Zenovia Stephens sits beside a campfire with her family and participants of Black Kids Adventure’s summer event, Family Adventure Camp. They prepare to rest their heads after day-one of their three-day weekend at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama. Just over the canopy of oak and maple, stars dazzle in the Alabama night. Without service to wireless devices, the campers are vulnerable to each other’s presence. Some, for the first time in such an isolated outdoor setting. Others are familiar with the trek of exploration and welcome the new faces with welcoming smiles and humorous stories through the crackling, wooded blaze. It’s what Stephens says her organization is all about: connection, community, and family—outdoors.
“The conversations that start with the families as we sit around a campfire—some for the first time—are really special,” she says. “We have kids that share plans about their future that their parents never knew. All because we’re out here under the stars talking, sharing, and being—together.”
Stephens’ love of the outdoors stretches far into her own past. She recalls Camp Pinewood, a summer program she attended as an elementary student. Utilizing the magic she felt in her own first experience at the away camp, her memories of fishing and gardening with her parents, and a burgeoning beckon to give families like hers the same thrill for adventure, she founded Black Kids Adventures in 2020.
Over the next couple of years, her organization and partnership with Camp McDowell have led to more than two-dozen families venturing out of their comfort zones for a journey of exploration into nature and themselves. This endeavor, one she believes is a necessity for anyone looking to engage with a truer part of themselves in the world, is where Stephens, her family, Camp McDowell, and the participants rest their heads. The pillowing smoke of the extinguished campfire is surrounded by quiet breaths of restful adventures, eager for what dawn will bring as they continue to share the worlds of the outdoors, and inner self, with each other.
As of 2020, only about thirteen percent of campers nationwide were African-American. Through programs like Family Adventure Camp, B.K.A. is looking to change this statistic and open the world of camping to those families who have yet to experience it. If you would like to enroll your family into the Family Adventure Camp 2022, taking place May 20–22, please visit www.blackkidsadventures.org.