The camp, which runs through Aug. 24 at a redbrick former schoolhouse on Maujer Street in Williamsburg, was only three days old, and fellow Occupiers, swept up in the pioneering spirit, had been coming by in droves to lend a hand. A few guys from Occupy Tech Ops had spent the afternoon tweaking the old computers and hooking up the Ethernet connection, and an Occupy artist had silk-screened 20 T-shirts (with a book-and-raised-fist logo) to serve as camp uniforms. Occupy librarians were finishing the reading room, and some Occupy farmers were discussing how to bring in provisions. A tattooed video jockey from Occupy TV was milling about, recording it all on a Sony hand-held camera.
The only thing missing at that point were the campers. By Wednesday, there were three.
“The joke is we’ve been getting one a day,” said Mr. Wedes, who is 26 and a veteran of the food committee at Zuccotti Park. “I figure, at this rate, in another couple weeks we’ll actually have a camp.”
You could blame the slow start on any number of issues: a nonexistent advertising budget (zero dollars out of a $300 operating account); a lack of sufficiently radical activities (no shoot-the-banker archery, say, or color war with flexi-cuffs); or a cultural predilection for horizontal planning. (How fast would a top-down Tea Party camp be up and running?)
Mr. Wedes (pronounced WEE-dis) said the delay was merely a function of grass-roots community work. “We’re starting here from nothing,” he said, “and building up. It’s a process.”
He and Mr. Deas (pronounced DEEZ), who is 56 and the inspiration for the boombox-toting Radio Raheem character in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” chose as their model for the camp the civil-rights-era Freedom Schools, the most renowned of which emerged in Mississippi in 1964. Their project, formally known as the Paul Robeson Freedom School Summer Day Camp, is part summer school, part scout jamboree. Mornings are for academics: reading, writing, history, basic math. Afternoons are for lighter activities: leaf-tracing and field trips to the Bronx Zoo or the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. Registration is $80, and scholarships are available.
On the camp’s second morning, two campers — which is to say, the only two — Leslie Rojas, 12, and Jonathan Smith, 14, sat at desks in the second-story classroom, receiving a lesson on the Freedom School movement from David Dobosz, a retired city public-school teacher. They were reading from a textbook, “Freedom Summer,” by Deborah Wiles, and the question of the day (“What is freedom?”) was chalked on the blackboard.
The children looked weary, eyes glazed over, slumping in their seats.
“There’s just so much to learn,” Mr. Dobosz encouraged them, “especially with the top-down corporate control of education that’s sucked the life out of the heritage of our children.” He glanced at his students, with a sigh. “All right, why don’t we do some science…”
THINGS perked up somewhat at lunchtime, when the camp administrators walked the campers to a free-lunch program at a public high school, a couple of blocks away. The camp’s own cafeteria, at that stage, consisted of a cardboard box of Bisquick, some instant organic oatmeal and several packs of Swiss Miss powdered cocoa. As Jonathan and Leslie came back from the mess line with sandwiches and salads, Mr. Dobosz, ever vigilant for a teachable moment, said: “Think about the First People. They didn’t just walk up to a counter and get food, did they?” The campers, picking at their meals, agreeably shook their heads.
Neighbors in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Mr. Deas and Mr. Wedes decided early on not to base the camp’s curriculum too heavily on Occupy materials, preferring to let the ethos of the movement come out naturally in casual interactions with their campers. While strolling after lunch to Cooper Park — for reading at a picnic table — Jonathan found a dollar bill lying on the sidewalk. This occasioned a brief explanation of fractional-reserve banking from Mr. Deas.
Then, on Maspeth Avenue, Mr. Wedes asked the campers what they knew about the Occupy effort. Leslie seemed unsure about the subject, but Jonathan said at once, “It was the fight against the 1 percent by the 99 percent.”
“That’s exactly right!” Mr. Wedes exclaimed. He congratulated the boy on having put it so succinctly — despite, he said, “the efforts of the mainstream media who usually try to confuse you and make things sound confusing, when they’re not.”
One of the camp’s guiding principles is community involvement, and, thus, the next night there was the cookout. As the smell of lighter fluid drifted through the air, Jonathan’s mother, Cheri Smith, a lab technician, showed up with her younger son, Matthew, and a store-bought roasted chicken. Ms. Smith said she had found the camp by accident after she discovered that Jonathan was too old to attend a different camp around the corner.
“I heard about these guys who had a camp preparing kids for high school,” she explained. “I said, ‘Bingo!’ I’ll send him wherever he can get the knowledge. Summer’s not all fun.”
Claudia Holguin, Leslie’s mother, showed up, too, with her older daughter and a cheesecake. Ms. Holguin, who works in the accounting department at the law firm DLA Piper, said she knew nothing about the Occupy movement until running into Mr. Wedes last week while visiting her parents, who live across the street from the camp.
“All I knew was that Justin was running a summer camp — that’s all he had to say,” Ms. Holguin said. “When I got home that night, I checked out the Occupy thing on Google.” (She approved.)
AS the campers and their parents moved inside the schoolhouse, chatting of this and that and eating from a tinfoil tray of popcorn, more and more Occupiers started to arrive. With the loss of Zuccotti Park, the Maujer Street building — with its ample space and pleasing 19th-century aesthetic — has the makings of a hangout for the movement.
By dusk, in fact, the tall front stoop was crowded with Occupy musicians, Occupy Wi-Fi experts, Occupy teachers and spandex-wearing members of the Occupy Bike Coalition. Their talk was of Cointelpro, fiat currency, David Graeber, Twitter, Bitcoin, the Police Department’s lack of credibility and Occupy rock bands, like Global Block and Bear Market.
In the basement, spread out on a table, 17 newly silk-screened T-shirts were waiting to be filled with campers’ bodies. Around the grill, however, the Occupiers had managed a neat trick. They had occupied their own summer camp.