Youth Camp Provides Cultural Enlightenment Between African American And African Immigrants

According to Ndudi Chuku, founder of the Mission Africa Organization, the camp introduces children to the sounds, smells, tastes and trends from countries throughout the continent of Africa, as well as introduce them to the tastes, trends, smells and sounds cultivated by the descendants of Africa who were born and raised in America.

“As an organization we serve the children and families of African descent here in the South King County communities,” says Chuku. “We focus on education, healthcare and poverty alleviation programs.”

“The one thing we love to do is partner with organizations, so when we got the opportunity through a grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) we partnered with Live Life Church to do a day camp this summer,” continued Chuku. “It was just natural for us to partner with [them] because they had a wonderful facility for us to use and they are very qualified to run the program for us.”

Jamina Smith, program director for the summer day camp and first lady of Live Life Church, is a firm believer in connecting people through culture and says that thecamp provides a plethora of classes and activities that are designed to unify the cultures of young African and African Americans through food, dance, history, traditions and language.

“The curriculum focuses on regions of Africa and Afro America and children of both are being able to experience each other cultures and have discussions,” says Smith. “This gives [the children] the opportunity to tear down barriers and dispel those stereotypes about one or the other. So, we are really digging into that.”

Traveling to Africa solidified Smith’s resolve to instill a sense of universal unity in both Africans and African Americans. Smith’s own experience gave her a sense of belonging and the desire to share that experience with others.

“I went to Kenya in 2018,” says Smith. “One of the biggest things I experienced as an African American going to the African continent was the immediate feeling of ‘wow’ this world was made for me here, I belong here.

“Immediately existing the plane, I was escorted from the back of the line to the front of the line as my white counterparts were left behind and this was the first time I ever experienced anything like that and the statement to me was welcome home,” added Smith. “And so, this idea of connectivity and belonging is so important and the very first thing I said to my husband was we have to let people feel this, let people experience this, people being African American.”

According to Smith, by giving children the opportunity to connect and play with each other they are able to learn more about each other in meaningful ways. It also allows them to escape the long indoor drought caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by getting outside, playing and engage their critical thinking skills.

The program offers special guest speakers from both Africa and America that come in and teach the youth about the beauty of their cultures, their respective continents and their histories. Students engage in many cultural activities, including cooking, dancing, and fashion design.

“We take Africa the continent as whole and we try to say, ‘hey you may be from the continent or not, but you don’t know everything about the continent and neither do we’, so it is complete exploration,” says Smith. “We take a region such as East Africa, we choose two or three focused countries that we are going to study during the week of East Africa study and we try to drill in some beginners’ readings, beginners’ languages, food, experiences, games and cultural dress. Whether we are bringing in speakers, whether we are using media to have that exposure and then also bringing authentic food caterers from around the city to bring in their influences.”

The importance or the why such a program cannot be understated or undervalued. Since George Floyd, Black awareness has risen to the top of Afro-centric thought as Black people, indigenous and immigrant demographics have been bonded by the collective reality that we are in this together.

“We have never seen or had a day camp that mesh the cultures of African American kids who are born here and kids whose parents immigrated from Africa,” says Chuku. “So, Jamina is doing a fantastic job with the program she created for the camp. Teaching the kids all about Africa, the different regions, they’re eating African foods, they’re learning a little bit of the languages, the games, the culture. This is what this camp is about and I don’t believe there has been anything of this kind.”

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