A YMCA camp in Jackson, Michigan, up until recently, forced 10-year-old campers to participate in a revolting slavery reenactment as a scheduled “activity.”
As part of the reenactment, teachers and camp instructors acted as “slave masters,” and then forced 5th grade campers to stand on a makeshift auction block.
Bancole Thompson, the mother of one of the black campers, remarked:
“The slave masters (camp instructors and teachers) had certificates which allowed them to pay for the slaves, and the students were required to hold up the certificates when they were bought or sold.”
Tiffany Birchett, the mother of two African-American students who attended the camp last summer wrote a letter to the principal of her daughter’s school in which she said:
“My daughter came home after the camp. She was very disturbed, and she told me what happened. First, I was wondering if this was a ritual that they do to these kids every year they attend the camp. She told me the camp instructors, including some of their teachers, were dancing and happy before they went out to do this slave re-enactment.”
It also came to light that the camp said the slavery roleplaying was part of an educational activity it dubbed “The Underground Railroad.”
Another parent, Regina Crutchfield, reported that her daughter had also been mentally and emotionally scarred by the incident:
“My daughter said she was scared. One of the guys (camp instructors) re-enacted killing a deputy. They should not do that in front of a 10-year-old, and not when kids are hundreds of miles away from home. If they want to teach black history, they should do that in the classroom.”
The YMCA has since done away with the “Underground Railroad” activity at the camp, but one is left wondering: Why did they ever initiate it in the first place?