I have been at a loss for words since August 1, the day I arrived in Chicago for training with Camp Butterfly. (Camp Butterfly is a one-week sleepaway experience for girls ages 11 to 17 of African descent that focuses on cultural awareness, purpose, self-awareness and community. Founded in 2004 by Niambi Jaha Echols, the camp has served close to 400 girls from the Chicago area and cities throughout the country.) Even as I write this, the words engage in a game of hide and seek, falling silent to this overwhelming feeling of a spirit truly overjoyed. So many thoughts rush my mind when reflecting over last year's Camp Butterfly experience. So many lessons were learned and revelations revealed that I am surprised I can even balance what has and is taking place.
Of everything that transpired within those 10 days, there is one moment that replays in the cinema of my mind and heart. It was Sunday and I remember sitting down to lunch, observing the transformation of girls who, only a few days earlier, were so guarded. I was preparing myself for the closing ritual when one of the cousins, IyKeisha, came up to me. (At camp, we address the girls as "cousins" and they refer to us as either "Auntie" or "Mama.")
"May I sit next to you?" she asked.
"Of course you can," I said before even allowing her to finish her sentence. As she set down her plates and cup of lemonade, I watched her laugh at two of the cousins who were seated across from us.