GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Race, identity, and culture are just some of the topics elementary-aged children are learning in the “We Are” summer camp. When reflecting on America’s dark history with race, one might think 6 to 11 years old is too young to learn about it; but the executive director of the program says right now is the perfect time.
We Are is an acronym that stands for working to extend anti-racist education. The organization was founded in Durham in 2016 by Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock. An overwhelming demand for the camps and training over the years has them expanding to the Triad.
We Are uses a three-prong approach to disrupt systemic racism in education and beyond by offering summer camps for kids in rising 1st through 5th grade, professional development for educators and workshops for parents and families.
Dr. Taylor Bullock says she started dreaming about the idea for We Are in 2014.
“The country if you think back to 2014, was in racial turmoil. George Zimmerman had been acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. A police officer had murdered Mike Brown, and I was back in this historically white space on UNC’s campus and I was having these racist encounters almost nearly on a daily basis. If it wasn’t a professor, it was a classmate.” Taylor Bullock said.
*Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Mike Brown was never charged with murder.
“Also at the time I was the mom of a 3 year old and a 3 month old and just thinking about what does it mean to be a Black momma raising these Black children in this world.” she said.
Pulling from her experience as an English teacher, Dr. Taylor Bullock started crafting an anti-racist curriculum for kids.
“I thought about my own early racist experiences as early as 5 years old in kindergarten and I wanted to do something different. I thought about children first. What would it look like to have these conversations around race and identity and racism with young children using children’s books pulling from my English teacher background.” she said.
The first “We Are” camp was launched in 2016. During the week-long camp, students learn about race and racism. Day one starts with identity and community. Campers are introduced to each other and taught and the importance of pronouncing names correctly.
Day two goes into skin color. The children are taught about melanin and where skin color comes from. On day three counselors start talking about explicit examples of racism. By the end of the week, they’re diving deep into systems in our country that are rooted in racism. Each day’s lesson is accompanied by an age-appropriate book that helps to further explain the concept of the day.
“All children should be learning this. All children should be in a space where they’re developing a healthy racial identity and also understanding how did we get here? Where did racism come from? And what can we do to show up better as human beings in this world?” Taylor Bullock said.
This program is voluntary, but it has received some backlash. Critics say 6 to 11 years old is too young to talk and learn about race. Dr. Taylor Bullock says the kids’ responses to the lessons each year tell her otherwise.
“They respond with humanity, they respond with curiosity, they ask a lot of questions like why would someone do this, why would a country pass laws that say black people over here, white people over there.” she said.
Registration for “We are” summer camps open each year on Feb 1. There is a cost to attend, but scholarships are available. More info can be found on We Are’s website.