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Ep 3 Mikayla Cathcart

Khalia Frazier  0:10  
So do you wanna go ahead and introduce yourself and explain how we know each other?

Mikayla Cathcart  0:15  
Hi, my name is Mikayla Cathcart. And I was a camper at the same camp as you. You weren't my counselor in my cabin. But you were a counselor close to me and yeah.

Khalia Frazier  0:29  
Okay, cool. And what was your experience as a camper like? What were, when you think about camp? What are the like, the shining moments for you.

Mikayla Cathcart  0:41  
Um, the shining moments of camp was just, like the opportunity to learn new things there. Like the activities like sailing, learning how to do like wakesports, and then other activities like learning different sports, like volleyball or archery, things like that, like, I would never have the opportunity to do that outside of camp.

Khalia Frazier  1:05  
Um, so what drew you like, what brought you to camp?

Mikayla Cathcart  1:09  
Well, I actually have, like, older cousins, like, around my mom's age, they went to the same camp. Um, back, when, and then my mom started working there as a nurse. So when she started working there, I could go as a nurse's kid, and then that's how I started.

Khalia Frazier  1:31  
Okay, cool. And when you're thinking about like, the typical day at camp and how a normal day is run with the rituals and traditions, did you feel like those things included you? Or did you feel like it felt strange to you?

Mikayla Cathcart  1:50  
Um, I don't think it felt strange. I don't think it felt strange at all. But it's not. I don't know. Like, it wasn't strange. But as I grow up, and I look back, I see how things could have been different. 

Khalia Frazier  2:14  
Yes, definitely. When you're in it, and you're part of it, it's like, it's exciting thing ever, and I love being here. But then sometimes you look back at certain things. And you're like that was questionable. Were you ever on staff at camp?

Mikayla Cathcart  2:29  
Yes, for a year, I was a counselor in training and a counselor.

Khalia Frazier  2:38  
And how did that how did? How did you feel like you connected with other staff members?

Mikayla Cathcart  2:45  
Um, I, I'm gonna be honest, like, only other black counselors are the only ones like I really resonated with and like, talk to you the most like, my other peers I could talk to and get along with them on a like, work level to get my job done well, but like, I would resonate with my black peers more.

Khalia Frazier  3:12  
And how did that affect how you operated at camp, because when you feel like you can't interact with somebody, it definitely changes how you view them.

Speaker 1  3:22  
It does. Um, it's definitely different when you're older and aware, like as a counselor, like, I didn't realize, like, everything didn't click for me until my CIT year. Because it was, it was a big group of us, it was like, at least 30 Something of us. And it was only four Black people in our group. And that's when I think having just turned 16 And it was after COVID and everything. So that year 2020 Like a lot of stuff happened that year. So that's when I started being more aware. And that's what it like finally clicked. Like, I have to speak up more about it and be more aware of the people I interact with.

Khalia Frazier  4:07  
What camp spaces did you feel the most welcome in?

Mikayla Cathcart  4:10  
I mostly felt welcome. Like, whenever there was people of color, or, you know, honestly, you just have to like, get a feel for certain people I would never say like, I didn't like feel shunned away from any space, but I don't know I just being a black person. You always have to; you're always just cautious. I don't know. That makes sense. 

Khalia Frazier  4:49  
You have to check the vibe

Mikayla Cathcart  4:51  
Yes, check the vibe of everywhere. Yeah.

Khalia Frazier  4:55  
Um, so as a black woman, what do you think was the hardest part of about being in camp spaces. And on the flip side of that, the easiest part.

Mikayla Cathcart  5:08  
Um, the hardest part was, I would just say to not having like, many people around you that like, really look and understand, like, you. Like, it's good to have, like I did have friends growing up in like, we all like stuck together. But it's like, if I didn't, I think my experience would have been much different. It's just like, I remember my first night of camp so vividly, like as a seven year old. And like going to bed at night, like, I put my scarf on because I had on braids. And just like everybody, like, didn't know what was on my head, they just asked me what was on my head. And like that memories like ingrained in my head, like, I will never forget that. And I took my scarf off and didn't see my scarf. And as I mentioned, my mom worked at the camp. So when she saw my hair, she was like you're not sleeping with your scarf on? Like, I can tell, And I was like, No, I'm not doing it.

And those things do impact us even if we don't realize it when your peers don't understand. And the people who are supposed to be taking care of all of you also don't understand. Yes, it creates an environment where it's like, well, I don't want to be seen as weird.

Yeah, that's definitely what it was. And at seven not understanding, it's just like, I was so confused. I was like, it's just a scarf to protect my hair. Like it's not that big of a deal. And it was just like, that's the first time someone's ever questioned me about it. So I was just like, I'll just take it off. And

Khalia Frazier  6:51  
I feel like it's the same thing as like closing nights, where all the girls will be doing their makeup. And sometimes, 

Mikayla Cathcart  6:58  
hair. Yeah, and I'm just like, I'm not doing anything to my hair.

Khalia Frazier  7:03  
Exactly, or where they're all getting dolled up. And they want to do each other's makeup, but some of them it doesn't always translate. And that was why it was a special moment for me. When the girls started asking me to do their makeup. 

Mikayla Cathcart  7:19  
Yes, I remember that.

Khalia Frazier  7:21  
Like, I hold that very dear to my heart. Because it was like I remember being the only black girl in situations and having somebody try to do my makeup. And I'm walking around like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Speaker 1  7:33  
Yes. and I remember activities like when we would do cabin nights like I remember one night we did a spa night. and like we had stations in the cabin. And then so it was like okay, one station like you do a facial one station like, like a counselors gonna braid your hair. And I was like,

Khalia Frazier  7:53  
you gonna braid my braids?

Speaker 1  7:54  
You cant braid my hair. Yeah, and my obviously I couldn't do that, like certain stuff like that. Like, I would just like have to deal with that. Yeah.

Khalia Frazier  8:03  
And they don't, it's not thought about. It's not like, purposefully malicious. It's just, it doesn't even cross their minds.

Mikayla Cathcart  8:11  
Yeah, it doesn't. And it's like, you can't push. You can't like say to people, we need to be more inclusive and more diverse. You can't push a problem on people that they don't even know exists. They're not even aware of it.

Khalia Frazier  8:30  
So like, did you do you feel like in camp spaces, You have to code switch a lot?

Mikayla Cathcart  8:37  
Yes, I do. But I feel like that in like day to day life. I feel like

Khalia Frazier  8:45  
were there any situations that you felt the need to code switch in more or less?

Mikayla Cathcart  8:50  
Um, Not necessarily. I just feel like when you're around a certain group of people, you're just not gonna talk the same or be the same like, like in a camp setting like I don't know, the way I talk to my friends at home would not be the same way I talked to my friends at camp.

Khalia Frazier  9:15  
I also think for me, was with the parents. Because I had a very, I was very blessed to have their close knit group of people when I worked at camp, so I hung around the same people so I was myself through and through with all of them but with the parents I felt like I had to put on this front.

Mikayla Cathcart  9:34  
I when I remember I my first drop off. When I became a counselor, I was so nervous. I was like please don't let me have like a bad parent like they're scared that they have a black counselor like that was the only thing that was running through my head. I was like please dont let me have a crazy parent.

Khalia Frazier  9:51  
And it happens as much as it stinks to think about it. That is something you have to be cautious about.

Mikayla Cathcart  9:57  
Yes. And

so thinking about memories, what was like a memorable interaction that you had with either a camper or another counselor that really just, like, stuck with you outside of the one that you've already shared?

Speaker 1  10:16  
Um, I remember my CIT year, um, there was like, a problem with like, I don't know why, but like, people want to just to discuss politics so bad. And it was just like, that was an issue just because I didn't feel comfortable with that, and as well as others. And then it was just racist comments, like, like going around, and rumors and stuff. And I was like, it got to a point where it was like, I was in a cabin with a co CIT. And it was gotten to a point where like, she was involved too. And I was like, I don't even feel comfortable being myself in my own cabin. But like, when I did come forward, the problem was actually resolved and like, it was actually fixed. And I was shocked, because I don't know, I feel like not that I didn't expect nothing was gonna happen, but I thought they were just gonna be like, just stop talking about it. And it's done. It's over. But like, they actually got sent home. And I was like, surprised that they actually took action. And I was happy about that. And that reminds me to always stand up for myself, even if you're scared.

Khalia Frazier  11:31  
Do you think that having a CIT director who was a person of color impacted how it was handled?

Mikayla Cathcart  11:36  
definitely that definitely I feel like if that? If he wasn't there, it could have went differently. Yes, for sure. 

Khalia Frazier  11:46  
Um, and going off of that, speaking about speaking up, was there ever a time where you felt like you weren't being heard or seen?

Mikayla Cathcart  11:56  
Um, in the moment as a camper, no, but there's no, there's no, there's nothing. I would say push and cater to spread cultural awareness. Like, during staff week, like we might talk about, like, why? Yes, there is only white people there. And we might say, we see there's a lot of white people. And we need to make sure that kids feel welcome. But it's like, they don't know how to do that. Yeah, if you don't, and if you're just telling them, yeah, you need to make them feel more included. But they don't even know like, that. They're not included. It's like how you can't tell them because they don't know what's wrong with it. Because they're aware they're not even aware. Yeah. I don't even know where like, oh, it's only one black kid. They don't even see that. Like they don't even

Khalia Frazier  13:00  
realize, because the idea of being completely colorblind is honestly detrimental. 

Mikayla Cathcart  13:07  

Khalia Frazier  13:08  
Because people love to say, Oh, well, race doesn't exist at camp. But yes, it does. It does. And it's still important, because that's still a part of who somebody is.

Mikayla Cathcart  13:18  
Just because like, not everyone is racist. And they say they don't see color. But that not seeing color is a problem in itself. 

Khalia Frazier  13:27  
Yes. What legacy do you hope that you left behind at camp? 

Mikayla Cathcart  13:35  
I hope just to the kids I had as campers that, like it, I solved all their problems the best I could and I was just someone they could feel safe and comfortable with.

Khalia Frazier  13:51  
Um, do you have any advice for young black girls who are thinking about attending camp as campers?

Mikayla Cathcart  13:57  
Um, I think I would say do it. Because I loved my time I camp like, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Like, the experience is just unmatched and like the things I learned there. But it's just just always be aware. But I feel like you need to be aware in your everyday life anyway. But just to you know, if anything ever happens, stick up for yourself. But don't be scared to do something. Just because you think you don't belong in that space, like make yourself belong and make yourself heard in that space.

Khalia Frazier  14:32  
And then on the flip side of that, for black women who are thinking about working in summer camps, you have any advice for them?

Mikayla Cathcart  14:42  
Um, yes, like, just the same thing kinda like don't be scared and just keep like, who you need to separate like you don't have to be friends with it. need everyone to execute your job well.

Khalia Frazier  15:05  
Is there anything about your camp experiences as a camper or as a counselor that I haven't asked yet that you wanted to touch on?

Mikayla Cathcart  15:13  
No, I think about everything. Okay,

Khalia Frazier  15:17  
thank you so much for joining me.

Mikayla Cathcart  15:18  
Yes, it's a pleasure.

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