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Story I learned last night:

I started Girl Scouts in first grade and was an active scout until I was 17 (12th grade)—did ALL the GS stuff and loved my scouting experience. I was a GS national delegate.

My troop, 1001, was in Detroit and almost all black.
Our leaders were Black women and they genuinely loved us. Because they loved us, we did ALL the GS things: we sold cookies, and earned badges, and did community service, and went camping.
Real camping—out in the “forest.” Cabins and s’mores and trails and knapsacks and walking sticks and campfires and songs and lakes and ALL THE THINGS.

LOVED IT.
I was young when I started camping, maybe 4th or 5th grade, don’t remember exactly. But I do remember getting in our cars, with our paper lunches and sleeping bags and flashlights and book of badges to earn outside and being so excited.
We would drive a VERY LONG TIME (at least to a 9 year old) and end up at the campgrounds. And then we’d learn the camp rules and review the Girl Scout requirements: leave a space better than you found it, clean your trash, be kind, have fun. And we did all those things.
My memories of camping are 💯 wonderful and positive and I’m getting warm fuzzies.
Last night I talked to my best friend, whose mom was one of our leaders and camp chaperones. We were talking about camp, and her mom mentioned staying up with two other moms all night, taking stations at each door and window of our cabin and having night watch.
Night watch? I asked, genuinely confused. What kind of bears did y’all think were going to open the door of our cabin and eat us? 😂 I asked, jokingly.
She got quiet. “Not bears,” she said, “the Klan.”
Silence.

“What?”
“The Klan.”

Yesterday, I learned that one of our GS camps was in Howell, Michigan. This Howell: michiganradio.org/post/why-howel…
Howell is about an hour outside Detroit, halfway to Lansing.

To me, a kid somewhere between 8-12, camping was fun. To our mothers and leaders, camping was potentially dangerous.
But, they wanted us to experience ALL the experiences Girl Scouts have. They just had night watch so we could. So they stood watch—all night. In the 90s.

This is NOT a post to debate the rationale of us camping in Howell. That’s not the fair conversation to have.
This is a post to illuminate how deeply unfair it is to live in a state of terrorized, racial fear. How that fear creates a space for ongoing trauma.
How Black mothers have to exist in a dual space: providing all the social and cultural experiences that you believe your daughters need and being constantly aware of the dangers that exist in non black spaces where those experiences often are.
And how to prepare your daughters to do the same for theirs.

It’s not a fair question to ask why we, as kids, went camping in Howell. I’ll not entertain that.

The question is, why is it fair that our mothers had to be afraid for us to?
Now, while the Klan never knocked on our cabin door, the act of having to be vigilant and aware because they could is enough.

There are places, TODAY, that Black people can not go. Can not get a meal. Can not sleep soundly at night in a hotel. Can not exist.
So when I quietly observe all the things around me, the best I can come up with is from James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time.
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