AFRICANGLOBE – After some outrage from parents and the ACLU, a Michigan YMCA has ended an “Underground Railroad” program that parents say forced their African-American children to play slaves on the auction block while also being chased around by their “masters.”
The program, which the YMCA dubbed as an educational experience, came under fire after two parents sounded the alarms. One of them, Tiffany Birchett, told The Detroit News that her 10-year-old was traumatized by the entire experience at the YMCA Storer Camps.
“My daughter came home after the camp. She was very disturbed, and she told me what happened,” Birchett said. “First, I was wondering if this was a ritual that they do to these kids every year they attend the camp.”
Birchett said the re-enactment included the camp instructors and teachers serving as “slave masters” that bought and sold the campers, who played the role of slaves.
“She told me the camp instructors, including some of their teachers, were dancing and happy before they went out to do this slave re-enactment,” Birchett said.
She initially complained to the principal at her daughter’s school who told her that “not one student has expressed to us that they felt that way about the UGRR.”
In early February, an attorney for the Michigan ACLU Racial Justice Project wrote a letter to YMCA president and CEO Kevin Washington demanding the slavery re-enactment program stop.
“Not only is the Underground Railroad activity emotionally and intellectually harmful,” Mark Fancher wrote. “It also creates a racially hostile environment that has legal implications both for the camp in its role as an educational institution or agent of an educational institution, and for the schools that send their students to the camp facility.”
That same day the ACLU letter was fired off, the YMCA of Greater Toledo — the operator of the Storer Camps — told Fancher it was pulling the plug on the Underground Railroad program.
“We take this very seriously,” Brad Toft, president/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toledo told MLive. “Our intent is to create an environment kids can thrive in, and we would never do anything deliberately to hurt that. We don’t want to offer anything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable.”
By: Chad Merda