Photo from BMOC Camp 2012
By Diego Sandoval
One day I was asked by Andres Reyes (We ‘Ced Editor/Coordinator) if I wanted to attend a BMoC (Boys and Men of Color) camp in the Sierra mountains for a week in mid-July. He explained to me what we would be doing and talking about. He said we would discuss problems in our community. I, for one, had many things in mind, such as police harassment, drug and gang problems. Sunday, July 15th, I left my town, Merced, but that wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was leaving my family behind. As I got my things out of the car, I looked at them. Every single face was a sad but happy face. I changed my mind about going for a minute, before getting on the bus I felt like running towards my van yelling as hard as I could but I didn’t. Step after step I led myself to the back of the bus.
We watched a movie but I wasn’t really paying attention though, with my family on my mind and all. We got there around 5pm, we checked in and went down to our cabin. It looked nice, kind of like a 5 star hotel that cheered me up, I was happy. Dinner was ready and the guys from South L.A still had not gotten there so we went ahead and ate. When we came back I met them, they were nice, it seemed like they had their guards up but I couldn’t blame them since I had mine up and ready to go too. We chilled and talked, bringing us closer. Days later I started getting used to the environment, people, but mostly the food. Breakfast was 8:00am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6 all day everyday, same time. In a line one after another, we grabbed our food and drinks, which by the way were great, just saying.
All 90-100 students gathered in a room called the Lodge and shared many personal things. I honestly never thought I would even think about the subject I talked about. Each and every one of the boys and men of color stepped up and shared a picture we drew of something special that meant alot to us. I drew a key chain that was once given to me by someone really special to me at the time. Some people drew symbols such as hearts representing love or eyes representing life.
One time we sat in groups and the subject was our community. I, like I mentioned before, talked about drug and gang problems. We were all from different communities but had similar problems, something that made me feel closer to them because I knew exactly how they felt. We all shared, one after the other, as the rest would listen paying all respect and close attention. I felt honored to be there. My surroundings felt safe for the first time in my life. No one was judging, I said and did what I wanted. The BMoC camp helped me understand myself even more. I knew I was doing something wrong, I just didn’t see the picture.
One evening my roommates and I gathered wood for a fire circle. It was the first time I had ever done that. We all basically sat around the fire then learned that fire represents Men. Like fire, men can get out of control and cause destruction. That was the moment our bonding started. The night was just right. Stars were out and it smelled like pine trees, it wasn’t cold or hot it was just right. The breeze touched our skin softly and I felt peace and comfort in the air. We were asked to gather a pinecone that represented something that was holding us back. The adults talked and we listened, then our turn to talk came. The question was “If You Could Change Something About Your Life What Would It Be?” and everyone had a chance to speak. With tears in our eyes, heart and soul in our hands we supported one another. I talked about how bad I have been treating my mom. I looked around, the night was still dark everything was the same but that was weird. I was expecting judgments like back at home. I was wrong, no judgments were made and I got nothing but comfort. Once again I felt honored to be there but this time it was something bigger than that. Honored was just such a small word.
Coming back home, my picture had flash. I saw everything clearly, I knew what I was doing wrong and decided to change that. Bonding wasn’t all we did, we also had challenge courses and one I will never forget was the zip line. I got up the tree was ready to go when I had that feeling. Once again I felt scared, I wanted to get down and I even told my teammates. They said “No! You can do it!” after that all I heard was “Diego! Diego! Diego!” from all of them, now I felt supported so I closed my eyes and begin to walk. My partner D’Shawn was shaking more than I was, I knew he needed my support so I did what he wanted “Baby Steps Bro! Babyyyyy Steps!” We both helped each other out and had fun doing it. Once I was on the ground I wanted to kiss the ground so bad.
That week was nothing but fun, if I had the chance to do it again I would. Now I can’t say I met all of the people that went there but I can assure you I met most of them. I also can’t say I remember names because I don’t, but what I do remember is faces, conversations, challenges, the whole experience itself. It was so hard saying bye to all of my new friends from new cities, being from different places and all, knowing it was the last time we would see each other. I still keep in touch with some of them, I still thank them for what they did to me. They changed me. I changed! Like someone wise once told me “It’s better to be seen then heard” well sometimes its better to be heard than seen. I’m not rich. I have no money. My voice is the only powerful thing I own. When you say the right words to the right people, they will follow. Don’t get it twisted, yes anyone can be a leader but not anyone will choose to be a good one. Now I leave you with this question. What will you be? Follower? Leader? More importantly, are you going to be a good follower or a good leader?