SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2005        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Khalid Gibson-Carter

Anytown Borderlands

In 2002, I was a freshman at Cactus High School.  One day the librarian desired to meet with me about something.  The librarian requested that I attend a camp retreat as a delegate along with other student peers as well with Ironwood High School students.  I learned the camp was about teaching young minds about the importance and effect we as human beings can lay on each other through our words and actions that we do not realize can be very detrimental to another individual. 

I gratefully accepted and attended the weekend camp.  It was called Camp Anytown. At the camp, all the kids participated in activities that produced rejuvenated moral values about racism, discrimination, bigotry, and biased attitudes.  I remember at the camp, all I could see outside were woods for miles and miles.  There were huge trees overshadowing the cabins and downward slopes surrounded by big rocks that sometimes were hidden so they were easy to trip over.  For an African American teenager who had grown up in the city, the country setting really impressed me and established a great environment for our activities.

The sound was constantly full of chatter from advisors, counselors and delegates.  There was laughter, coughing (the woods tend to activate sinuses), and music from the stereo.  It was just like being back in high school.  When the general smell of the camp wasn’t delicious food such as macaroni, chicken, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, and omelets, etc. the smell was fresh of rain, and cologne and deodorant because delegates were so conscientious of their own bodies. 
There are so many things that made Camp Anytown meaningful and fulfilling for me.  First of all, knowing that I was nominated to go on behalf of teachers who knew me well as a student or teachers who only knew me by reputation was very extraordinary for me, because it shows that people notice you more when you behave like a positive individual. 

I accepted going to the camp because I always believed in openness and individuality and was always opposed to discrimination of any sort. However my current speech at the time proved otherwise. I learned this by participating in the many excellent exercises the counselors conducted with us delegates.

My favorite exercise is the “Gender Exercise”, in which boys sit on one side of the room and girls on the sit on the other side and a counselor will ask the boys many general to specific questions involving what it was like for them to be raised as a man, and they have to stand up if the question applies to them.  Then, the girls repeat the same exact exercise.  It’s the most hard-hitting exercise because we learn so much about how girls and boys are raised and how they’re expected to behave and we’re forced to take a good deep long look at each other.  Also, we learned about different traditions that other cultures embrace dearly and how they are important to them. The activities at the camp range from early in the morning to late at night.  By the time it’s lights out, almost everyone is exhausted by the events of the day.

At Camp Anytown, all the counselors and advisors treat the delegates with the utmost respect and stay away from patronizing anyone.  Counselors speak to the delegates like adults and from time to time, will use language that is perhaps common to the youth’s state of mind today. 

So, in experiencing the camp atmosphere, I came out a very different person because the activities stirred me so enthusiastically and I reacted rather strongly to them.  The fact that these simple activities drove complex feelings into me and I was able to channel those feelings and emotions in an uplifting pursuit is what partly made my first camp experience unbelievably satisfying and momentous.     

    There is a specific sign that always stays up in the cafeteria that I have always admired. It’s a Chinese Zen sign for the word “Love”.  That sign is the unifying theme for the whole entire camp.  There are many desires flowing throughout the camp.  Many delegates desire to talk to that specific girl or boy, or they may desire to go home right away or they may desire at the end of the camp to stay longer.  That experience still sticks with me because I can claim that first camp retreat as my primary step into awareness and being able to share personal insight, as well as a model for self-improvement. 

When sharing my new found knowledge with friends and family, I became increasingly aware of how all the people I loved, including myself, claimed that we have non-existent biases or judgments towards individuals of difference. But subconsciously, we all have deep-rooted, pre-conceived thoughts about one another, It’s only because we have been raised or have acknowledged these thoughts that we are not familiar with them right away. 

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