LAURINBURG — The campers who took part in this year’s F.A.I.T.H. Summer Camp made history last week as the first group to perform in the city’s Art Garden, in front of the A.B. Gibson Education Center.
Camp Director Tyris Jones began the program by leading the 38 young African-American campers into the center of the Art Garden and forming a circle while they sang “Funga Alafia,” a Western African song that translates to “welcomes and blessings.”
Jones welcomed the 50 or so people in the audience to the performance and explained to them what the campers had been working on for the past two weeks. The acronym F.A.I.T.H. stood for Following Ambitions In The Heart, which Jones thought was appropriate considering the message the program was trying to convey.
“Last year two ladies who’ve known me since I was little came up with the idea that I do something for the kids at our church,” Jones said. “They said we’ll just call it a summer camp. I’m an artist so I had all kinds of idea running through my head. I based it on faith and made that the acronym.”
After a brief introduction from Jones each of the 38 campers from Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church, who ranged in age from four to 17, stood up told the audience their name and said, “I am young, gifted and black.”
The powerful messages continued as the campers sang “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” followed by a piece called, “As I Grow,” which featured some of the children holding up signs with messages like “Reward Me,” “Compliment Me,” and “Listen To Me.” Each sign had a monologue that went with it explaining what it meant and how it would help the children grow into successful adults.
“We used this as an outlet to teach them certain things, not teaching hate or anything like that, but self pride and knowing who you are,” Jones said. “With so much that is going on today, just how kids are so different from our upbringing and technology being in the forefront. They are able to see everything so fast that they are growing up at a different pace and tend to forget what’s important.”
The next piece was an interpretive dance performance by the female campers to the song, “I Believe I Can Fly,” which was song a capella by Sommore Terry. The dance used the ribbons the girls had tied around their wrists and waists to help tell the story of the song.
The young male campers were next, they put on a dramatic performance called, “Yo Brother,” which acted out very relevant topics like police shootings and black-on-black violence. The piece was originally created by a friend of Jones’ back in the 90s.
“The black-on-black crime was written by a good friend of mine in college back in the 90s,” he said. “We performed that piece out of a play called, “Fade to Black,” and I found that piece in one of my old yearbooks from North Carolina Central and I thought this is so right now. I wanted to let the young ones do it and hear it.”
Jones said the powerful message that went along with each piece was explained to the campers before they started practicing.
“Black-on-black crimes, the police shootings and all of that, each piece did not go without an extensive conversation,” he said. “I got real with them and they understood where I was coming from.”
The campers were hesitant to put on their program at the Art Garden because of the heat, but when they learned they would be making history as the first group to perform, they quickly changed their tune.
“I was very fond of this place when I saw the sculptures go up,” Jones said. “I thought it was pretty when I saw it I knew we needed to do a performance out here. Once we got down here we were in the heat the kids said they didn’t want to do it outside. I had to convince them a little bit and tell them we are going to be a part of history and be the first ones to perform here, then they were like ‘okay we’ll do it now.’”
The 38 campers who participated in this year’s F.A.I.T.H. Summer Camper were as follows: Tadarius Bethea, Shebria Brown, Joseph Butler, Madison Carmichael, Christopher Covington, Kayla Covington, Kiyami Covington, Ishmael Davis, Brianna Diggs, David Dockery III, Jaden Everett, JaNiya Filler, Talecea Green, Zy’naz Howell, Angel Hunter, Nevaeh Hunter, Jashuan Johnson, Jhania Johnson, JaZaria McCrimmon, Taliyah McLaughlin, Teriq McLaughlin, Quashawn McLaurin, Dyn’esha McLean, Ebony McMillan, Aiden McNair, Zayrn McNeill, Antan’azha Monley, Jakari Monley, Jeremaih Monley, Kareem Monley, Destiny Nealy, Daeshonda Patterson, Jasmine Patterson, Allison Pratt, Jacee Robinson, Clifton Settles, Bree Steele and Tyana Wall.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.