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Radical Encuentro Camp: Building Sustainable Revolution in Tejas and Beyond

Renee Feltz
Date Published: 
June 16, 2007

The Radical Encuentro Camp began in 1999 as the Radical Education Community when Houston-based activists and organizers saw a need for trainings focused on skills building and analysis about complex issues as a way to develop grassroots organizing and infrastructure in the region. We were also driven to establish an organization that was radical in nature and respected youth participants. The purpose, then and now, has been to “educate to liberate.”

Renee Feltz (aka chickpea) and Scott Crow became the main co-organizers in 2001, and changed the name to Radical Encuentro to better reflect the changing nature of the camps, which were becoming more than just trainings. They were becoming events where people shared stories and ideas while building deeper relationships between dispersed communities across the regions.

Since 2000, the Radical Encuentro Camp has organized bi-annual gatherings to build solidarity among diverse communities, grassroots organizers and activist groups in Tejas and beyond. Through popular education, we develop skills, strategies and tactics to further our movements and move us from resistance to revolutionary consciousness and actions.

From 2000 to 2005, we held Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter camps about every six months, and after a break we began again in 2007. The camps typically start on Friday night and end on Sunday afternoon. Their schedules include workshops and skill shares on liberation, past and present struggles, hands-on skills, visioning for the future, keynote panels, and entertainment. Between 150-300 participants attend over the course of each weekend. We have hosted camps in cities across Texas including Houston, Austin, Huntsville, Dallas, San Marcos, and Wimberley. Most camps have been in rural settings on private property, but we have also hosted them in urban community spaces.

The Radical Encuentro Camp has been funded and run on small donations and by the participants in the camps. Our fee for the weekend, which includes meals and childcare, has been $15 per person, with no one turned away for lack of funds. We keep our expenses low by getting food donated and by organizing volunteers to provide most of the labor. Many people and bands have also supported us by organizing benefits.

We usually compile the schedule after putting out a call for proposals. A small sample of previous workshop topics includes radical ecology, self defense for women, consensus-based decision making, non-violent direct action, immigrants on lockdown, public art, bio-diesel conversion, Indymedia production, prison privatization, organizing legal collectives, media, and rope climbing. A fundamental part of our work is to confront oppression and racism within “the movements” as we build both statewide and broader solidarity struggles.

Every camp includes an anti-oppression towards liberation workshop and analysis. This approach helps us frame our camps with the message of “liberation for all.” We have also featured keynote speakers and panels, including Robert “King” Wilkerson of the Angola 3, Dr. Rania Masri, Susanna Almanza from People Organized in Defense of Earth’s Resources (PODER), Darryl Cherney, and Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, and three women involved in stopping coal mining, mountain top removal, and coal burning.

Toward action

Occasionally we have organized the camp’s theme around a specific campaign that leads to a day of action. In Spring 2002, the Dallas camp led up to an action against the ExxonMobil shareholders by featuring a panel of impacted community representatives, Pressure Point, Greenpeace and the Human Rights Campaign. In 2007, we teamed up with Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the SEED Coalition for sustainable energy strategies in Texas, and the Alliance of Community Trainers to focus on climate change and climate justice.

One of our major challenges has been to maintain a horizontal organizing structure even as key organizers bottom-line logistics for the camps and we rotate host cities. We have found the institutional memory and familiarity with long-term goals is a benefit of having main organizers, but that those organizers can also suffer burnout from lack of consistent support. The collective of organizers changes based on where the camp is hosted, and usually includes mostly local people. We also struggle with truly broadening the diversity and gender equality in our presenters.

A major success of our “encounters” has been in developing long-lasting relationships that strengthen and build statewide and regional networks for mass events. Examples include protests against ExxonMobil, Halliburton, and the FCC where hundreds of people came from across Texas and the South to carry out actions with creative messaging, direct action, and lots of Indymedia coverage. Many of these skills and relationships also had an impact on organizing in the critical days after the levees broke in New Orleans. The level of trust at these events is much stronger after you see people you’ve spent days with in workshops, or sung songs with around a late-night campfire.

We would like to see our easily replicated model grow throughout the country. Already, activists at 1919 Hemphill in the Dallas Fort Worth area have begun to have smaller camps called Examine Life that include multiple days of workshops and skill shares based on the influence of this organizing model. Our website uses open source Drupal software that allows users to add content, and we hope to post basic guidelines on how to organize camps. Once others host camps, they can add their ideas to the site so it becomes a living open document of collective experience.

Our next camp may be in South Texas, and lead up to the No Border mobilization along the Mexico border in November. As in past camps, we will pair up with local organizers who will bottom line things on the ground with input from longtime organizers who will help with vision and materials. Our long-term goals are to formalize the camp process and create a training center with classes based on the REC mission. This training center would provide a place to cultivate strategic ways, training materials and support to make true change in open democratic and sustainable ways for all of our future.


Renee Feltz (chickpea) is an independent multi-media journalist based in Houston, Tejas. She co-founded the only Pacifica News Department in the South at KPFT, and reports regularly for Free Speech Radio News and the Houston Independent Center, with a focus on the death penalty, immigration and social justice. In addition to the Radical Encuentro Camp, she is part of Houston Food Not Bombs and Voices Breaking Boundaries.