I tried to document through photos as much as I could during out trip while also trying to preserve the dignity and privacy of those we were serving, which is why there are no pictures of us interacting with patrons of organizations or students from J. O. Wilson Elementary School. However, I hope some of you enjoy the 86 pictures I felt were interesting enough to post to the site. I also posted these pictures in a set on my Flickr site for access to the high resolution versions of any of these pics.
Today was an amazing day for many reasons. First of all, we were all really enthusiastic and were ready to do our best because we knew that it was our last day of service. We woke up early and headed to Thrive DC. This is a place much like Charlie’s place except for the fact that there were a lot more people there and they had the chance to do laundry and spend an hour in the computer lab with a partner who would show them different stuff on the computers. Five of us had to first help in the kitchen and then help with serving the food. The others had to set up the tables, help with laundry and sign in people. Here, Chelsea and Steph’s Spanish language skills were very helpful since most of the people that came were Hispanic. Mo, Jason and I were signing people in, and for me it was really incredible to see how people seemed blue when they came in, but once we said “Good morning” to them and smiled they would smile too and just look like they feel better even only for a while. It was amazing to see how the spaces for the computer lab were filled up really quickly and there was even one man who wanted to be a stand by, so he wrote his name and wrote stand by in brackets. Almost 150 people came in and they all ate together and seemed like they know each other. It was incredible to see some of the people, that we saw during the Urban Plunge or at Charlie’s Place. This made us realize that they are all part of a community that we would probably never get to know if it wasn’t for this trip. All of these people were so appreciative and nice that they made us feel great about everything that we have been doing during this week. Some of them wanted to just talk to us, learn more about us and where we come from. Since my goal at the beginning was to show these people that someone really cares about them, I feel pretty sure that we accomplished this goal, because once we showed interest in them they would almost always do the same. I am glad we had the chance to do this, and trust me, the feeling, that we got once the people at the different places told us that we did a great job, was wonderful!
Another thing which made this day so special was that we went to a Vietnamese restaurant and the food was soooooooooooo good! We also had the chance to go to a Vietnamese bakery and try different stuff. We hope that Giang felt home for at least a while because it was definitely a nice experience.
Then we went to the Fishing School for the last time. At the beginning we didn’t know what to expect because today was supposed to be “Fun Friday”, so we were a bit scared how much fun it would really be. But, in fact, it really was fun! We didn’t do any homework today and we played with the kids outside. I think that all of us felt a lot younger even only for a couple of hours. The kids were excited to play with us and show us what they can do. We got to see them dancing “crunk” and it was awesome to see them dancing so well at such an early age! Unfortunately, we had to say “Bye” and we didn’t want to leave but we just hope that we did help them in some way, even though we were with them only for four days.
Last but not least important, we went to Ben’s Chili Bowl, where we had traditional American food, complemented by incredible chili and interesting stories about the place. It is very popular and even president Obama visited it in 2008. A lot of famous people go there just to try the secret chili recipe. This place is actually very speacial because of all the things that it has outlived. It has been there for more than 50 years and it still hasn’t changed because people love it the way it is.
At last, really this time, I have to say that we had a lot of fun today and we regret the fact that we have to leave tomorrow. We are going to miss it and miss being together because I believe that we did create some strong bonds this week!
The alarm went off at 5 A.M on Wednesday. None of us wanted to wake up for our morning shift at Charlie’s Place, a place that serves breakfast for homeless people 3 days a week. We got to Charlie’s Place at 6 in the morning and were assigned to three different group, one in the kitchen, one outside setting up and serving food and one organizing the clothes to give out to homeless people. Steph, Cara and myself helped setting up the tables and prepare to serve hot tea, coffee and pastry before the breakfast program began. Meanwhile, Monica, Plamena and Caroline were in the kitchen making cinnamon buttered toast. Our whole team was surprised by how good the toast tasted and took back to CSM most of the leftover toasts of the day and finished them that night. The rest of our team, Jason, Nicole and Chelsea arranged the clothing Charlie’s Place had so that they could easily hand out the clothes later when people come in. Each person were able to receive three items of their choice, in addition to some vitamins, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoos, etc. While serving food, the DuPont plunging team were very surprised to see one of the people they talked to during Urban Plunge at Charlie’s Place, however he did not seem to recognize them. When breakfast was over, most of the homeless people helped us clean up, mop the floor, etc. The director of the place, Paul said that these men come everyday, they sit at the same place everytime and read their newspaper, then they help him clean up the place.
We finish at Charlie’s Place around 8 A.M. However, we were no longer tired. We all enjoyed the homey feeling of Charlie’s Place so much we got excited to head to Martha’s Table. We expected to do something similar to Charlie’s Palec at Martha’s Table. However, our expectations were wrong. We packed bags of canned food, pasta, vegetable for families that can provide food for them for a whole month. We could see our accomplishments here by looking at the amount of brown bags we packed stacked around the room we were working. We packed more than 100 bags of food that day.
We had lunch around 11 A.M after Martha’s Table. After that we prepared ourselves for day 2 of the fishing school. Some of us were a little worried because of such an exhausting experience the day before. However, we all loved the kids at the school that day! They were all so cooperative and actually got most of their work done. We had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. The food was very different than anything most of us had ever tried. There was no silverware and we ate everything with our hands
There is a difference between reading about the Civil Rights Movement and experiencing the Civil Rights Movement. I learned that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not the only heroes of the movement. I learned that the racial tension between whites and blacks during the 1950s and 1960s is still present today through stories of first hand experience. I was reminded that I was born with an invisible set of privileges as a white person, and even though this brings a sense of guilt to my conscious, I can take this guilt and work for equality. I was reminded that every set of privileges is not a black and white issue. There are privileges to being part of a specific social class, sex, ability, religion, or sexuality. Everything I learned or was reminded on this trip is something I could not have realized anywhere else but New Market, Tennessee, Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia.
We’ve talked a lot about what we learned on this trip as a group, but I think the hardest conversations we had as a collective was applying what we learned to the future at Lafayette and to our own futures even past collage. It is a hard conversation. First, we had to admit that Lafayette is not as diverse and people, especially privileged students, like to think the campus is. Lafayette is not diverse. So how do we fix this? Well, we talked a lot about what can be done. For example, the single-sex dorms should be equal. Kirby, Soles, and Marquis should be of equal standard structurally. Also, more students from different races, socio-economic statuses, and ethnicities need to be recruited to come to Lafayette. True, a lot of students would not feel comfortable on a campus that is predominantly white to come to Lafayette anyway. However, the more students from different races, ethnicities, and social classes that are recruited through such methods as letters and visits from Lafayette admissions, the more diverse Lafayette will be. And lastly, all buildings on campus need to be handicap accessible so students of different abilities can go to classes and their dorms without worrying how they are getting there. These are just a few suggestions we as a group came up with. One thing we stressed was that there is no reason to bring the privileged students down, but instead to bring the disadvantaged students up to the standard privileged students live at Lafayette. I think this is the most important part of change that could be and should be something that guides changes both at Lafayette and in America – everyone, regardless of race, size, sex, ability, sexuality, religion, or any other identity, should be brought up to an equal step of privilege.
I just wanted to give an update on the Civil Rights Tour for all those interested. Today, Thursday, I am in Atlanta on the last leg of my civil rights experience. Instead of just telling you about today I am going to talk about this experience and how it has affected me. I came on this trip uneducated. I was ready to talk to people, see historic places, do service, and learn. I feel like this has been accomplished, to a degree. I am much more educated about civil rights but I can only continue to strive for a deeper understanding and a complete perspective will never be accomplished. There are just somethings I can only be told about and will not experience in my life. These thoughts are in parallel with another realization that I had at the YWCA at Birmingham. From an article and a discussion I realized and was able to put into words how being born as a white male and into a middle class has provided me with an invisible backpack of privileges that I can access throughout my life. There can not be a feeling of guilt from this realization just an understanding that you have this invisible backpack allows you to more readily help others who do not have the same opportunities and privileges. The problem with people today is they do not make this realization or still believe everyone has an equal opportunity to success.
Civil Rights is not an issue of the past it is still a present issue in the North, South, East, West, and an issue on Lafayette Campus. Segregation is still present and visible everywhere. We have talked about hypotheticals for why it so prevalent but tonight we made a large step and started talking about how to change this segregation and truly be a diverse campus. It may not happen in my tenure at Lafayette but its a process that must start if Lafayette wants to be considered a diverse campus.
So we have been having something other than really good discussions we are having really good food. At least I think so. Today I ordered chipped beef with extra skin from an authentic BBQ joint in Alabama and it was great. I recomend it to anyone. I also tried for the first time fried green tomatoes and okra. Ok people are going to bed so I am signing off. This Was David L from Atlanta. Hope you enjoyed the update.
Today we traveled from Montgomery to Selma to further our education about civil rights, specifically about the March for voting rights. The ride was only a little over an hour which is nothing for us at this point in our trip. As we traveled along the rolling hills the beauty of Alabama and the rural environment became very apparent. Having spent my whole life in the suburbs outside of Manhattan I truly enjoyed the country scenery. We drove over the bridge in Selma and immediately saw the devastation. Every other store front was vacant and few cars filled the streets. It was apparent the white population had relocated and the majority of the population was African American. We attended a voting museum that explained more of the history of the march for voting rights. As we pulled up to a drug store the vacant store fronts had danger signs in the front windows warning that the building had been deemed unstable and able to collapse at any moment.
Prior to our trip I had learned from Diane Shaw that Marquis De Lafayette had an important role in the civil rights movement and actually had a monument in Selma. We tried to find this monument and eventually found the small plaque that stated the importance of Lafayette in the movement. It was cool to see that the founder of our school had played a role in the movement we were studying.
Then we traveled to Atlanta from Selma and the traffic made it apparent we were no longer in Alabama and had entered the city!
Hey yall from Natalie and Jordi! It is 9:15pm on our second-to-last day of service. Today we really worked well together on site and also during our evening cleanup. We worked with our new project manager on a house that the team demo-ed yesterday. Our job today was to measure, cut, and install various beams and supports for the structure of the house. I used a nail gun on a scaffold and on the rafters! It was a great experience because we all challenged ourselves in some way. During reflection, we talked about how important it was for us to actually see the devastation here, because even when Katrina was in the news, we couldn’t really understand what was going on here. At two of the three sites, we have seen the homeowners, which really made the issue real. It is so hard to believe that some people have been living in trailers for FIVE YEARS and some are only now getting the trailers they need to live in while their houses are fixed by volunteers. We realized the power of a group, but also the limitations of relief efforts because of the time, budget, and material constraints. I wish that we could stay longer and finish what we started on site yesterday and today. I am going to miss it here: my worries about work and school seem so trivial now. I am proud of my team for being so “gumby” and for bonding and working so well. Each person brings something different and special. I’m glad to say I was on this trip. :-)
I’m well behind posting pictures from our trip because we’ve had limited wireless access, but tonight our trip coordinator brought us to Tropicana Eatery–she’s taken us to a different ethnic restaurant each night–that has free wi-fi. Thankfully, I had a few days in the queue ready to post, though they’re not all captioned…yet.
We started the day at the senior daycare center, Downtown Cluster’s Geriatric Day Care Center, and finished the day in an”urban plunge.” Thankfully, Monica posted a group reflection for us a few days ago.
Today we had the opportunity to visit the YWCA of Birmingham. You may be familiar with the YMCA organization (not only for its excitable dance moves). The slogan of YWCA Birmingham is “eliminating racism, empowering women”, and the center seems to do just that. Prior to today, I hadn’t even heard of a YWCA, and since then have found out that they aren’t all like the one down here, but it truly is unbelievable. We arrived around 9:30 am, and were greeted by a lovely woman with a coolly authentic southern accent. For about an hour and a half, we got a tour of the facility and learned a lot about the organization. The center is a place where homeless children from local shelters were given special attention to ensure their eventual success in the public schooling system. We found out that more often than not, kids that grow up in homeless shelters don’t usually have the confidence to succeed that a child growing up in a two-parent household has. This in turn led the school teachers to put the children into a special-ed class, which is an issue within itself. At the YWCA, there are plenty of staff and volunteers at work to make sure that these homeless children are able to learn the fundamentals from reading and writing to basic hygiene necessities. The place was truly amazing, but it only gets better. In the upper floors of the ten-story building, housing is available for families who are transitioning, as well as single mothers fleeing abusive relationships, and other circumstances of that sort. At the end of the tour, we were introduced to Deshaun and Jacob, two AmeriCorps volunteers that work with the YWCA. This is truly where the day took a turn. We entered a room adjacent to the gym, unknowingly (well at least I didn’t know about it) about to participate in a workshop that addressed social justice. Just a sidenote: a lot of times, we as a society regard the term “Civil Rights” as being a black-white concern. While that is the case, we tend to disregard the fact that “Civil Rights” refers to all the injustices between social groups. Among identifying the dominant people in “ism’s” such as racism, sexism, religionism, ageism, sizism, etc., we participated in a bunch of activities and conversations that really dug deep at these issues, and more. Well, I’m about at the part of the day that I wanted to talk about, so haha for unintentionally long blogs. The best and most real part of the workshop was what Deshaun and Jacob called the “Privledge Walk”. At this point, we moved into the gym next door. All ten of us, and Marie (a volunteer for YWCA on her first day) started standing on the half-court line. We closed our eyes as Deshaun and Jacob alternated reading different statements that we were told to step forwards or backwards a step (based on our agreement/disagreement). The statements were simple at first glance (examples include “If there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, step forward”, and “if you were often told by your parents that you were smart and/or beautiful, step backwards”), but they definitely allowed for some deep reflection. At the end of the series of statements, we were told to open our eyes and look around. We were scattered throughout the room. As we moved back next door to reflect upon the “Privledge Walk” we had just endured, I was speechless. I have always considered myself an appreciative person, but I now realize that appreciation goes WAY beyond material things, education resources, and things alike. It upset me that I hadn’t before truly appreciated the little things, like encouragement from my parents, or the fact that I grew up not in a single-parent home. What upset me more, was the fact that on a bigger scale, I innately was given more privlege than someone else. It just doesn’t seem fair, which is the root of the “Civil Rights” issue. We then wrote letters to ourselves (to be mailed out in a month), just about anything. In that letter, I made sure to tell myself to appreciate the little things, to take a step back from what probably will be a stressful schedule and appreciate that I am getting not only an education, but a great one, and that I can’t complain about the way I’m living, or anything really.
Well, this was very long, and I didn’t even get to talk about “My Sister’s Closet”! Hopefully someone else will get to that!