From the stairs of Harold O. Davis Memorial Baptist Church, there was a visible sign that read “Welcome to Hunting Park.” The park’s playgrounds, baseball field and stage stood nearby.
This area was home to many of the church’s young students and Camp Jubilee’s fight for the youth raged on with Superintendent Dena Anderson Smith at the forefront.
“Here at Camp Jubilee, we’re trying to teach the children the word of God, apply the word of God not only here in the church but once they leave, in their daily lives, in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods,” she said.
Camp Jubilee is not just a regular Sunday school program; students from as far as New Jersey and Delaware came to attend. Smith, an educator with a focus on children with special needs, understood the importance of a strong educational background.
“I think education is a big issue. I hear a lot of our young people say that they’re not learning anything in school, and those are realities for our kids,” she said. “This is a safe haven for a kids, so they are free to be who they are.”
Youth of all ages attended Camp Jubilee Sunday morning to not only receive the word of God but also to learn about themselves and the persons they desire to become.
Ashley Stevens, 15, was born into the church and has learned a lot from Camp Jubilee, “We have a great youth program that makes you want to stay involved,” she said. “Camp Jubilee is amazing, they capture our attention and keep us wanting to come back.”
With Logan’s sinking lands to the north and Hunting Park’s issues with crime to the south, Harold O. Davis Church and its school are surrounded by adversity. In the church’s 40-year history on the corner of 10th Street and Roosevelt Boulevard, Bishop Kermit L. Newkirk, Jr. hoped to revive the area.
“Our church has been an oasis amidst devastation,” he said. “Camp Jubilee gives the hope that no matter what they are going through right now, it will be better.”
Harry O. Davis Church is one of very few Baptist Churches in Philadelphia to have a school in conjunction with the church, much like its catholic counterparts. Camp Jubilee helped some of those students to effectively combine spiritual and secular teachings to develop good citizenship.
“I want them to be good students academically and good citizens spiritually and I believe we are doing that through our school and daycare and through Camp Jubilee,” Newkirk said.
Camp Jubilee will continue to host their Black History Month moments next Sunday at the church with a real-life account of the Civil Rights Movement from one of its members.