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!