It is February 2, as I write, Ground Hogs Day. It snowed at camp last evening—a big, fluffy snow, the kind that sticks to the trees and bushes and turns our site into a winter wonderland. I don’t think any right-minded ground hog will be interested in digging out to see whether its shadow is visible. Not today! The day belongs to the birds, to the foxes, and the deer (whose tracks I see regularly), and to the skiers and snowshoe fans who revel in the beauty of the winter woods.
Across our country, February is Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month. I was excited to learn, that the Vermont Department of Tourism, along with various state museums and organizations, including the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, have developed a Vermont African American Heritage Trail.
The trail includes 22 stops, many of which are museums and landmarks close to camp. I look forward to many of us visiting these in the summer of 2018. For example, there are Underground Railroad houses to visit, a couple of farms and homes where newly freed people and also many abolitionists settled before the Civil War. Visitors to Ferrisburg, Vermont can see a marker where Frederick Douglas delivered a famous abolitionist speech in 1843. If we took a van ride to Windsor, Vermont, we could see the house where , in 1777, the early Vermonters wrote a constitution that was the first to prohibit slavery in the pre-Revolutionary War colonies. In it, freedom was promised to men older than 20 and women older than 17. A start.
On the trail, there’s a stop in Grafton, Vermont where Daisy Turner lived. Daisy was born in 1883 to ex-slaves Alexander and Sally Turner. Daisy became a storyteller, sharing her family’s story beginning with her parents’ slavery right up to her own death in 1988. She was 104 years old and Vermont’s oldest citizen at the time. In Middlebury, at the Vermont Folklife Center, you can hear Diasy’s voice as part of an interactive exhibit. We will have to go listen!!
Information from the Vermont African-American Heritage Trail flyer tells us that Vermont is evolving into a state more diverse than it has been. It explains that “while some African Americans settled in Vermont generations ago, relatively new to the scene are more than 1000 Vermonters who recently arrived through the Vermont chapter of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “ Annually, Camp Betsey Cox has welcomed children from a refugee community in Albany, New York. With numbers increasing here in Vermont, we look forward to welcoming more girls from the seventeen countries with refugee communities in state.
At Betsey Cox, our community has been enriched by people of many varied backgrounds. This month, as I think about our African American camp family members, I think back to Ilyasah Shabazz, one of three Shabazz sisters, who came to BC and who wrote a book with a chapter about her experiences as Betsey Cox. Here’s a passage that I particularly love: “In the evenings at Camp Betsey Cox, the whole camp would walk over to Blueberry Field (aka Blueberry Hill Hotel now) for vespers. We all sat in a big circle, looking out over the valley with the Green Mountains slowly disappearing as the sun went down….We just wanted to sit there in the gathering dusk, feeling all warm and sisterly, and sing ‘Kum Ba Ya’ or ‘Country Roads’ while somebody strummed along on the guitar.”
Just a few months now and there we will be again, a rich and varied camp family that takes time to celebrate the background of each and every person!