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Khalia 0:10 

Hi, I'm Khalia Frazier, and I'm sitting here with Z, who I've been friends with, we've figured for about five or six years at this point, which is a bit wild to think about and this is her legacy. Where we talk about the impact of Black women on campers, and all the amaZing things that Black women are doing in summer camps. So Z and I met at camp. I was a counselor, and you were in older girls.


Z  0:38 

Yeah, I think I was like, at the very beginning of older girls, maybe middle girls, because I think I was in middle school.


Khalia   0:43 

So the camp that we were at older girls range from about middle to end of middle school, to the junior year of high school.


Z  0:51 

Yeah, like eighth to like 10th grade, I think, yeah, I think it was like my eighth grade to 10th grade.


Khalia   1:01 

So yeah, all that to say, we've known each other for a while, yes. What brought you to camp?


Z  1:07 

Well, I was like a very shy kid. And my mom was like, we're gonna be going outside of our comfort Zone. So she signed me up for camp and I was like, I did not want to go, I was went for two weeks, my first time going. And I was just, I was very shy. So I remember like, first getting there, I was not talking to anyone like, I was just in my bunk by myself. But I'm so glad I went because it really brought me out of my comfort Zone. And I made great friends. And I was able to actually talk to people, like way more than I was going into camp. So it definitely helped me with that. But that's how I first started going was because my mom signed me up. But then I ended up liking it and I went back.


Khalia   1:43  

and I think that's a common thing where people go into camp with low expectations. Like I'm trying this for a summer. And then they come out of it with lifelong friendships and forever changed


Z  1:58 

literally. Because I went back, I think I've gone for eight years now. So that's craZy, because I was going into sixth grade when I first started.


Khalia   2:07 

So what does a typical day at Camp look like for you?


Z  2:10 

So basically, like, it's just the same, you wake up, the counselors will wake up all the kids. And then it's like, we go to breakfast as a cabin. So you do everything as a cabin, because they kind of want to stress that, like bonding with their cabin mates. And then you have your different activities. So I think it was land activities first, when you're older, and athletic, you get to choose like football.

What else they had, like Ziplining,


Khalia   2:36 

the best land activity, horseback,


Z  2:38 

horseback. And then you would go to lunch, and you would take a nap rest period during the day. Or you could like doodle, right home to your parents, whatever. And then you go to the water activities, which I love, because you could go to being sailing or anything like that. And then at the end of the day, they have like an evening program. So they have like the talent show, or they had just random games like little challenges for people to go up on stage. And that's when you'll kind of see everyone at the camp. So like even if we were just in a cabin, like you meet everyone, which is kind of how we met because like you were never my counselor, but we still know each other because your friend was my counselor.


Khalia   3:18 

Our cabins were next door to each other.


Z  3:20 

 Yeah. So yeah, it was just very long days, but it was definitely worth it.


Khalia   3:27 

thinking about traditions and rituals at camp. Were there any where you felt either uncomfortable or like you really saw yourself and your culture in the camp traditions.


Z  3:39 

I feel like the one big tradition that sticks out to me is the thunder Princess, which is like basically they they do it with like all different age groups. Like they'll have like the MG lady and like the YG fairy, and they have with the guys cabins too. And it's basically choose someone that they think represents the pillars and stuff. So I was a thunder princess, but I remember like, I think I was the only black Thunder princess. So I was like, I never really saw other people. And there was this whole thing like you would dress in white and like, have like your face painted and stuff. But it was like, I remember whenever I would show pictures, like when I would come back here. Oh, because I was the only black person in the pictures. But it was definitely a fun tradition. But looking back, it was like, there was not much diversity to it. But yeah.


Khalia   4:30 

Do you remember the anchor walk during staff week?

Z  4:33 

Well, I never went to staff week, but I heard about it. So I do know what it is. So did you do that?


Khalia   4:39 

Yes. So you've never experienced it. But for me that was a tradition where I was like, This feels like we're joining a cult.


Z  4:46 

Yes. A lot of things are very culty


Khalia   4:50 

walk around in the dark, and touch things.


Z  4:53 

Yeah, like no, but it was all part. I don't know. I guess people think it like bonds you


Khalia   4:59 

Yeah, and it definitely does or maybe not in the way they're thinking, right? You're trying to be serious. And you're trying to keep a straight face, but the whole time. Like, you have to laugh so that you're not creeped out.


Z  5:12 

and like who up with these like, I really dont know.


Khalia   5:15 

Do you think your style changes from when you're outside of Camp versus when you're at camp?


Z  5:20 

Oh, definitely. There's like a camp. I think there's a camp dress code like, well, at least now like the campus is very free people Lululemon, like, that's what all the girls are wearing. And it's like,


Khalia   5:32 

thats expensive.


Z  5:33 

 I know, it really is. But it's like, outside of camp, people arent wearing that every day, but I can't. Because its also very hot outside. So im the whole time literally.


Khalia   5:44 

thinking about like self care, and taking care of yourself and your campers. How do you think that differs from nonblack coworkers,


Z  5:55 

I feel like, for me, it's just making sure there's joy in like working at camp like sometimes you can just going through the motions, I feel like it can be very draining because you're working all day, especially as a counselor like you're working in the morning and in the afternoon. And then you also have to have your energy to like hype up the kids and stuff. So I would just try, I like to make it joyful, like actually try to connect with my campers and find things that we relate on, which is also why I like working with the older girls, because you can actually like, talk to them and relate and like try different games like I remember last year we would play among us in the cabin. So we would like run around in the dark and like just fun things like that. Like it's stupid, but it makes it fun. And so I thought that's how I would practice self care. But also like we have days off. So definitely making sure that you rejuvenate, on your days off and like be with the co-counselors that you've gotten close with. Because that's your time to really decompress without all of your job in the way


Khalia   6:56 

and like your like your haircare your skincare routine.


Z  7:00 

Oh, yes, yes. So that was a thing, because I remember, I always had braids. in when I was a kid, and it was like, I would wash them, but not really, like when I was a camper, I would never really wash my braids, because I was just like, I just had my braids. I don't have to worry about my hair. But they have these little questions at the end of the day that your customers have asked you. So they'd always be like, Did you wash your hair today? Like, that's one of the questions. And I'd be like, is it like weird that I didn't wash my hair, because everyone else obviously was like white, and they would wash their hair at night. But I wouldn't really wash my hair. But that was I guess that was kind of how we differ too, because it was like I couldn't really do much self care with my hair. But like with my skin, I would definitely wash my face every day and stuff like that. But yeah,


Khalia   7:43 

what was the easiest part of coming into camp for you?


Z  7:47 

I think the easiest part was really having no responsibilities as a camper. Like I was just there, trying new things, doing different activities. And like it was very, it was very good for my inner child definitely to have to do all those things like going sailing. And just all those things I have never done before was definitely the easiest part, the activities because they have everything for you to do.


Khalia   8:09 

And on the flip side of that, what was like the hardest part of being at camp.


Z  8:13 

I feel like the hardest was definitely just not seeing many people that looked like me, like, there was me and probably three other black girls that I was friends with. And we met like years in so it wasn't like there was always a big black community at camp. So I think that was always in the back of my head. And like camp is a world like you don't really try to go into the outside world. Like it's very there's no phones, like everyone's just in the camp mindset. But then it's like when you leave camp, like some of the people that were at camp, I'm like, they're kind of questionable on like their mindsets and stuff. And I'm like, you really don't care about me you like, or like some of the views are very anti black, like, just people outside of camp. So that's probably the weirdest part. Like just thinking that you know, someone in the outside of camp, you realiZe that they're really not who you thought they were


Khalia   9:01 

Yeah, there's a bubble being at camp. And it's like, it's so it's so easy to fall into it once you're there. But the second you're out and it's popped. It's like jarring.


Z  9:14 

Yes. Like you notice a lot about people.


Khalia   9:16 

Yes. What camp spaces did you feel most comfortable in?


Z  9:21 

I feel like I felt most comfortable probably as a camper like surrounded by other campers because I feel like the camp is very catered to you. Like you don't really have to worry about anything like you're just trying to make new friends and try new things. So I feel like that was where I was most comfortable. And like I feel like on the flip side, probably as a counselor like because counselors is very, like cliquey basically so I feel like trying to find my like group of counselors that are cool inside and outside of that was probably the weird part for me to navigate.


Khalia   9:58 

So how do you feel that you bring your whole Self to camp, if at all.


Z  10:01 

I feel like I brought my whole self by just being who I really was, like my personality and very quirky and just like like to bring light heartedness. So I feel like I've definitely brought that to camp, like in my counseling to, because I just try to make it light hearted for my campers because camp, I feel like it's your time to get away destress and just really be yourself. Because on the outside, you always have different voices of people that you've known for a long time. But at camp, you're just now meeting these people. So there's not really a preconceived notion about you. So I feel like you could just be who you are. And that's, I feel like that's how I would bring my full self by just not dumbing down my personality, kinda.


Khalia   10:01 

And do you ever feel like you're coming into camp and having to code switch? or soften the way that you talk about things?


Z  10:50 

 Yes, definitely. I feel like I didn't really know what code switching was like as a camper. But it definitely was at least not bringing, talking about my blackness or different aspects of my blackness, because I wasn't really surrounded by a lot of black people who could relate or kind of try to know what I was talking about. And like, an example of this was like, during 2020, like, this was the year of the George Floyd shootings. And it was the it was a COVID summer also, but I went to camp. And there was this incident where we were all in the cabin lined up to go somewhere. And this girl randomly started talking about the protests, like in her city from the George Floyd. incident. And she was like, I don't know why they were protesting. Like, I just feel like there was so many different ways to do it. And I was just like, it really had nothing to do with her because she was white. And I felt like I couldn't really relate to her on that by bringing it up. So I felt very uncomfortable. And you could tell like, my counselors were like, trying to shut it down. But it was just like, that was also when I realiZed, like, I don't really fully talk about blackness, because I didn't feel like I was related by anyone in that sense. So I feel like maybe that was aspect where I wasn't bringing my full self, because I wasn't really advocating for anything that had to do with my blackness. So maybe that was like a regret of mine looking back. But yeah, because because of the setting in the surrounding. I feel like that was one part that I didn't really talk about.


Khalia   12:19 

And I remember that summer. And I remember, my brother went to some of the protests in Atlanta, and one of the other counselors was talking poorly about protesters. And I just got mad. I'm like, it's not always possible to have your voices heard peacefully. Sometimes you have to do the hard thing.


Z  12:40 

And we were living it. So like us living that experience. It was traumatizing for us then to have all these voices, saying their opinion when they didn't really understand. It was like, it was annoying to


Khalia   12:52 

did anybody ever tell you that there is no racism at camp? Because I heard that a lot when I was on staff, and


Z  12:58 

I never heard that. But I could definitely see people saying that


Khalia   13:01 

from like leadership as well telling telling us when we would bring issues to their attention. They be like, Oh, racism is not a problem at camp. That's a problem for outside the outside world.


Z  13:11 

They try to act like it doesn't happen in these walls, which is why it was uncomfortable to talk about  people just try to push it away. When it's definitely still a thing.


Khalia   13:19 

And it's happening on camp grounds. Yeah. Like some of the campers are, just because you're fostering a space where the conversations are not being had, does not mean that the negativity is not there.


Z  13:34 



Khalia   13:34 

Because that makes just like it makes the kids who are experiencing racism, uncomfortable to speak up, it makes the ones who are perpetrating (perpetuating) it. More comfortable to do it.


Z  13:46 

 Yeah. And it's like, because people still have these views from their home, and they're going to bring them into camp. So I don't really agree with the whole like, keep not saying talking about anything. Because if someone like feels the need to bring it up, like you should have a space, where it's like, it's made known that whoever you are like you are accepted, and if you are a black person to fully feel accepted. Like I feel like you should be able to have your voice heard on topics like that. So


Khalia   14:13 

and it's okay to say, I don't know. Yeah. So many counselors have it in their mind that they're supposed to know everything for their campers, which I'm sure comes from a good place. But there's certain things I don't have, I dont have experience in. So I can't speak from that.


Z  14:31 



Khalia   14:31 

 And being willing to say, I don't know I can't speak from that is a sign of maturity. That I don't think a lot of counselors have, but then also a lot of our counselors are young.


Z  14:42 

Yes, that's very true. So there definitely needs to be at least there can be like a, like diversity and equity. They tried to do like diversity and equity like I remember my CIT year they tried to talk about it but just more and more pushing that so that your kids can feel more comfortable because that's what everyone wants to be at camp. So.


Khalia   15:04 

And if I'm remembering correctly, your CIT year was the first year that there was a black CIT director.


Z  15:10 



Khalia   15:11 

And I'm pretty sure that's why there was more of a push for diversity inclusion. Because I noticed that staff weeks, it was mentioned, but there was not anything. Something that I really believe in is, sometimes you have to sit in discomfort, sometimes to grow and to learn, you have to be uncomfortable. And I think in cam spaces, we shy away from that.


Z  15:38 

Yeah, definitely. It's like, they don't want any uncomfortability at all, which is like, I get that, but it's gonna happen. So like, you have to be prepared for those conversations.


Khalia   15:47 

So speaking of Camp experiences, are there any positive or negative experiences that really stood out to you? Being a black counselor working with campers?


Z  15:59 

Um, yes, I feel like positive, it's always nice. Just being able to foster that sense of comfortability, especially when I were to get a black camper like I could always tell like the parents had a sense of relief, like when they would drop them off. Because it's just nice to have someone that can relate to you like that, because obviously, at camp, it's majority white. So I feel like being a counselor, I was able to be one of those, like, black counselors that I wanted as a camper and actually be able to be inclusive of everybody. But yeah, I mean, I feel like I would definitely have bad experiences, just in general with camper stories. Like, I mean, I had a camper, I was very young. So this was like, you after I was a CIT. I was a counselor at the end of the summer. So I was still CIT age. And it was me and just one other girl who was my age too. And we had a camper who her dad had brought her she had just been in the psychward like a month before her dad or not even a month I think it was like two weeks before. And her dad brought her to camp and didn't tell us until that day, like it wasn't on the confidential or anything. And so we had to be very careful, because she was still like trying to hurt herself and she would talk to other campers about how she tried to hurt so and obviously, I did not want that. But I was very young. So it was very hard for me to navigate and my co. It was just the two of us. So it was hard for both of us to navigate. But basically, I was just trying to be there for her as well, because obviously, like she doesn't want to feel alone. Obviously, she has problems as well that she's trying to address. And I guess her family maybe didn't know how to help her. So they sent her to camp. But I feel like as a counselor, when you're in those situations is just making sure that you're still trying to make everyone feel comfortable and still try to be there for everyone to make everyone feel heard. Because while she was a camper that we had to give a lot of our attention to like I still wanted the other campers not to feel like they weren't being seen or anything. So that was definitely probably one of my hardest things as a camper or as a counselor, but she eventually went home early, but it was just like being able to handle situations like that. And definitely it's training too like, I feel like they could have more training for situations like that. So that you're just not left on your own. Because like you said, a lot of counselors are young. So a lot of times you're learning how to deal with problems just because you're being like forced to. So that was one thing.


Khalia   18:26 

 And I think one thing that I think of is that we have a whole at least a couple we were at has a whole staff a week. But in that week, it doesn't feel like we're being taught the important things. Yeah, like it's a lot of team building, which is important. But like, there were situations that I was thrown into where I had no clue how to how to handle them. Or if I did know, it was because I was coming from personal experience, not because of anything I've been trained to handle.


Z  18:56 

Exactly. And it's definitely still like that, which I mean, people are coming from everywhere. So you it's not like there's a standard like strategy on how to deal with every single camper because everyone's so different and had different experiences. It's gonna talk about different things. So there definitely needs to be more trainings on how to deal with people from diverse backgrounds, because that's what, especially now there's definitely more of a diverse background coming to camp I feel like,


Khalia   19:21 

which is always exciting, and then as a camper, what do you think was the hardest experience


Z  19:31 

as a camper? I feel like I'm gonna go back to what I was saying. Like, how people were different inside of camp and outside of camp. Like just remember I had a girl that was really close to me as a camper when I was like I think was my second year so I think I'm still in middle school. And then I was coming out like, during a lot of the Black Lives Matter protests like I would see her and just other people post things very like against black people, like not black people as a whole, but it was very, like all lives matter kind of like geared on their story. And it was just hurtful because you think those people are so close to you during the two weeks that you're there, even four months, sometimes or for a month four weeks people go. And it's like going outside of camp and then seeing that people don't really care about you. And it's like, it was kind of just like, for the summer, yes, I'm gonna act like everything's okay. But then outside, like, I was probably one of their only black friends that they had ever had. So I was just like, felt kind of uncomfortable there. And then it was like coming back. That's why it was nice, like finding other black friends at camp because then I had a good group of like three of us, or like four of us in total. And I still talk to them today. So that was definitely the light in that. Yeah.


Khalia   20:50 

And I want your opinion on this looking back, because I remember an incident where one of my campers was saying racist things to one of your friends in your cabin?


Z  21:01 

Yes, I think I do remember that. Because I was gonna talk about that one of my, well I remember one of my friends, or it was something like someone was talking about her hair. Yeah, as they were like talking badly about her hair. And it really affected her. And it also affected us because she came to us about it. And we're like, why, like, why are we doing this?


Khalia   21:19 

and they told her she wasn't really black. She wasn't black enough? and I don't know if you would have known that as a camper. But as a counselor, nobody else knew how to handle that. So they all came to me and they were like, we don't feel comfortable addressing it, will you address it? So that was why


Z  21:37 

I do remember you addressing it, Because they we're all like, but for them to not know


Khalia   21:42 

its a double edged sword, because you're like, number one, thank you for understanding that it is something needs to be addressed, because it's not just swept under the rug. Yeah. And I do have a different perspective than they would have. But also, you could still condemn it, you can still say like your why is your first step call against somebody else. instead of starting with, we need have to talk about this, because it's not okay.


Z  22:09 

for anyone to even say that to somebody, like, at least shut that down. And then you can proceed. But that's also what I'm talking about training, like, you need to be trained, because especially if you're going to be white and have black campers, that's definitely a possibility. And you need to know how to handle those things. I feel like


Khalia   22:26 

because I think about that experience a lot. Where its like, I was still pretty young.


Z  22:31 

and its like, just because you're black. They think that you're gonna have all the solutions.


Khalia   22:35 

And I don't


Was there ever a time where you felt like your voice was not being heard at camp?


Z  22:46 

Yes, definitely. situations like that, like as a camper, where it was like, we didn't have many black counselors. Like you were one of the only black counselors I knew. I thought there was like, maybe three or three black woman counselors at the time, like, or at least that I feel like


Khalia   23:03 

I can only think of four others in my entire five years at camp.


Z  23:08 

Yeah. So I feel like that. And I feel like being a counselor. Just like, with the other counselors, I feel like me in my blackness, again, is still not seen like a lot of times, like even if you're trying to include an inclusive thing. It's still people are trying to push, like, as we were talking about before, don't talk about it, because it's just going to be a fairy tale world when we don't talk about things like no, I would definitely disagree. So I feel like my voice wasn't heard in that sense, where we're not talking about things to make people feel comfortable. So I wish there was more diversity and equity talks like that. But yeah, nothing I can think of in particular, but just that as a as a whole.


Khalia   23:55 

Um, so going off of that, do you think that there are starting over, do you think camp was Overall welcoming?


Z  24:04 

I think it's definitely they're welcoming is like what they pushed for us to be like, they want us to be welcoming to all campers obviously. I just think there's still more work to do with making sure that people are knowing how to handle different campers and different backgrounds so that they can fully feel welcomed, like, yeah, we can act like, Yes, this is a safe space. But if people really feel like they're holding something back, then I don't know how truly welcoming it is, you know, but I feel like it still is a place where you can be yourself and try new things and do different activities and grow into yourself in that way. But obviously, there's more work to be done.


Khalia   24:44 

Are there any specific changes you think? I know you mentioned training, but anything other than that, that you think would help camps make themselves more welcoming?


Z  24:54 

I know they do, Like because one reason I feel like there's not as many black people at camp because it's very expensive. And they like they try to do different scholarships and things. So I will say more scholarships try to reach out to different people, backgrounds and places around Charlotte, so that there's a more diverse and inclusive like atmosphere at camp because it can be welcoming. But when it's still like mostly white, like I don't know, there's still a sense of discomfort for people that are in the minority. So I feel like trying to foster more of an environment where people in the minority still feel included, would definitely be what I would say.


Khalia   25:35 

Have you noticed that there is a stigma against scholarship campers?


Z  25:40 

Yeah, there is. And it's like, it's very annoying, because this is a great way to let campers be able to experience camp, but they probably wouldn't be able to. And there's so many different activities and experiences that you can get at camp that are definitely so important. And help you to like, learn new things about yourself, find out that you love to do something that you might have never thought that you could love. So I definitely think that there needs to be less of a stigma, which is also something that we could do at camp, and then like just providing more of them so that more people can come and find out about camp.


Khalia   26:13 

I asked that because I remember being a counselor and hearing other counselors complaining about having scholarship kids in their cabin, to the point where counselors who were on scholarship, didn't want to admit to it once they became counselors. And it's like, it shouldn't be that way they should. They're still kids who are coming to camp, are the same experience.


Z  26:33 

Exactly. And that's another thing, like, everyone loves to talk at camp, like, especially counselors will be talking about their kids. Like sometimes things just need to be left in your cabin. Like, you don't need to be talking about all these kids business, because they're just people just like you. Like you wouldn't want someone to go talking about all of your business, like they're trusting you as their counselor. So that's another thing, like just making sure that your kids trust you. And like their business, it's just with you, unless it's like needs other people's attention. But people being on scholarship, like that's really no one else's business really.


Khalia   27:07 

What legacy do you hope to leave behind at camp,


Z  27:11 

I want to leave behind a legacy of just making sure people feel like they can be themselves because when I'm a counselor to my kids, that's something that I really stress of like loving yourself and knowing that you have something to bring to the table. And that camp, let camp be a way for you to find out new things about yourself and learn new things about yourself. And like for the new generations to come, I want camp to still be that place where it's a, it's a bubble in a good way too because you get to just try new things and not have any critiques or anything from the outside world. So I would want to keep that going. And just make sure camp is still a place where people feel like they can bring their full selves to the table and very, like making it more inclusive, would just add to that and make it even more of a place where it fosters better, like selves, a better sense of self, if that makes sense.


Khalia   28:03 

So what advice do you have for any young black girls who are thinking about going to camp,


Z  28:08 

I would say definitely do it, like it's going to teach you so much about yourself. And like you can be the change needed to like, have a more diverse environment and still help others feel included. Like maybe, if you feel like you're scared, or you aren't very outdoorsy. Like, you might not know if you don't try it, and there's so many new things for you to try. And like camp, that was the only place where I was gonna really experience sailing, and like, tubing and things like that. Because it's not like I have like a boat and things where I can do that on my own. So why not? Go and try and at least for a year, and like, you never know. So I would definitely say just to try it because you're gonna learn something new about yourself definitely.


Khalia   28:50 

And is there anything else that you would like to share with me about just your experience that camp or the legacy or anything like that?



Z  29:00 

I feel like looking back at my time that camp, like I would just say that it was positive all in all, like first starting very shy then I learned that I actually love talking to new people and hearing different perspectives and different mindsets. So I would definitely recommend camp to different people. I talk about it all the time, like just different experiences, because it really has given me a lots of friendships that I still cherish now and I still talk to a bunch of my friends now from camp, whether or not like they still go or they have strayed away from that, but we still cherish our moments that we had together. So I will definitely recommend camp to anyone who wants to try it and just be yourself when you go and try new things and learn more about yourself. I feel like


Khalia   29:43 

cool. Thank you so much for sitting down with me.


Z  29:46 

Yes, it was fun. And I've left just talking about our experiences because we haven't been together for so long. So


Khalia   29:53 

I think it's been since 2020.


Z  29:54 

Yes, literally


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Episode Two: Z Emmanuel

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