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Rebecca Henry hosts her annual Creole Summer Enrichment Program at the Creole Heritage Folklife Center in Opelousas passing down generations of skills to young apprentices.

This program is held over the last 2 weeks in July, led by Mrs. Rebecca Henry equipping children with an authentic experience of the Creole culture. Throughout the week she teaches them the traditional components in the Creole language, cuisine, music, quilting, African dance and traditions of basic life skills.

What is Creole?

Creole is a family, culture, heritage, and tradition embodying all that connects the inner and outer families with their ancestral past, not a racial confusion.

On Tuesday I walked into the Creole Center on a lesson being led by Mrs. Rebecca on the Creole language that was spoken by her ancestors. She modeled the words and common phrases traditionally spoken before the intervention of the modern English language. She spoke on the history and origins behind the language and the importance of keeping the Creole language alive.

Her enrichment program is unlike the typical modern summer camps with arts and crafts that are made to pass the time then long forgotten after days pass. On the first day of the program, the kids were lead through a demonstration by Ms. Henry’s apprentice Nia Nicolas on the process of making their own paper. During the paper-making process Ms. Henry walked us through the common practices that took place before paper was readily available for everyday life from writing a letter to toilet paper.

Other activities throughout the week will consist of learning how to make homemade roux, sewing patterns, jewelry making and balancing a checkbook just to name a few. On the final day of the program the kids will present and show off the lessons they learned throughout the week and put their cooking skills on Creole Cuisine to the test. At the close of the program the participants will be able to bring home the materials and lessons learned through doing the projects hands-on to continue practicing their learned skills.

With each project throughout the 10 days of the program attendees also get life stories as told through the eyes of their ancestors and the history behind the Creole way of life. Imagine living off the land, harvesting the fruits of your labor and each step in the cooking process down to grinding sassafras to complete your File Gumbo. The skills and lessons the kids pick up and learn through the summer enrichment camp are life-long values she is instilling in them to carry on and continue the legacy.

The Creole Heritage Folklife Center holds a wealth of history within its walls. With antique artifacts and historic pieces from a simpler time it holds the perfect setting to bring you into the look at what life was truly like. “It wasn’t that we were poor. It was a simple time and way of doing things” she explained.

A Look into Rebecca Henry’s Background

Rebecca Henry, who celebrated her 82nd birthday this February, has been hosting this summer enrichment program for more than 20 years. Through community and grant funding she has run her summer enrichment program for free to those who attend, up until recent years due to lack of funding. Be that as it may, she tells me she intends to continue the summer enrichment program to inspire those that come back each year to pass down it down. She is deeply rooted in traditions and loves to share those with others in many ways.

Rebecca Henry is the founder of Creole Heritage, Inc. a non-profit organization and the Creole Heritage Folklife Center. She is also the founder of Creole Quilters, the Juneteenth Folklife Celebration, Sharecropper’s Day, and the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration held in Opelousas. She oversees many events that celebrate heritage and is the recipient of numerous awards including the Acadiana Folk Heritage Award.

Make plans to visit the Creole Heritage Folklife Center located at 1113 W. Vine Street in Opelousas on July 28th for the end of the Summer Enrichment Program to see the traditions unfold as demonstrated by the camp participants.

For more information or to schedule a tour of Creole Heritage Folklife Center, contact Rebecca Henry at 337-945-5064