Camp Alkulana came into my life at a time where I felt lost in my own skin. At school I was an “Oreo,” what some African Americans call someone who appears “black on the outside and white on the inside.” I didn’t fit in with the African American kids or the Caucasian ones. In addition, I was that girl whose dad had cancer and died. I started to see myself as only those things, until I met Bright Eyes.
When I was told that I was going away to camp for a week and got to be with one of my very best friends the whole time, 11-year-old me was ecstatic! I packed and repacked and packed and repacked, until finally it was time to go. As I approached the bus, I became incredibly nervous, it was the first time that I would go away from home without a member of my family. I had no idea that this camp and the people in it would change my life for the better. When we arrived at camp the counselors greeted us in flocks of smiles and name tags. I liked it already. At first, I tried to cling to the people that I knew and were familiar with but eventually, the tables turned and I found myself engaging with the new people around me.
That week was a platform for me to get to know different people on common ground, people who also had labels but didn’t let them define who they were. At Alkulana I found myself and started to identify with who I was—an important, loved, child of God—and not who I was labeled to be.
Camp provided and still provides a space where I could be a kid, go on adventures, laugh without boundaries and cry without judgment. It’s a place where where I could heal from my pain and find myself again. Alkulana taught me some of the skills I have that makes me who I am today. Every time I step into the Alkulana environment whether it be in the working at camp in the middle of summer, a peer meeting at Moss Side Avenue, or running into a friend from camp on the street, I am reminded it is okay to be who you are. I’m reminded that God loves me and everyone around me no matter what, and that everyone is worth more than money can buy. These realizations help me continue to find freedom to live into my own identity.
Written by Sabrina Simmons