Here is a snippet some of the many things we are doing to further social justice at the BDC. While we may plan some activities, most of the work happens around things that the campers are saying. This summer we’ve had a multitude of conversations around race, gender, wealth, and all sorts of things that have to do with inclusivity and equity. Some of these conversations have included talks about “girl/boy colors” to understanding what it means to say, “I’m starving.”
This conversation began when some campers were touching a staff of color’s hair without permission despite being repeatedly asked not to. The group began a discussion about different types of hair and culture. We tell our campers that any touching of hair, holding hands, hugging, etc. should not be done without consent. For people of color and particularly folks of African or Latino descent, this is considered a big “no-no.” The freedom that some folks feel to touch folks of color without permission is a big problem in our society. While we respect the curiosity of children, we also teach respectful touch and boundaries.
The conversation turned into a talk about “Black People.” Some of the things that were said were:
“Black People are from Portland.” (Why I love working with elementary age kids!)
“Black People are from Africa.”
“How did Black People Get here?”
“Are all White People bad?”
“Does Slavery still happen today?”
“Are White People still taking the Brown People?”
“Why are white people not taken by Brown People?”
The counselors talked about people taken from Africa against their will and brought to work without pay. They explained privilege and talked about people with power taking others’ bodies without asking. They also talked about being an ally and what that means. At one point a camper made a joke about a brown stick and a piece of paper. The counselors explained that this is not a joking matter and that this was a serious conversation.
As you can imagine, this was a hard conversation to have with young children with different experiences. We train the staff to have these conversations without making folks feel bad or guilty. I’m very proud of the staff and campers for working through this together. The staff immediately came to me and debriefed. They felt ok about the conversation and felt like they thought of things after that may have been helpful. We train our staff to always address issues around inclusivity and equity. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Outside of Farm & Wilderness, I do this work with elementary age children. The beautiful thing about this age is that they often say what they are thinking which allows us to support their growth. You can also download this PDF that has lots of recommended resources.