Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dedicated to Mark Patrick George...(Updated)

(Updated to include in the dedication Associate Professor Matthew Richard who wrote this letter, Welcome to ataViSm U, to The Spectator, VSU's student newspaper.)

... former professor of Race/Class/Gender, Sexuality, and Masculinity Studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia, and coordinator for anti-racism Mary Turner Project. From the group's website:

In partnership with the Lowndes/Valdosta Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the MTP recently launched the "Its Hate Not Heritage" campaign. That initiative seeks to end all state promotion and funding of Confederate holidays, Confederate events, the naming of roads after Confederate leaders, and the state management of Confederate historic sites.

Mr. George recently departed VSU over his controversial use of university resources for political activity.

I am dedicating this excerpt from Sweet Southern Boys to him, since Valdosta inspired the fictionalized Verona, Georgia where the story takes place. I suspect Mr. George would be right at home in the organization "One Community."

A little background for the excerpt: Read about the start-up of One Community HERE. Meet Nora Weir and the other progressives of Yancy County, Georgia,  HERE.

Sweet Southern Boys
Connie Chastain


Chapter Thirteen

"Ainsley, are you coming?" Erin McGhee planted her fists on her hips and gave Ainsley an exasperated stare. 

"I'm finished." Seated at a wooden table under a primitive pavilion on the quadrangle at Silver Pines Day Camp, Ainsley snapped the lid on a plastic tub that held her craft projects. In no hurry, she slid the tub under the table.

"You don't want to go on the canoe picnic, do you?"

Ainsley shrugged.  "Not really."

"Me, neither.  Nobody does, but we can't back out now."

"I wish we could.  I would."

"Me, too.  I'm glad this is the last day of camp. This has been the worse camp ever. I'm not coming back next year."

"I won't, either.  At least, not if …."

Erin finished for her. "Not if Counselor Nora comes back."

Ainsley nodded solemnly. 

The two girls rambled across the grassy quadrangle, past the rustic administration buildings, headed for Juniper Creek, which meandered through the campground and the fields and woodlands that surrounded it.  Stifling August heat suffused the air and the girls broke out in a sheen of sweat. 

This was Ainsley's fourth year as a Silver Pines camper.  Her first session had occurred a year to the month after the dog mauling that had left her traumatized for so long and she hadn't really wanted to go.  But her mama had said, "Just go the first day, and if you don't like it, you don't have to go back."

She had loved it from that first day, and looked forward to it every summer. She didn't care for sports and opted out of most, though she enjoyed hiking the nature trails.  She much preferred more sedate activities like the petting zoo, skits and, most of all, crafts. 

This year, she had made a mirror with a seashell frame for her mother, a ceramic paperweight for her father's desk at work, and for Shelby a computer diskette storage box decoupaged with bits of construction paper in an abstract pattern.  They sat in her storage tub under the craft table, awaiting the trip home. While she was proud of her creations, she had not enjoyed her days at Silver Pines this year. Erin was right; camp had been terrible this summer and the reason was the presence of a new counselor, Nora Weir.

Few if any campers actually liked Counselor Nora, as she preferred to be called.

"Do not call me Miss Nora," she'd told the campers on the first day. "Or Miss Weir or Miss Anything. That is a pretentious, saccharine Southernism I will not have applied to me."

She was forever criticizing Southerners as backward hayseeds, though she was careful not to apply those terms to the campers, their families, or anyone they knew.  She complained of the heat, the bugs, the critters, and said she'd never had to worry about such things growing up in New England.  Almost nothing of Southern culture and tradition, from its prominent religiosity, to family, to food and music, escaped her criticism, although she was very subtle about it.

"She hates our lizards," Ainsley had told Shelby shortly after camp began.  "Even the little green ones with the red throats. She says she'd have all the bushes around her apartment cut down if her landlord would let her, cause they're full of 'em."

"Well, that's silly," Shelby replied.  "Carolina anoles are some of the purtiest little lizards on the planet."

If the counselor's constant fault-finding wasn't offputting enough, there was the way she looked and acted.  Tall and gaunt, with light skin and pale gray eyes, she had wispy, ash-blond hair that she pulled into a pony tail most of the time.  One day in the latrine, Ainsley had overheard one of the older campers describe her as cadaverous.  Her thin, grating voice, owl-like stare, her stalking gait and general creepiness had caused the campers to nickname her Counselor Weird.

"The canoe picnic wouldn't be so bad," Erin said, "if Miss Jackie or Miss Barbara was in charge.  But it's Counselor Nora's project and Lindsey Duncan says she picked all seven of us special."

For some reason, that information ratcheted up Ainsley's discomfort and her steps slowed.  "I wonder why us..."

"Who cares," Erin said, suddenly impatient.  "Look, let's just go and get it over with. It's not that far to the picnic tables in the woods.  We'll go, eat, come back and then it will be over."

* * *

The four canoes glided single file  through the still water. The lead canoe, occupied by Counselor Nora and her buddy for the trip, Joanie Wilson, whom nobody envied, carried a backpack and hard-sided cooler full of picnic items.

On the aft seat of the last canoe, Ainsley glanced over her shoulder as the buildings of Silver Pines disappeared and the forest of ubiquitous slash pines closed in around the creek. Sudden and strong foreboding took Ainsley in its grip and she struggled to suppress it with rationality.  Everything would be all right.  It was just a canoe trip and picnic.  She had done this at least once every year she'd been a camper.

But the notion that everything would be all right gave way to a greater feeling of abnormality when Counselor Nora called, "Everybody stop rowing." 

The canoes came to a slow halt and the campers looked at each other curiously.  Ainsley heard Erin's low mutter, "We're paddling, not rowing, you stupid woman."

Counselor Nora maneuvered the lead canoe around and paddled back toward the other boats.  She stopped at the first one.  "I'm going to tether the canoes together in a line, so nobody gets lost."

"No counselor's ever done that," said one of the girls, but Counselor Nora ignored her.  As the campers watched with curiosity and a hit of suspicion, she threaded a rope through metal rings at the bow and stern of the canoes and tied them with complicated knots that looked impossible to untie.

"There will be about ten feet of rope separating each canoe, so you don't have to worry about collisions."  A corner of her mouth quirked up as if she'd said something cute, but nobody laughed.  Her characteristic lack of humor returned immediately and she added, "Everybody still has to paddle.  You can't just sit back and let the boats in front pull you along."

With that she and Joanie paddled back to the lead and the now solemn flotilla got underway again.

The second bothersome incident occurred when they approached the Picnic Place in the Woods, as it was known, which comprised a grassy clearing next to the creek and four wooden picnic tables  under shelters like the pavilions on the quadrangle. 

Counselor Nora called out to them, "We're not going to have the picnic here. We're going to a special place, so everyone keep rowing."

For a few moments, silence met her announcement, but soon, the plaintiff voice of the youngest camper on the trip, first grader Cindy Jeffcoat, said, "I want to go back to camp now."

The lead canoe rocked slightly as Counselor Nora twisted to look behind her, her face like thunder. "We'll go back after the picnic."

Again, the campers looked at each other in perplexity and their touch of suspicion rose several notches.

They paddled and paddled.  The creek narrowed and widened, curved and straightened.  The woods on each side changed character several times, from slash pines shading wiregrass, to palmetto forests beneath live oak canopies.  Underbrush of wax myrtles and yaupon holly thickened as the campers paddled deeper into the woods.

The heat was stifling, and not the barest breeze touched them.  Once, somebody said, "I'm thirsty.  I want some water," but Counselor Nora  knocked on the lid of a rigid cooler strapped into the lead canoe and said, "There will be plenty of cold water at the picnic."

None of the girls had worn a watch and they lost track of time but it seemed like they'd been gone a long time, and still, Nora pressed them on.  Eventually, though, they stopped, simply because they could go no further.  A concrete barrier across the creek blocked their progress.  A bridge, it looked like.  It was too low to paddle under, the bottom edge barely a foot above the water's surface.  The canoes drifted as the counselor seemed to consider her options.

"Okay, right back there is where we'll have the picnic," she said pointing the way they had come.  "The clearing beyond that grassy patch of bank we passed a few minutes ago."

Somebody muttered, "I thought we was going to some special place..." but the counselor ignored her. It didn't take long before they reached the grassy bank, and pulled the canoes ashore.

"Everybody find a place to sit," Counselor Nora ordered.

The grass ended a few feet from the creek and the clearing was hot and dusty.  A fallen tree provided seating for most, but Ainsley didn't join them.  Beside her, Lindsey Duncan, the oldest at fourteen, muttered, "Looks snaky to me," and Ainsley whispered, "Me, too."

"Let's sit here," Lindsey said, sotto voce, and they sat on the seats of the nearest canoe as Counselor Nora lugged the cooler, backpack and a camp stool to the middle of the clearing. She saw them as she set the cooler down and ordered sharply, "Get out of the boat."

"There's no other place to sit," Lindsey said defiantly.  She  and Ainsley remained where they were as the counselor passed out bottles of water. There evidently wasn't much ice in the cooler, because the water was not cold.  It was cool, however, and wet, and the thirsty campers guzzled it down. 

"Before I hand out the food," Counselor Nora said, "I want to tell you all something." She opened the stool and sat down to face them.  "I brought you out here for a lesson.  A history lesson about the place and the people where you live."

The campers exchanged perplexed looks.

"You probably don't know it," Nora droned in her grating voice, "because this  place strives assiduously, and successfully, to distance itself from its evil past, but before the Civil War, Yancey County was plantation country.  Cotton plantations. Where the masters owned slaves who worked the fields.  You think it's hot here, today, in the woods?  You should try being a slave and picking cotton by hand, in the merciless sun, no shade, no rest, no water...  And if you don't do it fast enough to suit the master...  you get whipped to within an inch of your life.  Oh, not with a belt, like some parents use on their children.  No, you would be stripped to the waist and tied to a post and your back beaten with thick leather whips until it ran red with blood."

The campers had gone stock still, their eyes wide. Little Cindy quavered, "I wanna go back now."

"Me too," somebody whispered, Ainsley wasn't sure who, and someone else muttered, "What kinda picnic is this?"

 "I told you," Counselor Nora said, her pale eyes gleaming with malice. "A history picnic. You're going to learn about slavery, because your vaunted Southern white privilege system won't teach you about it." She reached into the cooler and pulled out take-out boxes of white cardboard and handed them out.  "Don't open them until everybody has one."

When they were all distributed, she said, "Okay, open your food."

Ainsley opened her box.  Inside was a small square of moldy, crumbling cornbread and a half-pint carton of buttermilk. She didn't say anything but the "Gross!" and "Oh, yuck!" and similar outbursts from the other campers echoed her feelings.

"This is slave food," Nora said, "and you have to eat it so you'll get just a tiny taste of the miserable lives they lived. Oh, you don't have to eat it all.  Just one bite and one sip."

The campers stared at her, dumbstruck. "Where's our sandwiches and chips and cokes?" Erin demanded.

 "You don't get it, do you, McGhee?  That is your picnic lunch and we're not going back until every last one of you takes at least one bite and one sip. You don't have to eat it right now, because I still have lots of history to tell you. But you will eat it before we leave."

A few of the campers took tentative nibbles of the cornbread.  Others sipped the lukewarm buttermilk. Gagging and gurgling punctuated the heat-filled air.  Little Cindy threw up. 

Incredibly, Counselor Nora gazed at Cindy with a touch of satisfaction in her cadaverous eyes, and swept them across her charges with annoyance while she waited for them to quiet down.

Then, in great detail, she told them lurid tales of whippings and rapes during slavery times in Yancey County, and of lynchings and murders after emancipation.  She spent most of the time relating the details of a particularly horrible lynching spree in the 1920s -- a dreadful episode that included the hanging a pregnant woman and the grisly murder of her unborn child.

"All because evil white Southerners were so full of hatred," Nora finished.  "And you still are.  Every one of you girls had ancestors in Verona  back then.  You are as responsible for the lynchings and murder as they were, because their blood is in you, their hatred is in you.  It's time you all learned about the evil history your culture keeps from you.  It's time for you to get in touch with your inner race-hater."

She stood and strolled to a nearby slash pine more than a foot in diameter and slapped the bark.

"Imagine that this tree is your plantation whipping post.  And imagine that one of your trouble-making slaves, stripped to the waist, is tied to it."

She stepped to the backpack, reached inside and brought out at coil of leather.  The campers stared at it, aghast. 

"Who wants to volunteer to whip the slave?  I know you're scared at the idea right now -- or you're pretending to be.  But once you start, you'll really get into it. Antebellum Southerners enjoyed beating their slaves the way northerners enjoyed a Shakespeare play at the theater.  So it'll come to you. Who wants to go first?"

Horror descended on Nora's captive audience as she paced in front of them, and they began to sob softly.

An ominous feeling such as she'd never known overcame Ainsley and filled her with paralyzing dread.  This was not the terror of attack by an animal ruled by instinct, but the terror of sheer human malevolence.  She tried to block out the macabre images Counselor Nora's words put in her mind, but they were impossible to escape. Nausea from the cornbread and buttermilk she had choked down compounded her distress.

Nora stopped her talking and pacing in front of the canoe where Ainsley and Lindsey sat. 

"Kincaid, here.  You lead off."

Ainsley recoiled and let out a soft, anguished wail.

"Weak as well as wicked," Nora grated.  "Get up!"

She grabbed Ainsley's upper arm, pulled her to her feet and shoved her toward the tree.  She thrust the whip toward her.

"Show us how your ancestors did it.  Show us how they whipped slave mothers and lynched the babies of freedmen...for no reason except hatred of their black skin.  Take the whip, Kincaid.  You know it's in you to do it.  Now show us."

Staring at the whip, Ainsley took a step back, wiping her hands on her shorts.  She raised her panicked eyes to the malevolent entity Nora had become and swept them across the other campers, who stared back at her in terror. 

"No!"  Ainsley screamed.  She took off into the woods, blinded by tears, running as fast as her legs would carry her. 

She was vaguely aware of Counselor Nora and the other campers calling her name, begging her to come back, but their voices grew fainter as she ran deeper into the dusty woods, and finally faded away into the stifling air.

(Chapters Fourteen through Seventeen edited for space.)
Chapter Eighteen
Ainsley Kincaid

Four days after Ainsley's dramatic rescue, the phone rang at the Kincaid house. Gina was cooking supper and Kurt sat in his recliner, looking over papers he'd brought home from the office, so Shelby answered the phone.

He was no worse for the wear after this fainting spell at the hospital, but like his parents, he was caught up with worry for Ainsley and he found comfort in the calls from friends and family checking on her recovery and offering well wishes.


A woman's voice he didn't recognize asked, "May I speak with Mr. Kincaid, please?"

"Just a minute. Daddy, it's for you."

Kurt picked up the telephone extension beside his recliner, "Kurt Kincaid," he said, inadvertently lapsing into workplace communications lingo. His eyes didn't leave the reports he'd brought home from the office and he paid only nominal attention to the call.

"Mr. Kincaid, my name is Cheryl Duncan. My daughter, Lindsey, was at day camp with your daughter this year, and she was on the canoe trip when Ainsley got lost. I was just calling to see how she's doing."

The question dented Kurt's concentration enough for him to lower the papers and raise his head. "Well, I appreciate your concern, Mrs. Duncan. Ainsley's doing very well physically. She had some scrapes and scratches and bumps. Her worst injury was a twisted ankle, which is healing normally."

"I'm glad to hear that. Lindsey was concerned. Mr. Kincaid, while I have you on the phone, may I ask you a question?"

"Sure, go ahead."

"What has Ainsley told you about that canoe trip?"

Kurt didn't answer for a moment and Cheryl picked up on the silence. "If you don't want to answer, that's fine. It's none of my business, of course. I was just curious, considering some things Lindsey has told me."

By now, the reports from work were relegated to the background of Kurt's consciousness and he laid them aside. "I would be interested in what your daughter told you because, frankly, Ainsley hasn't told us anything about it. She won't talk about it at all."

"Hmmm," Cheryl said. "There were seven campers on that trip. Because of things they've told their families about it, most of the parents have gotten in contact with each other and compared notes, and we've pieced together a pretty good picture of what happened. None of us are professional analysts or anything, but it looks to us like the counselor who took our girls on that trip did so specifically for the purpose of emotionally and psychologically traumatizing them."

Kurt frowned. "That's a pretty serious charge."

"Yes it is. And if it's true, that counselor succeeded most effectively with your daughter."

"I'd like to hear the reason for your suspicions.”

"And I'll be glad to tell you what we've come up with. I would rather do it in person, and have my daughter present. She's fourteen. She was the oldest one on the trip, and she can give you a first hand account. Lindsey and I can come to your home whenever you say, or you and your family can visit ours."

"Then please, come to our house tomorrow evening. We usually get home from midweek Bible study about eight fifteen. Is eight thirty all right?"

"That's fine."

"We're at 1382 Cloverdale Road. That's north of Forsythe Street.

"I'm pretty familiar with that neighborhood. Shouldn't have any trouble finding it."

"All right. Mrs. Duncan, thank you for calling. I look forward to meeting with you and Lindsey."

"You're welcome, Mr. Kincaid. We'll see you tomorrow night."

* * *

"...and there were seven of us," Lindsey Duncan said. "Counselor Nora said she'd picked us special."

She and her mother sat on the black Naugahyde couch in the Kincaid's family room, refreshed with sips of Gina's sweet tea. Shelby shared the sofa with the visitors, Kurt was in his recliner and, as hostess, Gina took a side chair nearest the kitchen.

"Excuse me for interrupting," Shelby said softly. "Right after camp started, Ainsley told me Nora Weir was from up north somewhere and none of the campers liked her very much."

Lindsey nodded. "That's right, a lot of us didn't like her. She was all the time putting down the South and saying Southerners are hicks and stuff. Besides that, she's just ... creepy."

"Wonder if her last name is Bratcher," Shelby muttered under his breath.


"Never mind, I was being facetious."

"Shelby," Kurt said. "Let's stick with relevant questions right now."

Shelby nodded.

Lindsay continued her account. "Well, Ainsley didn't want to go -- none of us wanted to go, but we thought, well, we'll just go and get it over with, and get back right after the picnic. There's a grassy place by the creek not too far from camp where we usually ate dinner on canoe trips but Counselor Nora made us go past it. She made us keep paddling and we went a long way and we were starting to get a little scared."

"Did she say why she took you so far?" Kurt asked.

"She just said it was a special trip and we were going to a special place."

"What were you getting scared of?"

Lindsey shook her head. "Some of us just felt like something bad was gonna happen. We went until we got to a bridge that was too low to paddle under. We hadn't ever been that far before and we didn't know where we were."

"A bridge? An old one, or did it look like it was still in use? Like there was a road?" Kurt asked.

 "I don't know, just a bridge made out of concrete. I don't think Counselor Nora knew it was there. I think she meant us to go even further, but we couldn't, so she told us to get out there. It wasn't a good place for a picnic. There weren't any grassy spots, it was mostly bushes and a few big trees. It was so hot and dusty it was hard to breathe."

Lindsey sighed deeply, as if reliving the heat and suffocation. As her narrative progressed, she would shift her attention from Kurt to Gina to Shelby and back again. Now she looked at Gina.

"Some girls sat on a fallen log, but I remembered what we learned in school about where snakes hide, so I wouldn't sit there. Ainsley wouldn't either. The whole place looked snaky to me so we sat on the canoe seats. It was sort of uncomfortable because the seats were a little bit lower than the edge of the canoe, but it was the only place to sit. Anyway, Counselor Nora told us to get out."

She turned her gaze back to Kurt. "We weren't even in the canoe, Mr. Kincaid, we were just sitting at the end of the seats with our feet outside the boat, but she told us to get out. I said there was no other place to sit, and she started fussing at us but we weren't about to sit on the ground."

Lindsey told them about the stale cornbread and buttermilk in the white take-out boxes.

"Counselor Nora said it was slave food, and she told us about slavery and the civil war. She said slavery was the worst thing that could happen to a human being. She told us a writer -- I don't remember her name but she was some famous writer from New York -- she said white people are the cancer of the world, and Counselor Nora said white Southerners were the worst cancers of all because they enslaved black people."

Kurt's brows drew together and he ran his fingers across his lips. "Unbelievable."

"That's when I realized she had just brought white girls on the picnic," Lindsey said.

Then Counselor Nora had told them about brutal lynchings in South Georgia history after slavery ended, concentrating particularly on a week-long lynching spree in and around Verona in the 1920s. The camp counselor had gone into horrifying and graphic detail that Lindsey could not duplicate in the retelling.

"It was awful. It was just awful," Lindsey said in a trembling voice and shaking her head furiously, as if to shake the images out of it. Her mother put her arm around Lindsey's shoulder and gave her a quick squeeze.

Lindsey composed herself, cleared her throat and continued. "She told us that every girl on the canoe trip had ancestors in Verona and the same hatred and evil was in every one of us, too. She said it had been in our people for generations. She said our race-hate had changed our DNA so we weren't really human anymore."

A few seconds of stunned silence filled the family room.

"I read up on that lynching rampage," Cheryl told the Kincaids. "It was an unspeakably horrible thing. You really wouldn't be human if it didn't tear at your insides. But Mr. Kincaid, to try to saddle our girls with responsibility for savage crimes that happened generations before they were born... I cannot fathom why someone would do that."

Cheryl Duncan cleared her throat and indecision flitted across her face, but only a moment. "I don't know whether I should say this, but a few of us have wondered whether Nora was attempting to take them to the place where one of the worst incidents occurred-- near a swampy area between Tellico Creek and the Oostachula River, according to one book I read. She may not have known there was a bridge that would block them. In any case, it's pure speculation on our part."

Gina listened with a hand pressed to her cheek. "My gosh, if that's what she was attempting, you have to wonder what she planned to do there...."

With a nod to Gina, Cheryl looked at her daughter and said, "Go on."

Lindsey's troubled eyes went to Kurt. "Then she went back to talking about slavery and the whippings slaves got. She took a whip out of the backpack and told us to pretend a pine tree by the clearing was a slave whipping post. She wanted us to take turns whipping the tree like there was a slave tied to it, and she chose Ainsley to go first. But Ainsley wouldn't. She started crying and yelled No! and ran off into the woods. We thought she was running back to camp, but we found out later she had got lost. Anyway, when Ainsley ran off, Counselor Nora said that was the end of the picnic and told us get back into the boats."

Cheryl said, "For a child to spend twelve hours lost in the woods just after her young mind has been filled with such brutal imagery, and to be told she's responsible for it -- well, Mr. Kincaid, it's no wonder your daughter is reacting the way she is. All the girls are still haunted by it, and they weren't lost in the woods."

* * *

Shelby and his parents were stunned and enraged by what they'd heard, and Shelby wanted to talk, he wanted to rant and rave and blow up, but he knew it was important for his father to record the incident without distraction, so he kept this feelings to himself. For a while after the Duncans left, Kurt kept his fury contained, sat in his recliner and wrote on a legal pad everything Lindsey and her mother had told them.

Gina left to look in on Ainsley, and in a few minutes, Shelby followed her. His sister was asleep, looking angelic except for the two small indentations between her eyebrows -- a sign that she was troubled even in her sleep. Shelby's heart contracted with pain when he saw her.

His mother's gaze fixed on Ainsley for a few moments, then moved to him. "Well, at least now we know what she's had bottled up inside her all this time. Now we'll just have to figure out what to do about it." She stroked Shelby's hair -- she had to reach up to do it these days, he had grown so tall -- and said, "Try not to be too upset. I know you're dismayed and furious. So am I. But the important thing is helping Ainsley."

He nodded, afraid he would not be able to speak for the lump throbbing in his throat.

"I'm going to clean up the cups and glasses." She kissed his temple and quietly left the room. Shelby pulled a chair up next to Ainsley's bed.

He remembered his anxiety while the hours she was missing kept piling up, and his terror that she might not be found alive grew like a bubble inside him, squeezing out all feeling but horror. Now he knew it was even worse than he could have imagined.

* * *
From The Verona Beacon:
No litigation against camp counselor, for now
by Beacon staff

The parents of seven day-campers have decided against filing suit at this time for what they say was a purposeful attempt by a camp counselor to emotionally traumatize their daughters.

Cheryl Duncan of Verona, spokesperson for the parents, said the termination of the camp counselor's association with Silver Pines Day Camp is a step in the right direction.

"We learned that the counselor, Nora Weir, was a volunteer, not an employee," Duncan said, "so she can't be fired. We are looking at other actions to take that will keep this person from harming other children in the future, although we haven't permanently ruled out litigation."

A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Weir relocated to Verona seven years ago to help with the start-up of the Anti-Racist Initiative, a non-profit organization with a three-person board of directors. Weir is the only full-time employee in a small office that primarily makes information available to schools, businesses, churches and community groups for improving and enhancing race relations.

Another parent, Debra Pryor, said, "If the goal is better race relations, traumatizing young girls is not the way to achieve it."

Camp Administrator Frances Clevenger said this was the first year that Weir had volunteered at Silver Pines. The incident occurred in late August, during the camp's last session of the summer.

"Nora's report to the camp's board of directors said she took the seven campers on a canoe trip and picnic, and told them stories from Verona's history," Clevenger told The Beacon. "She said the stories can be found in numerous history books about south Georgia."

Duncan disagreed with that description of the incident. "This was not history lessons or scary stories told around a campfire," she said. "She traumatized our daughters with accounts of violent racial incidents from Verona's past and attempted to instill personal guilt in them for events that happened generations ago."

Nine-year-old camper Ainsley Kincaid, upset by the stories, ran away from the picnic and was lost in the woods for twelve hours. She was found by a search-and-rescue operation conducted by the Yancey County Sheriff's Office. It was unknown at the time what caused her flight into the woods.

"It only came out later," Duncan said, "when parents of the campers got together and shared accounts their daughters had told them about the incident."

Neither Weir nor any Anti-Racist Initiative board members could be reached for comment


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