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'I'm an activist, Mommy': Durham anti-racist summer camp educates children on racial identities

Posted July 28, 2021 5:14 p.m. EDT
Updated July 29, 2021 11:33 a.m. EDT

— Black and brown children growing up in North Carolina experience all different forms of racism — from other students and institutions, according to the executive director of a new summer camp in Durham.

Ronda Taylor Bullock's goal as director of WEARE is to help children understand their identity as it relates to race.

“It’s very important that children learn to develop healthy racial identities at a very early age,” Bullock said, noting said she had her first experience with racism when she was 5.

“Black and brown children already have stories of victimization at the hands of white youth," she said. "And so here in our camp, we create a space for that type of sharing to occur."

WEARE — which stands for Working to Extend Anti-Racist Education — serves children in first through fifth grades. The environment is designed to "affirm" each student's identity and dignity, according to camp organizers.

Educators and counselors at the camp covered topics like systemic racism, social justice movements and racial barriers behind a name. The camp broke down heavy topics in a way children can understand.

“What was so beautiful and important was that, even though some of the kids grappled with their own identities, at least, by the end of the week, they’re able to identify some wrongs that exist either against them or their friends and also some of the ways that they can change it,” said Brie Starks, the children and families coordinator at WEARE.

Stephanie Baker said her daughter had a great time at the camp this month.

“She likes to claim, 'Now I’m an activist, Mommy,'” Baker said.

Baker said her daughter had a racist encounter when she was 4 years old. Because of that, she encouraged other parents to find ways to open up conversations about race with their children.

“I knew that it doesn’t do me any use to not have conversations with her about it because, if I’m not talking with her about it, then she just going to draw her own conclusions," Baker said.

Starks said that she wants to encourage students to have a better understanding of race and their own identities so they can advocate for themselves in school.

"With there being so much pushback of this critical race theory of race and racism in schools, what better time than now to keep pushing forward on educating kids about their rights and about their ability?” Starks said.

Four camps were held in Durham and Greensboro this summer.

WEARE is also offering workshops for educators and community leaders to help them teach their students about anti-racism in the classroom.

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