Just two days before legendary Louisville civil rights activist Anne Braden died in 2005, she was — with the help of Shameka Parrish and Bani Hines-Hudson — finishing a grant proposal to the Kentucky Foundation for Women. It was the first step in creating the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression’s Arts and Activism Summer Youth Camp, now in its third year.
“We first started with 12 kids, and last year we waited to take in more who weren’t the cream of the crop,” Parrish said.
The straight-A students and young community leaders are obvious choices, but many of the kids who need the camp the most may not always be the most qualified or eager in getting their voices heard.
“It’s easier to work with people who you think would be on the same level,” she said. “But there are more children who are disenfranchised, and people don’t reach out to them.
“They don’t know about the media, progressive work or even Martin Luther King Jr.,” Parrish continued. “We highlight local activists and artists who are unsung themselves, and enlighten and engage the youth.”
The month-long summer camp aims to teach kids living in West Louisville about political and social activism, and how they can use art as a tool to affect policies, make their voices heard and fight for social justice. They’ll also learn about the civil rights movement in Louisville and their communities’ histories.
Shirley Moorman’s 13-year-old son, Leroy Gogh, attended the camp last summer, after organizers changed the program from girls-only to coed.
“I wanted him to learn about civil rights history and meet people who do work in civil rights and know what’s going on,” Moorman said. “It got
out of their usual environment and into other environments. It showed them other things they can do and different places they can go.”
Even more so, it shows kids something they’re unlikely to learn in a classroom, and organizers hope it also instills in the next generation something less visible in the United States now: active engagement in the community, questioning government policies and fighting for change.
Gogh learned better leadership skills, how to work with a team and how to get along with different people, Moorman said. “It definitely helped him grow. All of them
got something out of it.”
“A lot of the more seasoned people think the youth don’t get it,” Parrish said. “They get it, but there are not a lot of avenues for them to show us. With arts and activism they can show us.”
Each day the campers learn a new tool for activism through art, with a local artist or activist leading the group. From Sonja DeVries’ “Activism and Photography” to Eboni Cochran’s “Environmental Justice Tour” to Tara Pruitt’s “Stomping for Justice,” the kids learn how to turn something they enjoy into a way to make a difference.
Parrish has plans to extend the camp to a year-round program, though she said now she keeps in touch with the kids who participate all year. If a child expresses interest in environmental activism, for instance, she connects him with local environmental organizations.
“It’s a great bridge-building opportunity,” she said. “We also connect with parents and get them involved. When I first came here
, people two doors down thought it was a nursing home.
“People don’t know what’s going on in their own community,” Parrish continued, “and this is a great way to get the word out about what we do and for local activists and artists to show the kids how they use their work to create change.”
Orientation for the next session begins June 25, and there are still spots open. Contact the Kentucky Alliance’s Shameka Parrish at 778-8130 for more info.
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