African-American children at Hamilton’s special summer camp learn about cultural pride, team building, and food.

Debbie Johnson knew she would have to work harder to help her daughter Harper learn more about her father, Fenton Edman, after his death last fall.

“I want him to learn about his father’s heritage and culture,” Johnson told CBC Hamilton of Edman, who was born in Jamaica.

Edman moved to Canada in the early 1980s. He was 62 years old when he died in October 2021 after a long illness.

Johnson said he then heard about the Hamilton and District African Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA) summer camp in Hamilton, and signed up eight-year-old Harper.

“I want him to experience as much as he can.”

8-week camp teaches kids about culture

The new eight-week summer camp, with about 40 participants ages six to 12, is part of a broader initiative by the association to provide programs and support for black children, said Evelyn Myrie, president of ACCA Hamilton.

Camp concludes later in August.

“They’re learning about team building, they’re also learning [about different cultures] and food,” Myrie said, adding that the campers prepared Jollof rice. The West African dish is typically made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, spices, vegetables and meat.

“We talk about eating healthy and… we talk and share different recipes.”

Three children hold a drawing
ACCA says the eight-week summer camp is part of a broader effort to provide programs and support for black children. (Presented by the African Canadian Caribbean Association)

Myrie previously said ACCA would be leading a projectunder Ontario’s Gun, Gang and Violence Reduction Strategy, which aims to prevent crime and violence, and increase awareness and self-confidence in black youth.

At the time, he said, the provincial government was awarding ACCA $284,671 for the Rites of Passage project, one of 11 new community programs aimed at deterring young people from becoming victims or involved in crime.

“Based on the schedule, we added weekly activities to it for some people through a summer camp format,” Myrie said Thursday.

“A variety of topics are being covered at the camp, including building self-confidence and learning about cultural pride… we’re focusing on a few approaches to dealing with kids who make poor choices.”

Harper is having the ‘time of her life’

Johnson said Harper is “having the time of her life” in camp.

“As soon as I picked her up from day one, she was just saying how much she loved it because ‘it was totally amazing.'”

She said that some days, Harper has returned from dance camp.

“I don’t know what African dance they were learning, but she was showing me two moves.”

A group of children sit in a circle and wave to the camera.
Children sit in a circle and wave to the camera during ACCA’s summer camp in Hamilton. (Presented by the African Canadian Caribbean Association)

Harper said she has been enjoying the activities at the camp, like dancing and playing the drums.

He has also made some friends.

“It’s good,” Hamilton told CBC.

Johnson said she’s glad she signed up Harper.

“I feel like it’s more important now than ever to allow her to experience everything that I can’t give her. While her father was still alive, he could enrich her with his experiences, influences and background.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community, check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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