It’s a wrap! Last weekend concluded the final session #MEAction’s first ever ACTIVIST CAMP!, a teach-in series for activists in the United States. We are so proud of this program and what it has accomplished. Congrats to our new grads!
#MEAction ACTIVIST CAMP! aimed to deepen our campers’ engagement with activism – teaching our collective history and applying theories to practice in #MEAction’s work and beyond.
This course was no small feat to organize and teach, and we are grateful to Terri L. Wilder for taking on this vital work.
In addition to Terri L. Wilder, MSW, who you know from #MEAction New York and practically all of #MEAction’s work in the US, we were fortunate enough to have an incredible group of speakers join the series. Waheedah Shabazz-El, Jennifer Flynn Walker, Jawanza James Williams, JD Davids, and Ben HsuBorger contributed to ACTIVIST CAMP! and are each truly remarkable people and teachers. We are also grateful to Wilhelmina Jenkins and Kalvin Leveille who helped co-facilitate our first camp session focusing on community building and camp goal setting.
We invite you to learn more about the activist camp speakers and their work below:
Waheedah Shabazz-El is an African American Muslim woman and retired postal worker who was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003. She serves as a board member for Law Project of PA, Steering Committee Member for U=U, and advisory board member for Sero-Project. She is employed by Philadelphia FIGHT as its Goodwill Ambassador. Waheedah is a long-time member of ACT-UP Philadelphia and a founding member of Positive Women’s Network – USA. Currently, Waheedah is the Interim Program Director for The Reunion Project where she is leading an HIV Long-Term Survivor Alliance. Waheedah’s areas of expertise include Community Organizing, HIV criminalization, Trans Justice, Faith and HIV, Empowering women and girls living with HIV, Aging with HIV and Electoral Organizing.
Jennifer Flynn Walker directs Center for Popular Democracy’s (CPD) Mobilization and Advocacy program, working closely with the Innovations program. Jennifer is responsible for federal healthcare, tax policy and advocacy. At the same time she is developing new ways to mobilize our affiliates in federal campaigns, while experimenting with innovative methods for building new and broader constituencies who can join our campaigns, including building CPD’s Opioid Network.
Jennifer joins CPD after serving for 10 years as a co-founder and Executive Director of CPD affiliate, VOCAL-NY. She was the director of Health GAP, a global AIDS advocacy organization.
Jawanza James Williams (pronouns, He, Him, They, Them) is a Black, radical Queer, Prison Abolitionist, Socialist, Community Organizer. He is a native of Beaumont, Texas. After he received a BA in English from Schreiner University in 2012, he moved to New York City, where he now works with the political organization Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL-NY) as Director of Organizing. Williams is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a founding member of its Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus.
JD Davids (@TheChronicQueer, he/him) is a white/ashkenazi jewish queer and trans writer, journalist and strategist living with ME/CFS and other chronic conditions. He’s creating The Cranky Queer Guide to Chronic Illness and is a member of the What Would an HIV Doula Do collective, serves on the board of #MEAction, and is a grateful accomplice to intersectional networks of BIPOC, female/femme and queer/trans people living with HIV. He is a member of the COVID-19 Working Group of NY and helped support the first patient-led study of long-haul COVID, available at https://patientresearchcovid19.com.
Ben HsuBorger is the Global Community and Campaigns Director at #MEAction. Over the past 10 years Ben has worked in nonprofit, academic and government organizations on projects spanning: microfinance, study-abroad, public health, fair housing and community development. He is a former Fulbright scholar eager to help teams innovate through better integration of people, processes and information.
Over the three-part series, participants engaged with disability justice and anti-oppression models of activism and learned how to apply these lessons to #MEAction’s work. With a disability justice and anti-oppression framework, this series explored the historical context of social justice movements and contemporary organizing, lessons on creating effective campaigns and actions, and helped hone our campers’ activist skills.
The curriculum covered a wide breadth of material – from foundational texts like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, to contemporary works like Crip Camp (2020), and strategic tools like Power Mapping. Each session provided opportunities for participants to learn, reflect, and organize within a collective liberation and disability justice framework.
This ACTIVIST CAMP! cohort represented the range of the #MEAction community — there were #MEAction state leaders, professors, lawyers, people with ME who have been newly diagnosed or have been living with ME for a long time, and people whose loved ones have ME. They participated from all over the country: New York, California, Texas, Colorado, just to name a few.
We can’t wait for the next #MEAction ACTIVIST CAMP! If you missed your chance to participate this round, stay tuned for the next series!