[not that anybody noticed, but I missed last week, and since I’m on a roll, I figured I would include both of these . . . ]
I know that my alma mater has bigger problems than this at the moment, but I have to admit that the recent crop of billboards that has shown up in my neighborhood, imploring kids to “get your camp on!”, kind of bothers me. I know that I should appreciate the fact that they’re reaching out to kids across the city, but it’s the whole “trying to be hip” feel of the ads that bugs me. (maybe because it reminds me too much of myself?! hmmm.)
But these billboards reminded me again of some other “camp woes” I’ve had recently, talking to Mona’s sons about Kids Across America camp, where they will hopefully all be going at the end of June. KAA, with its stated goal of “equipping urban youth and their leaders” is exactly the kind of camp I *want* Mona’s boys to attend.
But her youngest, Michael, recently told me, “I don’t think I’m going to KAA. I’m going to too many camps this summer, and I don’t want to go to another camp.”
“Okay, Michael, what other camps are you going to this summer?”
“Spring Hill . . . and maybe another one.”
Of course he’s going to Spring Hill. Every year, they offer scholarships to inner city kids to attend this (otherwise lily-white) camp. And it’s a beautiful, extremely well-equipped camp, and yes, it’s great that they provide these opportunities.
The thing about Mona, and perhaps I’ve said this before, is that there is a certain spark in her; you just can’t help but love her. And that spark is something that she has passed on to her sons, and it’s this, I think, that makes people eager to do things for them. That’s why I try to cut her some slack about sending her boys to “the white church”, because I recognize that she is a mom trying to get her sons as many opportunities as she possibly can.
It is because of this way Mona has of endearing herself to people that her sons have had the opportunity to attend quite a few camps over the years. I am glad for this, but at the same time I have been intentional about wanting them to go to KAA this year, and I told Michael as much. Though his white auntie was probably the last person he expected to hear say this, I made it quite clear to him that “I don’t want you just going to all of those ‘white’ camps.”
It’s bad enough that they already have it in their heads that it’s always the benevolent white folks who provide these opportunities . . . I don’t want them to get the message that camp is merely a place where they go to be recipients of someone else’s kindness. I want them to see people of color in charge, as role models, as counselors and as leaders. I want them to aspire to give back, and not just to receive yet another “token” invitation that helps us as the white folks feel so good about what we’re doing for “those poor, disadvantaged youth”.
I thank God for Camp Tall Turf, and I know that Mona’s sons (or at least some of them) have been there. But that is only one camp, and I’m fairly certain that the Lewis boys have been to about half a dozen different camps in their lifetime, so that one camp is barely enough to stem the tide. All I can say is that my nephews WILL be “getting their camp on” at KAA this summer, if I have anything to say about it.