In 1988 a gang of skinheads in Portland, Oregon bludgeoned a 28-year-old Ethiopian student named Mulugeta Seraw to death.
In response, a group of community leaders from Oregon's American Leadership Forum (ALF) Class III chapter initiated an experimental youth camp to help foster tolerance and respect for others' differences. Camp Odyssey ran for twelve years instead of the planned three, and provided over 1000 youth (and adults) from every ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic background in the Pacific Northwest a safe space to explore their biases, address "isms" and learn about the painful impacts of oppression.
Decades later in 2010, a group of Camp Odyssey alumni, so transformed by their experience, came together and resurrected the Portland-based program to give next generations the same unique opportunity they received as teens. Moreover, the alumni were intent on adding a comprehensive year round program that offered continued support and follow-up for youth after camp. Supported by regional coordinators and community leaders, the year round program helps Odyssey youth foster the lessons introduced at camp and utilize their increased awareness in the form of projects, clubs, volunteerism, and leadership roles within the organization. Together, the residential camp combined with consistent year round activities, came to be known as The Odyssey Program. Partnering as a fiscal sponsor, Janus Youth Programs and many original Camp founders and supporters joined the alumni to address continuing systemic discrimination. As FBI Crime Statistics show that hate crimes are on the rise locally and nationally, the alumni and supporters recognize that the problem has not gone away.
With the belief that future participants can go beyond addressing prejudice and personal transformation, the alumni's aim of reviving Camp Odyssey is to re-create the space where young people are empowered into becoming social investors, transforming not only themselves, but also our collective communities.
To ensure long-term stability so that Camp Odyssey can remain free for all youth, in 2011, the alumni created a parent organization and secured independent 501(c)(3) non-profit status as The Piece. Working from a Mission "to challenge systems of privilege, and explore the individual and social impacts of oppression through experiential education and programming for youth and adults of diverse backgrounds," The Piece and Camp Odyssey are committed to furthering social justice.
The Piece comes from a long history of use at Camp, referring to owning our piece in society and systemic oppression, speaking our piece and truths, and the pieces of work that still need to be done, towards social change and human dignity. We welcome you and want to know your story — your piece.