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By Norma Stanley | November 2022

“Real Love, I’m searching for a real love, someone to set my heart free,” are some of the lyrics to one of Mary J. Blige’s early hit songs. Real love is something that everyone wants and needs, but many don’t really know what it is, what it’s supposed to look and feel like, or how to attract, give, receive and retain it. This seems to be a troubling reality for too many in the Black community, and two Black women- owned businesses recently collaborated on a unique concept to address the issue, by holding the first Love Camp gathering in Tanzania, Africa.

I actually had the opportunity to participate in the first Love Camp, along with about seven other Black professional men and women, and I must say, it was a beautiful and enlightening experience from many perspectives. As a result, I wanted to share not only some of what I got to experience, but what others who also participated in the 10-day excursion with me, thought of Love Camp Tanzania.

Renee Miller, founder of Remember Who You Are, LLC., co-creator of Love Camp Tanzania.

I heard about Love Camp earlier this year, in early spring, when noticing an interesting post about a discussion on love relationships between Black Men and Women on Facebook and decided to join in out of curiosity. The conversation turned to talking about the upcoming Love Camp and it sounded like a unique way for me to check out Africa for the first time. Finding love or even attracting it, was not really on my radar or list of priorities. I had been married for 25 years to my childhood sweetheart who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 50 (13 years ago) and had one other semi-serious relationship for a few years afterwards, which didn’t really work out because we both had different views on life.

\Perfectly content with my life and very busy taking care of my intellectually and physically disabled adult daughter, while simultaneously pursuing personal and professional fulfillment through my work as a journalist, PR consultant, author, speaker and singer, I didn’t really have any expectations for the Love Camp, other than planning to maximize the experience of traveling to the motherland for the first time.

Nonetheless, I too, learned some valuable lessons about being and loving my authentic self, possibly finding a future love, forgiving past hurts, and leaving things behind that no longer serve me at The Love Camp. Since returning, quite a few people have said how different my energy is and that there’s something different about me.

According to Renee Miller, CEO of Remember You Are, LLC, who holds a certification as a professional coach, (PCC), the first Love Camp was an invitation to explore and experience some best practices around living life and finding love for black men and women and was held from October 3-13, 2022.

“Meeting Kim last year was definitely a divine connection, and her expertise and knowledge of the country and culture was exactly what was needed to develop and execute the first Love Camp,” Miller explained. “Love Camp Tanzania was a collaboration between Kim Poole of Teaching Artists Institute and TAI Tours and myself and participants were not only guided into insightful and introspective conversations stemming from the comprehensive Love Camp curriculum, but were also treated to experiencing various aspects of the beautiful Tanzanian culture over 10 days,” she said.

The two Black women business owners, whose companies are based in the Delaware, Maryland Virginia area (DMV) met a year before on an investment trip to Africa, led by TAI Tours and came up with the idea for Love Camp Tanzania on the plane trip home.

Love Camp Tanzania visits the City of Dar Es Salaam

“It was actually something I had been thinking about because male and female relationships in popular culture are generally unhealthy and too many of us have gotten off the path of showing up genuinely for love…love for ourselves, our communities, our culture and love between a man and a woman,” shared Miller. “The first Love Camp was an invitation and opportunity for people to tap into their individual love journeys and learn some best practices through guided courses and coaching events, which in the case of Love Camp Tanzania, was combined with exploring the beautiful people, culture and places Tanzania has to offer, shared through the skilled expertise of our travel curator and Love Camp partner, Kim Poole and her team,” she said.

Intentionally wanting the first Love Camp to consist of a small intimate group, there were about 15 participants in the first Love Camp, which was comprised of African-American professional men and women from their mid-30’s to early 60’s, including some girlfriends, a couple single male participants, a couple of active seniors, some participants from Tanzania and Love Camp team of curators.

“We are so excited about the enlightenment, introspection, healing and the overall response by those who participated in the first Love Camp,” shared Miller, who also hosts the Let’s Talk Podcast and Black Love Fireside Chats. “The curriculum included working through a detailed workbook, as well as receiving an optional certification. We are also excited about certifying two new love coaches during the trip, which we hope to be the first of many love coaches in the future, who can help guide others in creating healthy life and love relationships around the country and the world,” she said.

Over 10 activity-packed, fun-filled days, The Love Camp Tanzania participants travelled to Kilimanjaro in the northern part of Tanzania, then to Zanzibar, then on to the metropolitan city of Dar Es Salaam, and finally to the city of Bagamoyo, where they visited slave dungeons and learned about the slave trade of East Africa. In addition to participating in the Love Camp curriculum, held throughout the day, guests also got a chance to participate in African Yoga every morning; experience Tanzanian culture by meeting the local Massai tribe; participating in a real safari, hiked up Mount Meru to the sacred waterfalls in Kilimanjaro; having a day of service at a local orphanage in Kilimanjaro; checking out Tanzanian cuisine at quaint local restaurants in the three regions, as well as famous upscale spots like The Rock Restaurant located in on a rock in the Indian Ocean off a beach in Zanzibar. Depending on the time and tide of day, guests can either walk to and from the restaurant, or take a boat back.

The trip also included checking out the night life in Dar Es Salaam, which looks like any big city; getting spa treatments at luxurious hotels like The Grand Melia and staying at lovely hotels, resorts and bungalows in the various regions; learning African dance from the Magamamoto Dance Troupe in front of a bonfire on the beach; meeting and learning from the residents, seeing how they lived simply, lovingly and so joyously, and so much more.

“At TAI Tours, we believe that culture is the new currency, and we pride ourselves on offering unique travel experiences, that allow travelers to engage in authentic exchanges with people of the world,” says Kim Poole, whose travel company works in about 16 countries around the world, and whose team of professionals expertly guided Love Camp guests through the various accommodations and excursions on the 10-day trip. “Only a very small percent of African-Americans from the United States get a chance to visit Africa, learn about the culture and see how different it is from what we see on television, and we want to help increase the number of Black visitors” she continued. “Partnering with Renee on bringing the first Love Camp to life in 2022, as well as the ones to follow in 2023 and beyond, is something I believe will positively impact our communities globally, moving forward,” she said.

Love Camp Tanzania participants on Safari at one of the national parks in Kilimanjaro

Miller concurred, saying she and Poole want to help change for the better, love relationships between Black men and women around the world, through Love Camp.

“The first Love Camp participants continue to tell me how special and how life changing the experience was for them and how the group really connected with each other and became real friends by the end of the trip,” Miller said. “They were also genuinely thankful for the safe space in which to be vulnerable and release some things they were unknowingly holding onto, which were keeping them from fully experiencing love, through our daily curriculum activities,” she continued. “We want Love Camp to interrupt ideologies about love and help correct some erroneous views about not only what and how people think about love, but how we can better connect with ourselves and each other,” she said.

Typically women tend to be a bit more curious and open to participating in programs like this, but Bruce Olamina Stevenson, a general contractor and author of a book of love affirmations for men entitled, “Loving Her,” was one of the Love Camp participants. He says the experience gave him a better understanding of how he needed to love himself more, before trying to love anyone else, and how he was actually showing up in his own love relationship.

“Renee did an excellent job of drawing out our vulnerable selves and showing us how we need to show up better in our relationships,” said Stevenson, who became a certified love coach at the end of the trip and hopes to work with men in churches and via workshops on how to show up better in their love relationships,” he continued. “The best way to show up in love is to heal from previous emotional trauma. Unfortunately, we as men tend to hold in and bottle up our feelings, but there’s nothing wrong with getting in touch with our sensitive, feminine sides and being a bit vulnerable. In addition, observing how she and her love, Chad interacted and communicated so well with each other, helped us all to see that it is really possible,” Stevenson said.

The Massai Tribe in Kilimanjaro shared their ceremonies and crafts with Love Camp Tanzania participants

Allana Joyner-Stephens, a mental health clinician and professional organizer, who travelled on the trip with two of her girlfriends, says weeks after returning from Tanzania, she is still relishing in the experience.

“I have learned that nothing else matters if I don’t feel good about me, so lately, I’ve been dating myself,” shared Joyner-Stephens. “In addition, I am still holding space for what I learned and experienced from the lovely people we met during the trip, and am incorporating their cultural concepts like ‘Pole, Pole’ (go slowly) and ‘Hakuna Matata’ (no worries), which have stuck with me and although life continues to happen now that I’m back home, I’ve been able to approach circumstances around life and love much better, as a result of my Love Camp experience,” she said.

Her friends, Rashida Henry and Lavenia Fain, concur about how The Love Camp helped them to see how they could attract and embrace love relationships differently.

“Love Camp pushed me to recreate and revamp my thoughts surrounding love and its possibilities,” shared Henry, a mental health therapist. “It really allowed me to embrace my authenticity and give myself permission to show up that way in my relationships,” she said. “I highly recommend it for other strong Black women, because it also teaches us how to show up in our divine femininity. It was also great to have the interaction and perspectives of the male participants and coaches at Love Camp,” she said.

Fain, a busy and financially independent nurse practitioner, shared how Love Camp helped her to expand her thought process on opening herself up to love in the future.

“The Love Camp helped me to see things from both a male and female perspective and evaluate why I was closing myself off from the possibilities of love,” she shared. “It also helped me to see clearer how the relationship I had with my father, was impacting my love relationships,” Fain said.

Chad Smith, one of the other male travelers who became a certified love coach at the end of the trip, says he wasn’t sure what to expect of Love Camp, but was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.

“Not only was traveling to Africa for the first time and getting to do all the great things we did on this trip absolutely amazing, but what I found is that when you’re in an environment where there is safety and trust is secured, emotional release can happen without judgement,” shared Smith, who is an insurance agent and is also Miller’s significant other. “Everyone found the emotional release they needed but didn’t realize they needed, and I was honored to witness it and help to facilitate it using the Love Camp curriculum and expert guidance from Renee,” said Smith, who also became a certified love coach on the trip. “Historically, Black men have not been allowed to express their feelings or show their vulnerability, but Love Camp really helped each person to not only begin the journey of healing from past emotional traumas so they can show up as more of a whole person in new relationships, but also to look inside themselves and think about who they are and who they want to become as it relates to finding and experiencing real love,” he said.

In addition to the daily morning Movement Medicine African Yoga sessions, led by Mugisha Allen, one of the many pleasant components of the Love Camp was meeting, interacting and getting to know all the participants, curators and team members of Love Camp, who were assisting in teaching, transporting, facilitating and protecting us as we travelled through the three regions of Tanzania. One of the participants who also served as an elder who also has been happily-married over 40 years, shared her some of her wisdom and some interesting exercises on love, trust and relationships throughout the trip.

Chief Adeolomo (aka Yevetta Eley), an educator, speaker and priestess known as a Nan Iyalode (meaning: I speak for the women in the world), is referred to as Mama Ade and says it was hard to think of anything but love during The Love Camp.

“When you see the beauty and joy emanating from the people in Tanzania, the waterfalls in the Meru mountains; the tastes of the spices of Zanzibar; the delicious foods we sampled; the bonfire on the beach, the African dancers and dances; even the ballroom dancing that I taught and how all of that triggers the senses, the beautiful spaces and places we experienced engenders love, encapsulates love and triggers love’s energy within you,” she shared. “Many people wish they could have the kinds of culturally-specific, educational and enlightening experiences we were able to enjoy through our participation in the first Love Camp Tanzania and all I can say is, the ancestor’s rejoice,” she said.

Miller and Poole say they are planning more Love Camp experiences in 2023, including a conference in Virginia in mid-March, as well as another Love Camp Tanzania in October and possibly one in Bali, Indonesia in December 2023.

For more information about upcoming Love Camp events, go to http://www.thelovecamp.co.