In the days following the passage of Proposition 8, many of us who had poured countless amounts of time, energy, and money into working toward its defeat felt despondent and helpless. After the rage mellowed and the sadness lifted slightly, we were left with perhaps an even bigger, more daunting issue: Where and how do we go from here?
The intervening months saw flares of activism or gay-rights oriented discussions, but none have burned as brightly as Courage Campaign’s Camp Courage. Taking its cue from the 2008 election’s Camp Obama, which trained volunteers in the value of neighbor-to-neighbor conversations to effect change, Camp Courage provides the opportunity for supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights to learn how best to cultivate the communication needed to persuade people of the importance of equality.
Fortunately for Central Coast activists, Camp Courage makes a stop at Santa Barbara City College on January 30-31 in the first-ever tri-county gathering. A broad coalition of supporters from Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties has come together to host this weekend-long training session.
The intensive, two-day camp is designed to help burgeoning activists define their voice and their story so that once marriage equality returns to the ballot, enough hearts and minds will have been changed to win back equal rights for all Californians. Participants become leaders in a grassroots movement and build community through an inclusive, empowering process that respects each individual as an important tool for change.
Once the weekend gets started, and almost immediately after the initial introductions, campers are broken up into groups of eight. It is in these small groups that people learn how to cultivate their stories of self—personal experiences that allow for an emotional connection, and therefore provide a possible avenue for changing attitudes about LGBT equality. In any good story, the listener will be drawn in by the characters and their motivations and challenges, and will then become invested in the outcome. Although it may sound fairly basic, knowing how to tell one’s story is an invaluable tool: It empowers the individual while fostering interpersonal connection. If someone can relate to my story and my struggles, he or she is less likely to want to impede my happiness.
The next steps are learning to tell the story of us, which synthesizes the stories of self into an understanding of why we need equality as a community, and the story of now, which connects stories of self and us into a results-oriented plan of action. The entire process promises to be a life-changing experience, and those who have attended other camps throughout the state adamantly describe it as edifying and powerful.
Santa Barbara and its nearby communities are incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity right in their backyard. If you are interested in being part of the movement to win back marriage equality, this is a can’t-miss chance to learn how to be an effective member of that team.
Camp Courage comes to Santa Barbara Saturday, January 30, and Sunday, January 31, at S.B. City College. If you are unable to attend both days but still want to be involved, volunteers are needed for four-hour shifts throughout the weekend. Space is limited, so visit couragecampaign.org/campcourage to sign up today.