Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dionne Lorae Holly's CAMP BIRDSONG tells of the Girl Scouts' legacy for Black History Month

Happy Black History Month! We celebrate with a wonderful guest, author Dionne Lorae Holly, who shares with us the fascinating history behind her new book.

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CAMP BIRDSONG: A Night Under The Stars
When it’s darkest, the stars shine the brightest

By Dionne Lorae Holly

I began my adventure in researching for Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars as a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I created a Black History Month badge activity for my troop about the first campgrounds for African American Girls.  The activity presented 1940’s vintage uniforms, handbooks, and photographs.  The presentation became popular thorough out my Girl Scout Service Unit.

What peeked my interest to do research is the famous Girl Scout quote by the founder, Juliette Low. Low called her friend describing a program she has for girls, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!”  The Girl Scouts began in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. Then, there is a rumored quote by Martin Luther King Jr. dated in 1956, which describes the Girl Scouts as a force in desegregation. I had to learn what happened in between those two quotes.

I made inquiries online and learned about Girl Scout Volunteer, Josephine Holloway. She donated not only her time, but also bought land in Tennessee for a Girl Scout camp for African American girls.  The Jim Crow laws prevented her troop from a true camping experience.  The girls could not sleep overnight. Eventually, the local Girl Scout council purchased the campgrounds from Holloway.  Later the council integrated the campgrounds. 

Prior to Holloway purchasing the land, her troop traveled to Indiana to camp overnight.  
After reading about Holloway, I called the Tennessee Girl Scout Historian; I asked if there were any photographs. She replied no.  In my disbelief that there were not any photographs, I said, “You know what I’m coming up there.” The local council gave me permission to explore Camp Holloway for my research.  I drove four hundred miles across state lines to visit. Once there I toured the grounds and walked through the Holloway homestead. I saw the photographs!  I thought maybe that the historian had not visited the camp…

In order to tell this historical fiction authentically, I interviewed my mom.  As a Girl Scout from the 1950’s, she shared how she made a bed roll (sleeping bag) and cooked meals over an open fire. Foremost, she described how she felt many times like a spectator and not a participant at the annual Girl Scout gathering called Camporee.  My story uses a fictional scouting group called Girl Rangers. I studied orienteering for my research as well. The story tells how the Girl Rangers learn about the sun and the stars. The most shocking discovery I made was to learn the idea of introducing girls into scouting; was when the Boys Scouts founder, British General Powell observed African Zulu women’s resourcefulness while their tribesmen were away at war. 

Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars is considered a children’s Black History Month book, but it is an inspirational story for any age, any gender or any skin color. The story shows how to overcome challenges and make your dreams come true. 

Blurb for Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars:

In the 1940’s Joalee Olingsworth is frustrated when the local Jim Crow laws prevents her daughter from becoming Girl Ranger. Growing up a preacher’s kid, she’s fearless to give her daughter and the girls in her community the equal opportunity to enjoy a camping experience. She travels near and far for freedom to have “A Night Under The Stars.”

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Purchase Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars on Amazon and Barnes & Noble; if you live the metro Atlanta area visit the Greater Atlanta Girl Scout Shop, 5601 Allen Rd. Mableton, GA 30126.
To learn about the author visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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