Standing Up to Racism in the Kieve-Wavus and Overall Camp & Outdoor Community
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June 8, 2020
Board of Trustees, et al.
Kieve Wavus Education, Inc.
42 Kieve Road
Nobleboro, ME 04555
Re: Diversity Awareness Education: Standing Up to Racism in the Kieve-Wavus Community
To Henry, Kate, Sam, Charlie, and the Board of Trustees:
We, as members of the Wavus alumni community, are asking that the Kieve-Wavus organization take a public stance in support of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as commit to implementing programs and diversity training for anti-racist allyship and to be a positive and proactive space in which Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices are heard and affirmed. The mission of Kieve-Wavus Education is “...to empower people to contribute positively to society by promoting the values of kindness, respect for others, and environmental stewardship through year-round experiential programs, camps for youth and adults, and guidance from inspirational role models”. Kieve-Wavus has not only taught us to respect every living being but to also aim to continually do more to have a positive impact on the communities that surround us. Police brutality and racial profiling are deadly and pervasive issues. A study conducted by the P.N.A.S. finds that police brutality is the sixth leading cause of death for people of color aged 25-29 in the United States.(Edwards, Frank, et al. “Risk of Being Killed by Police Use of Force in the United States by Age, Race–Ethnicity, and Sex.” PNAS, 2019) We must do better. We must treat the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others as a call to action that is long overdue.
Kieve-Wavus provides an experience for its campers, counselors, and full-time staff that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Kieve-Wavus has instilled in each of us a respect and dedication to the outdoors that has shaped our views of self-confidence and the importance of inclusion well into our adulthood. Kieve-Wavus also provides important services to many other groups outside of camp - The Leadership School, 9/11 Family Camp, Veterans Camp, the Educator in Residence Program, and others - that make us proud to be members of this organization.
One of the most profound messages we are taught is the principle of “Leave No Trace.” While much of the wilderness our campers explore is untouched, sometimes we must not only ‘leave no trace’ but work to restore or improve an ecosystem if damage has been done. It is a collective responsibility within environmental stewardship to leave a place better than you found it. Within a country built upon racial inequality that leaves the outdoors community disproportionately white, it is our duty as stewards of the earth to try to improve upon the communities we inhabit and implement racial justice while doing so.
Right now, we have an opportunity to reflect as an institution and evaluate how we can go further. As an organization, what you say and do at this moment will be remembered as a reflection of the value Kieve-Wavus places on human life. Many of your campers and staff think of Kieve-Wavus as a refuge and escape from the fast-paced lifestyle of the “real world”, however racial inequality is inescapable and something that must be discussed, and cannot be ignored. We believe it is critical as an organization to not only strive in understanding the depths of inequality and injustices that members of the Black community face every day but to take a public stance on this issue.
The summer camps always have been, and to this day remain overwhelmingly white, in camper attendance and in staff. This transcends Kieve-Wavus, as the outdoor education, outdoor sports, and overall outdoor community is dominated by whiteness. This is partially reinforced through racial planning that has forced many communities of color into more urban areas that have little access to the resources or places necessary to engage in the outdoors. In a report conducted by the Outdoor Foundation, 70% of outdoor recreation participants were white. (Outdoor Foundation, “Outdoor recreation participation report 2010”). Additionally, the US Forest Service published that of those who visited the National Forest and Wilderness between 2008-2012, 95% were white (Goodrid, Matthew Charles, “Racial Complexities of Outdoor Spaces: An Analysis of African American’s Lived Experiences in Outdoor Recreation.” 2018). Kieve-Wavus has the resources and privilege to contribute to deconstructing this notion and the ability to leverage its platform to make real, systemic change.
It would be contradictory for us to call on Kieve-Wavus to declare that Black Lives Matter without acknowledging that Kieve-Wavus, like so many other summer camps in the United States, appropriates indigenous cultures. Majority-white children are sorted into cabins with indigenous tribal names and taught to take pride in long-standing camp traditions involving artificial indigenous elements that are overtly racist. It is imperative that our community acknowledge and eliminate these practices and continue to support BIPOC rights by ridding our community of traditions that are racist, acknowledging the land we are on is stolen from those of the Wabanaki Nations, and continuing to educate the community with accurate historical information.
We, as a community, have a responsibility to understand the implicit role that whiteness in outdoor and summer camp communities can play in systemic racism, recognize the power that Kieve-Wavus's words and actions have, and be an active part of the change.
We are asking for the following:
- A public statement issued by Kieve-Wavus Education Inc. in support of BIPOC and the Black Lives Matter movement that encourages the members of the Kieve-Wavus family to reflect on how they can leverage their resources, community, and privilege to support those with black and brown skin and affect social change.
- A public statement that commits to actionable items and more specifically reflects Kieve-Wavus’ values and stance.
- A larger commitment to providing unconscious bias training and education about the impact of microaggressions for summer staff members, so they can more effectively support Black members of our community and have educated discussions with campers about whiteness in the outdoors. It is also imperative we implement a space for BIPOC staff to discuss racial microaggressions regularly experienced at camp.
- As Kieve-Wavus moves towards being an institution that can support BIPOC both as campers and staff, it must commit to investing funds in and partnering with organizations that promote diversity in the outdoors in order to actively recruit BIPOC campers and staff.
- The creation and implementation of a diversity task force by Kieve-Wavus Leadership and Board of Trustees to engage in conversations with our greater community about racial injustice in order to address where we have all fallen short and what specific changes must be made.
In addition, we have compiled an incomplete list of resources relating to staff training and children’s education. It is attached to the next page.
We believe there is an opportunity and responsibility for expanded reach and awareness and increased diversity to Kieve-Wavus Education. Kieve means “to strive in emulation of,” and we hope that the future of Kieve-Wavus will strive towards diversity and inclusion in concrete and actionable ways. We recognize the importance of all of us doing our part to fight racial injustice and police brutality, and look forward to helping our community.
Kalea Rae Gale, Hannah Dempsey Schott, Hannah Hicks, Caitlin Wood, Molly Wood, Fakira Diamond Stevens, Lucy Rickerich, Abigail Summerville, Molly Tucker, Lily Epstein, Zoe Alles, Chase Leisenring, Alison Obstler, Lindsay Stewart, Banks Dotson, Sarah Wilson, Dayla Pascador, Ella Janvie, Marlay Smith, Gretchen Alexander & thorough participation, great support, and continuous love from the amended signatures.
- Michie, Katrina. “Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup.” Pretty Good, 13 Oct. 2019, www.prettygooddesign.org/blog/Blog Post Title One-5new4?fbclid=IwAR1ruhzxrfltgdmXwt595h8m4IJVjkPoBsw-2Tyj0PBYACcM6kaPWjMnImU.
- Anti-racism Education - Children's Books List: docs.google.com/document/u/0/d/1ZcogGW1Mc1VICeqKVNTDeZHGjkcTgNJlaYOVgTqL7wA/mobilebasic.
- Teaching Tolerance,www.tolerance.org/professional-development/workshops.
- Kendi, Ibram X. How to Be an Antiracist. One World, 2019.
- Anderson, Elijah. The White Space. American Sociological Association, 2014.
- Belle, Elly. “White People Need to Hold Other White People Accountable When It Comes to Racism.” Teen Vogue, 2 Aug. 2019, www.teenvogue.com/story/white-people-can-hold-each-other-accountable-to-stop-institutional-racism.
- Perry, S. Cole. Race-Evasiveness among Camp Staff. Journal of Youth Development, [S.l.], v. 13, n. 1-2, p. 14-23, April. 2018.
- Anti-Racist Allyship Starter Pack: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vTkmrhfhYUfCcTbp3NoDmxKZUAN7xMiVuhqIlNBizKz-Ih7yPPqTPFgYzmd5NgKtEdpVugB6GoZwPWR/pubhtml