United States

Summer Camp Takes Field Trip to Support Black Lives Matter Protest in Oakland

An Oakland summer camp put growing vegetables, fishing and tie-dying T-shirts on the back burner on Thursday, and instead, took an after-hours field trip to protest civil rights in the United States.

A camp called Abundant Beginnings held a teach-in, memorial and “family-friendly” action at Oakland City Hall during one of several Black Lives Matter protests across the nation and in Oakland in particular. Young children carried signs that read "Racism isn't born, it's taught," and shouted "The people, united, will never be defeated."

Banners symbolizing dripping blood in red paint and accusations that the police are “murderers” and “rapists” hung in the background. Other children, some with their families and some with other organizations, attend the rally, too.

Some outside observers questioned whether the rally was appropriate, and even safe since several in the past have drawn violence and arrests, for children of such a young age. The camp invited "young activists," ages 2 to 12, to attend and carry signs that they colored themselves.

Dr. Gregory Gayle, a family and child psychologist in Oakland, was not at the rally. But he said it's important "not to shelter children too much."

If children ask, "what's a murderer, Mommy?" parents should take that "excellent opportunity to have a meaningful conversation" with their youngsters, he said. The bottom line, Gayle added, is that each child is an individual and the ultimate decision of whether or not to go to a rally about  police brutality is up to the parents, not outside critics.

Tom Holland, Chief Executive Officer for the American Camp Association, noted that the partciular camp is not a member of his organization. But he said that many camps across the country "strive to work with children to teach them self-respect and a sense of community."

Holland has talked to his own 8-year-old about all the recent national tragedies, and felt that more institutions should begin to address "lessons of respect, love and admiration," which are issues he feels that expand beyond the home.

Holland added that because the rally was held outside of camp hours, he assumed the parents "had the opportunity to provide permission for their child’s participation in the event--- a step that would be in keeping with ACA Standards."

Abundant Beginnings proudly states it teaches “abundant activism,” and describes itself on its website as a "community education project focused on growing children rooted in trust, love and justice - blossoming in independence. We work to build respect, facilitate learning, and cultivate integrity on multiple levels: the individual."

The camp was founded by Shayna Cureton, who lists she studied drama and psychology and University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The rally was also organized by Rice and Beans Childcare Cooperative in Oakland and the Bay Area Showing Up for Racial Justice Youth and Families.

Children were encouraged to draw pictures and write letters to the family members of those who have died as a “result of state violence” and bring them to an altar that they created with flowers, stones, candles and incense.

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