Black Life Youth Camp

Fifteen elementary and middle school students have spent their summers preserving local Black history through digital storytelling and imaging skills at the University of Northern Iowa’s first-ever Black Life Youth Camp (BLYC). The two-week day camp will conclude on August 4.

BLYC is a joint initiative between the Iowa African American Heritage Trail and the Fortepan Iowa photo archive. The purpose is to uncover hidden African American cultural resources in the Cedar Valley and add those resources to the Iowa African American Heritage Trail. 

Camp participants have been learning how to research and document stories of local African American pioneers and historic places in the Cedar Valley under the direction of Bettina Fabos, an interactive digital studies professor at UNI and the director of Fortepan Iowa, and Charles Pearson who leads the Iowa African American Heritage Trail. Students have also investigated safe biking and walking routes in Waterloo’s historic Black Neighborhood “Unity” and have had opportunities to bike the Eddie Bowles Tour created by faculty member Jim O’Loughlin

"Our young people are the future and will be the ones who continue our legacies,” said Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Chiquita Loveless. “These students will be able to share stories of the Cedar Valley African American Trailblazers. Black Life Youth Camp gives our underserved youth the opportunity to explore and learn about their upbringing and surroundings, and I am extremely happy to see this program come to fruition."

While investigating local Black family histories, camp participants have learned how to professionally scan family photographs and then use those scans to create photomontages and digital animations. Students have even gone on site visits related to family stories they have learned about. 

Black Life Youth Camp is made free for students through the generous sponsorship of the Guernsey Foundation of Waterloo and the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice at the University of Northern Iowa.

Chiquita Loveless, director, Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice, 319-273-2250,