Habari Gana! My name is Keshawna. I am 12 years old and I live in Cherry Hill. Cherry Hill is a community in Baltimore with a powerful history. This summer, I was a camper in the Youth Resiliency Institute’s “A Dream In Cherry Hill”  ummer camp. Week after week I learned from some of Baltimore’s most amazing artists. Artists such as photojournalist J.D. Howard, fashion designer/ hair stylist Ms. Safiyatou Edwards, independent journalist Bobby Marvin and staff from WhatWeekly online magazine taught me in my own community.

Many people have a negative opinion about Cherry Hill. It is easy for children to believe what other people say about their families, neighborhood or even about themselves when they are not around people who know and have the courage to tell the “other side of the story.” Because of my summer camp experience, I have decided that I want to be a journalist and use my own words to always tell the “other side of the story” in Cherry Hill and throughout the world!

Part of my summer camp experience was learning about Baltimore-based newspapers and online magazines. Having knowledge about the different newspapers and online magazines in Baltimore allows me to study differences in how stories are developed and shared, and how I can use my art to organize for positive change. After studying about Cherry Hill leaders like Ms. Shirley Foulkes, Mr. Eric Jackson and Mr. Leslie Vass, I now understand the importance of always seeking out positive leaders in my own community first so that I can find commonalities in leaders from other communities who may not look like me or come from my cultural background.

Speaking of community history, very few people are aware of the many artists who called Cherry Hill home. Artists such as Jimmy Briscoe and The Little Beavers put Cherry Hill on the map through their art. One of Jimmy Briscoe & The Little Beaver’s most famous songs was “Ebony Princess.” There are many ebony princesses in Cherry Hill and it is now my responsibility to share this history with them.

Although my summer camp experience is coming to a close, I am going to continue to work with the Youth Resiliency Institute’s staff members, Cherry Hill leaders and “A Dream In Cherry Hill” campers documenting everything great about my community. Positive culture, community and family must always be celebrated and honored by everyone. I thank all of the artists, volunteers and camp staff members who worked together to provide such an important experience in one of Baltimore’s most historic communities. A special thanks to master educator “mama” Symonette
for all of her wisdom teachings!

Next time you hear something negative about Cherry Hill, please think about me and the many other children, youth and families who have stories to share. We too, are part of the Baltimore Renaissance and have much to offer. I leave you  with a special poem written by Joelee- one of my fellow campers.

I am Strong

By Joelee

I am strong all day long, I am a warrior fighting more than a battle.

I don’t live to battle, but I know I am strong.

I hold up my shining armor, with one hand as if a super hero.

Beautiful ones offer me guidance and words of support, they know that I am strong.

I’m me in my own words, making it and breaking it.

I am strong, and this is my song.

I am more than who you see, soon you’ll see.

Many take it personal, because I am me.

I am strong, I am strong, I am me.

*       *       *

Keshawna and her fellow “A Dream In Cherry Hill” youth campers are currently constructing a blogsite dedicated to mapping assets for children, youth and families in Cherry Hill. The blogsite will be completed in early September! Learn more about “A Dream In Cherry Hill” at bcyri.org

“A Dream in Cherry Hill” was made possible with funding and support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The National Rites of Passage Institute and The Lavista Foundation. A special thanks to WhatWeekly.

Click here to read this week feature story on “A Dream in Cherry Hill” Camp!