Confidence-Building Legacy Day Camp Connects San Antonio Children to African American Pioneer Stories

It was a rough day on the lineup – in an imaginary way – for kids attending an urban summer camp with hands-on lessons on the early contributions of people of color.

The Legacy Day event hosted by the San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum wrapped up week five of a six-week “Summer Extravaganza” camp at the Ella Austin Community Center. Children ages 5 to 18 learned about Buffalo Soldiers, Black US Army troops who served on the border after the Civil War, and Black cowboys who raised cattle to help feed a nation in full growth.

Billy Gordon, a founding member of the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers, dressed up as a track driver, talking to the kids about cowboy and rope life, horseback riding and branding. It’s part of the African-American heritage that few children know about, said Gordon, 79.

“So they never had a connection to one of the most important periods in our history, and that was the period of westward expansion in America,” Gordon said. “They absorb it like a sponge.”

Samiah Jihad-Shelton, 13, said she first heard about black cowboys – a way for many formerly slave men to find work after emancipation – and how they saddled horses, pitched tents, cooked on a fire and ‘how their story was made, as their own destiny.

But the highlight of her day was that she “taught little children the Buffalo Soldiers”.

“This little girl asked a really good question: ‘How did they get the name of the Buffalo Soldiers?’ We explained that Native Americans gave them this name because they fought like buffalo soldiers and looked like buffalo soldiers, ”said Jihad-Shelton, who attends Eisenhower Middle School and sees a possible future. at Baylor University – and a career in marine biology. .

Evelyn Miles-Hoskin, director of the camp, said the half-day living history event and summer programming at Ella Austin is designed to help children develop their independence and leadership through education heritage and peer mentoring and get them to think beyond negative stereotypes.

“We’re telling them now that there are African Americans who have contributed to America, and we have something to pass on,” Miles-Hoskin said. “We want to let them know that we are able to move forward in a positive way to work together – White, Anglo, Latino, African American – we can move forward and work together as America.”

Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO and director of the museum, said the connection to cultural roots builds trust.

“We want children to understand that just by living your life, being part of the community, you are making history. This is your story. And it’s important for you to record your story, ”she said.

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