Black children in special Hamilton summer camp learn about cultural pride, team building and food

Some 40 children in Hamilton are participating in a summer camp organized by the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association (ACCA) that's part of a broader initiative to provide programs and support for Black children.

Afro Canadian Caribbean Association camp is part of initiative to provide programs, support to Black children

A woman stands beside a child, with an arm wrapped around the child.
Debbie Johnson says she's glad she enrolled her eight-year-old daughter Harper into the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association's summer camp in Hamilton for Black children. (Aaron Parry/Afro Canadian Caribbean Association)

Debbie Johnson knew she'd have to put extra effort into helping her daughter Harper learn more about her dad, Fenton Edman, after he died last fall.

"I want her to learn about her dad's heritage and culture," Johnson said to CBC Hamilton about Edman, who was born in Jamaica.

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

Johnson said she then heard about the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association of Hamilton and District's (ACCA) summer camp in Hamilton, and signed up eight-year-old Harper. 

"I want her to experience everything that she can."

8-week camp teaches kids about culture

The eight-week new summer camp, with roughly 40 participants between ages six and 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.

The camp wraps up later in August.

"They are learning about team building, they are also learning [about different cultures]  and foods," Myrie said, adding the campers have made 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 about and share different recipes."

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

Myrie previously said ACCA would be leading a project, under Ontario's Guns, Gangs and Violence Reduction Strategy, aimed at preventing crime and violence, and increasing awareness and self confidence in Black youth.

At the time, she said, the provincial government was giving ACCA $284,671 for the Rites of Passage project — one of 11 new community-based programs aimed at deterring youth from becoming involved in crime or victims of it.

"Building on the program, we added to it weekly activities for some people through a summer camp format," Myrie said Thursday.

"A range of issues are being covered at the camp, including building self-confidence and learning about cultural pride … we're focusing on some approaches to address kids making poor choices."

Harper is having 'time of her life'

Johnson said Harper is "having the time of her life" at the camp.

"As soon as I picked her up from the first day, she was just saying how much she loved it because 'it was totally awesome.'"

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

"I don't know what the African dance they were learning was, but she was showing me two moves."

A group of children sit in a circle and wave at the camera.
Children sit in a circle and wave at the camera during ACCA's summer camp in Hamilton. (Submitted by Afro Canadian Caribbean Association)

Harper said she's been enjoying the camp activities, such as dancing and drumming.

She's also made some friends.

"It's good," she told CBC Hamilton.

Johnson said she's glad she enrolled Harper. 

"I feel it's more important now more than ever to allow her to experience everything that I can't give her. While her dad was still alive, he could enrich her in his experiences, influences and his 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.



Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond joined CBC News in October 2017. He previously worked with The Associated Press, Caribbean Media Corporation and Inter Press Service. You can reach him at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.