Letter from the Camp Director

By Arianne Richards

This summer The Chicago Wisdom Project launched our first ever summer camp. Although this was our pilot camp, we have been taking our youth out of the city into rural settings on retreats from the beginning. Our retreats have always been an important and impactful piece of our program and this is what led us to wanting to make more of an impact through summer camp. Getting out of the city gives our youth a chance to disconnect from the stress and chaos of the city.

It also gives them a chance to disconnect from their cell phones and social media, and to take in the beauty around – and the beauty within themselves. At the end of camp one of our youth expressed that “it was nice to not worry about the stress of my cell phone and being connected all the time.” During this time together our youth get the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with each other that will continue for years to come.

Many of the activities we do allow for our youth to break down their walls and be open and honest, which leads them to be open and honest in their creative work as well. The critical thinking we do allows them to question their world and how they can impact their immediate and world community while having the support of each other. Imagination and thinking critically about the world is how we create change, and our goal is for our youth to become creators of culture instead of just being consumers of it.

I am honored to be able to witness the transformation our youth make at camp and the tools they take back home with them.

About The Author

Arianne Richards
Arianne Richards is a stay-home-mother of three, Rites of Passage Director at the Chicago Wisdom Project and a lover of Africana Studies and genealogy. She holds a degree from Laney College in Oakland, CA in African American Studies and is certified in Rites of Passage facilitation by Rites of Passage Journeys. Ari was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and was heavily involved in Chicago’s 90s Hip Hop sub culture. During these years she hosted a local television show focusing on Chicago Hip Hop, as well as a Hip Hop radio show on WKKC. She credits this with her love of working with youth and helping them to find their voice. She began her work with youth in Chicago and went on to work with youth in Asheville, NC; Harlem, New York; and Oakland, CA. She saw that many youth, having lost a connection to their traditions and ancestors, lack guidance when it comes to making the transition from child to young adult and she wanted to provide a safe, loving space for them to do so. In addition, she is her family historian and is currently working to bring a genealogy research component to Chicago Wisdom Project in the spirit of Sankofa – looking into ones past and learning from it in order to move forward.


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