Tennesse Christian Camp

Tennessee Christian Camp

Written By

Shad 8 Black


I was a 15-year-old evangelist who naively traveled in a large white van with Pastor Paul Strosnider’s parents, Mike and Barb. I was also a member of the Ephraim Baptist Church for the Deaf. We had three grandchildren on our way to Tennessee. My mother, Kimrala Owens, felt safe enough to confide in them because, despite their whiteness, they are “holier than you” non-racists. They were so generously nice to provide me with food, snacks, and other things that I became a spoiled Christian brat. They really struck me as being too endearing because of their faith in the Master Jesus Christ to help needy Americans while acting with love and humility. In July 2008, I was energized to go to the Bill Rice Ranch summer camp with Barb and Mike, but first, we went to the Tennessee Aquarium, and I absolutely loved it. 

 Finally, we arrived at the property at 627 Bill Rice Ranch Rd, Murfreesboro, TN 37128.  

In light of what transpired, I can now say it was a HORRIBLE WEEK in July 2008. I signed up to stay in the boys’ cabin for a week of nights, which is open to young men aged 12 to 18 years. They were all deaf, just like I was. I was subjected to the extreme indoctrination of White Supremacy Christianity as if it was conversion therapy. Deaf male teens and Deaf adults mercilessly made fun of my sexuality. I had NO IDEA that I was viewed as being gay back then. Still, they had already forced me to realize it. It was just that they bombarded me with many weird questions for not being involved in traditionally male activities.

SHAWN [I shut them down]: “I was sexually abused, thank you very much!”

FAT BLACK DEAF TEEN [began apologizing to me]: “Oh, I’m sorry! I had no idea!”

Suddenly, these half-witted idiots just wanted to be friends with me because they began to sympathize with me after listening to my confession, but idiotically, it didn’t work out as they thought I would excuse them. I NEVER enjoyed interacting with them, though. I mean, what’s so important about them knowing that I was sexually assaulted by someone?

And secondly, why must I notify them? This is nobody’s business!

Mike and Barb had NO idea about this because they were busily caring for their two grandkids during the week of the homophobic religious camp. Despite being alone, they believed I was doing well enough without them that week. Even while we were together at church, Mike and Barb NEVER once made a joke about the fact that I was gay. They haven’t paid the slightest attention to how I walk, speak, or gesture. In contrast to those Deaf fools who cannot hear, Mike and Barb were obviously able-bodied.

Have you noticed that hearing people NEVER pay attention to the behavior of Queer Deaf folks who use American Sign Language? Only those who are deaf can accomplish this and identify it more quickly than able-bodied folks. It makes perfect sense why Deaf teenagers’ bullying centered on my sexual orientation. I had NO choice but to conceal the fact that I was gay because those people were so rude, over-critical, and negative, despite pretending to be Christians. They gave me the impression that I shouldn’t be considered for acceptance into their Christian standards.

Barb and Mike NEVER asked me if I was being bullied and teased at that campsite, I didn’t want to ruin their vacation, so I maintained my silence for the whole week. On my way back to Saint Louis, Missouri.


When my light-skinned mother came out of the front door, she smilingly asked me if I enjoyed a lovely vacation week in Tennessee. I said NOTHING to her while walking back into my childhood house. I refused to talk about it.


My birthday cake says, "Congrats, DaShawn!"
Me and my mom.
Ephraim Baptist Church for the Deaf (back of church)

It was supposed to be on the Eighth day of August, but they celebrated my birthday early because it wasn’t on Sunday. It was on Friday.

MIKE STROSNIDER [celebrates my sixteenth birthday.]: “Happy early birthday, Da’Shawn!”

BARBARA STROSNIDER: “Happy early birthday, Da’Shawn!”

She made a very flattened surface of chocolate cookie cake. It was my favorite kind of cookie.

KIM [learns to sign.]: “Happy early birthday!”


RACHEL STROSNIDER [As the youngest wife of the pastor.]: “HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY!”

BARBARA STROSNIDER [Smilingly, she asks Shawn.]: “Do you want to go back again for the next year? *B-B-R?”

Wordlessly, I shook my head as my answer baffled many church members, but I didn’t tell them why. 

*B-B-R is how you also spell your fingers in American Sign Language. It's a well-known sign on the left arm.

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