, so we’re making sure to meet people where they are.

SV: What is different about camp this year?Bill: Each year it has changed in some way. We’ve added a community organizing component, brought by our friends from United Workers of Baltimore and City Life/Vida Urbana of Boston. These organizations are doing amazing things, improving working conditions and preventing foreclosures. In this camp we’ll explore the idea of a community supported organizer.  We need organizers to keep things moving in ways that benefit real people.

SV: Why is activism important right now?

Bill: If we're going to build a movement that is strong enough to make a difference in peoples lives, it has to protect peoples’ economic well-being.Backbone campaign itself in the last few years has been doing more work directly related to the well-being of our community.  We helped preserve Maury Island from being turned into an industrial gravel mine. Now it is a park.

We also helped to bring a credit union into our community, and have moved about 8 million dollars in deposits out of Wall Street banks and into our new credit union. An influx of deposits allows them to charge a lower interest rate on loans. This created new jobs on Vashon.

Over the last 5 months, 1,000 people out of the 10,000 person community have moved their money into the credit union. This will continue to stimulate our local economy because it has returned decision making about lending to people who are grounded in the community. Loan officers at the local branches used to be able to make decisions.

Currently at big banks, decisions are made at some corporate office, taking all empowerment away from people who should know. So some loans that should have been made were not, and some loans that shouldn't have been made were. When I walk into the local restaurant and the bartender tells me a story of weeks of frustration with a Wall Street bank, then going to the credit union and walking out with a loan that very day, I realize what the importance of keeping things local can be.

SV: Wouldn't you argue that policy is important because it impacts peoples' lives?

Bill: I feel that by doing work that impacts people in a way that is connected to their quality of life and well-being, we transcend ideology and build a movement toward those bigger national/international goals.  We’re successful when we use the power we have, and build towards getting the power we need to pursue our vision.With all the doom and gloom about the crash in Wall Street and the economy, it occurs to me that *an* economy is failing, but it might not have to be *the* economy that is failing. Maybe there are many economies.  We could be taking doom and gloom and transforming it into doom and bloom.  Wall Street is a doomed model, but local economy has the potential to bloom.

SV: We can only achieve greater economic justice if more of us decide to become activists.  This training is one way to do that.  Check out the schedule, and sign up for the whole thing, or just the days you can. If nothing else, sign up for an action on our website, like telling us your story of unemployment.