A Black Girl at Camp



I could say that being one of few Black American girls at a predominately white camp was like being one of a few brown eggs in a huge basket of white eggs.  Or, that being at Carysbrook made me feel aware of my status as a minority ethnic group in America. However, it just wouldn’t be true and Carysbrook girls don’t lie. I remember bursting at the seams with excitement when it came time to return to camp each summer so much so that I almost couldn’t sleep.  I will never forget the numerous calls and check-ins between the “D.C. Moms” (moms of the African American girls) for last minute items and for confirmation of the time of the “T.C. Williams/Carysbrook Pick-up”. I knew that my urban-Black, only-child, Washington, DC. lifestyle was night-and-day different from that of most of my camp friends. Nonetheless, it was uniquely mine and “it” along with my trunk and duffle bag were headed up the mountain to Riner, VA.

Anticipation and delight overcame me as I wondered which of my Carysbrook friends would return that summer. These girls were my sisters and friends and we relished our fun times spent together. I loved them and they loved me and that was all that mattered. As a kid, I didn’t worry about whether I’d stand out as one of the only African American girls or if I’d be popular because of it. I didn’t worry about making the quick-shift transition from my all-Black, urban, D.C. community (that raised me) to my all-White, somewhat folksy, rural Virginia one(that enriched me). Nope, my only concerns were how I was going to get out of going to the barn for riding lessons and if my braided hairstyle would hold up until Banquet.  

Later on in my life, I would realize that my camp friends, counselors, and directors saw the charm, wit, spunk, and creativity that set me apart and they encouraged it. Even at a young age they made me feel free to be uniquely me. These attributes would later be the foundation upon which my character, confidence, and leadership skills were built. Although we were at times as different as we were the same, my Carysbrook girls never saw me as a Black girl from Southeast, DC. Instead, they saw me as a camp friend and a sister, for I too was Carysbrook. Camp Carysbrook remains woven into my spirit just as much as I am woven into her history. Carysbrook continues to be the colorful fabric of my childhood from which many of my dreams and aspirations were created. Still in my life today, I hold the memories, lessons, and experiences of Carysbrook within my heart and I’m determined to pass them on.

by Joyi Levata Better-Rice, Camper 1986-1991

DC Public Libraries Program Associate

Museum Programs Associate for Old Historic Alexandria VA