Thursday, March 20, 2014
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Yesterday, we began our day with completing the “identitree” with the ways we identify in certain categories (and we could create our own categories). For example, one category was race/ethnicity, and I identified myself as white/Caucasian. Following this, we visited the Stax Museum which was a celebration of the company that publicized the music of Elvis Presley and many black musicians. Next, our group visited the Refugee Empowerment Program whose work involves an afterschool program, including tutoring, for children of families that are refugees from other countries. We rounded the day off with a “hunger banquet.” During this banquet, we were unknowingly separated into three groups which experienced dinner in a different way. One group was given fish, chicken, and potatoes and were delivered their food in their seats. A second group received fish and potatoes but needed to seat themselves. The last group, of which I was part, received only potatoes and sat to eat in an area with no table. It was a long day, and I want to highlight some experiences I had connecting the visit to the Stax Museum and the hunger banquet.
In the Stax Museum, blues music was presented to our group as a highly communal aspect of the black culture during the mid-1900s. I found it fascinating to read in the museum that part of the motivation for the music style was to form a bond for those not leaving to the north for better treatment and opportunities. In this way, many of the involved black musicians poured their emotions into the lyrics they chose. I hypothesized that because music is such a powerfully emotional tool, perhaps the music of blues provides a lens through which to experience a piece of the emotional reality of that time during hardship. However, later in the day, during the hunger banquet, I wondered if that activity afforded a way for us to truly speak to how the inequality in access to food was perpetuated in our real world. Is it our place to say we have an understanding of these issues simply by listening to the music or participating in a 30-minute simulation?
Yesterday’s events, as I reflect on them, make me ponder on the question of how we can advocate for a subset of the population that is oppressed without being able to experience their hardships. We can listen to their emotional products, such as music, and participate in simulation experiences, such as the hunger banquet, but that does not afford us a full understanding of the day-to-day oppression the real world groups face. I cannot say that I have an answer, but I do feel confident that part of the solution is trying as hard as we reasonably can to grasp for an understanding. We do not need to connect fully to advocate for an oppressed group, but becoming immersed in a hardship does make advocacy simpler to feel comfortable actively participating within that realm of oppression.
If a reader of this blog has a better idea as to how experience of a hardship influences one’s ability to advocate or speak to a group’s oppression, let me know. I am only now beginning to ask myself how simulations and windows into emotions impact my ability to advocate. Where do you feel is the balance?
Today was another great learning experience where we were able to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. We visited The Civil Rights Musuem and the Freedom's Sisters exhibit. In the Freedom's Sisters exhibit. they had a replica of the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. We were able to learn about the women. who made a difference and how they contributed to a movement that inspired others. During the time I was ther the following quote really caught my attention :
"The greatest evil in our country today is not racism, but ignorance....We need to be taught to study rather than.to believe..." -Septima Poinsette Clark 1898-1987
Septima was an educator that taught African Americans how to reach empowerment politically and personally. I realized that even though Septma experienced a difference lifestyle and endure unimaginable obstacles the quote implies to many issues relevant today. We are a culture that is quick at judging and passing judgement instead of educating ourselves regarding the topic.
I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and seeing what they thought and it is always refreshing to see a new perspective.
I am excited for the days to come when we go to Beal Street and go Downtown. amd get a feel of Memphis. :)
Monday, March 17, 2014
Today has been filled with events. Waking up, frantically packing, rushing to campus, riding the charter bus, great lunch discussions, arriving in Memphis, touring Rhodes campus, eating Memphis BBQ, meeting a Memphis native and hearing him speak about the history of Memphis and finishing up the day with a light discussion about the social change model. My body is tired but my mind is racing a million miles a minute. It's strange because for me I came to this trip with a certain amount of understanding of how I wanted it to play out. However, immediately I found myself being shifted from how I was going to impact others and help others view social justice to how I was going to learn more about myself and this impossible to fully grasp and put into words thing called "privilege." I am familiar with the term and have gone as far to attend an event with Tim Wise speaking about just that, privilege. However, acknowledging your privilege comes at you in small doses, at least for me it has. I know that I'm white and I have accepted several of the privileges that have came to me because of it. I currently find myself longing for more than just the superficial meaning of the word. I want to know how my privileges impact my life day to day, moment to moment from decision to decision. I am beginning to understand that even the choices I have made and continue to make are developed through my privilege. Someone or some people rather had to devote the time to teach how and what decisions to make and when to make them. Other people haven't been granted that same opportunity. I hope to gain further clarity of the magnitude of impact privilege has in my life. I also want to ensure that I don't begin view my privilege as a negative but more so as a way to humble myself. I am lucky to be granted these opportunities and so with that this cheesy but relevant quote, "with great power [opportunity] comes great responsibility." Above all, I would like to learn how to best utilize my opportunities to serve others that were not granted the same privileges. Excited doesn't come close to explaining my feelings about this trip. Bring on day 2!