Wow, ok. So it's over and I'm in shock and experiencing signs of withdrawal, I miss all of you guys. Um, this is a sort of summary of my trip and how I felt along the way
Today we visited Little Rock High School and I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel any major sorrow, any shock or surprise, I just didn't feel anything. I was like shame (which means I'm sorry in South African English), spit, but then it was like eh, oh well. I guess I'm desensitized, having grown up in South Africa, in a time quite similar to the era just after the Civil Rights movement. So it isn't to strange for me to have been the first black family in an area, or for stones to be thrown at me because I'm black.
When we went to the Dunbar museum, what struck me then was that most of these people looked white and I was like, Oh.
Another product of South Africa is that because people were graded on how close to white they were, I find it difficult to accept that people who are almost white and people who are black can be treated the same way.
Worship at the historically black church was such a culture shock to me, though I'm black , because I'm South African , I'd never experienced something like that before. Lunch in Memphis was pretty good; I ate catfish for the first time and discovered that it tastes much better when you eat it with your hands.
The National Civil Rights museum was pretty legit and I really enjoyed our awesome tour guide. For me, it was the first time I'd heard a lot of the information and I thought it was exciting and new.
My favourite part about Memphis though, has to be Beale Street. We had an absolute ball there when we were given free time and I feel it really allowed me to start connecting with the people I was travelling with. We danced and sang karaoke at what must have been the most talented karaoke night in America; the people who sang were phenomenal. We also had some of our own singing notes I never thought I'd hear.
We were in Oxford and wow, it was intense. This was where our group (group 3) experienced The Heated Debate, it was intense, but that one has its own blog. The rest of Oxford wasn't as intense though and it’s a beautiful little town with ridiculously overpriced clothing stores and a really fun bookshop chain thing. It was great. They also had this really cool diner called Ajax where I deep fried eggplant which was pretty cool.
On the way out of Mississippi we stopped at this gas station and I had a conversation with the attendant and when I asked about racism, she said it was still very prevalent and that people often refused to be served by her and that in fact someone had lied to her manager that very day because she was black. When I said we were going to Alabama she said she was sorry, as it was worse there...
Birmingham, Alabama was amazing the Civil Rights Institute was my favourite of all the museums we went to, and we went to quite a few. The other cool part of Birmingham was free time when we walked all over the city, it was amazing. We had this really awesome group with Syntche, Rachana, Chey, Lei, Lauren and I. We walked down the historical black district into these cool barbershops and just talked to people. We walked into this one ghetto fabulous store selling everything from fake hair to grillz, it was awesome. I met this guy at the store and asked him about the race situation in Alabama and he told me, how he felt his race had affected the quality of his education, how he'd felt entering the army was his only way to escape becoming a lay about at home, how at one point in time he'd worked 16hours a day to make $900 a week and how he was moving to Tennessee to escape because maybe change would come faster then.
Selma was so cool, oh my gosh, we did this tour of Selma and walked across the bridge, it was great. The best part however, was when we went on this slavery simulation. It was phenomenal. It was one of the first times I really connected with the struggle of America's African American population. It just changed my perspective. It made me realize that we need to start racial reconciliation in South Africa now, because if we don't in forty years we'll have what America has. Where most of the majority are totally disconnected from the situation and its affects are something the minority groups feel daily.
Montgomery was a lot intense. We went to four museums in one day, it was crazy. However, the first museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center was a real eye opener to the kind of discrimination going on today and to the forgotten heroes of the Civil Rights movement. Their wall of tolerance however, was what really challenged me because I didn't know whether to sign it or not. As someone who has faced a lot of discrimination, it's one of my main goals in life to learn to value people regardless of their age, race, gender or sexual orientation. But I was afraid to sign the wall because I was afraid people would take it to mean that I was in support of things I don't agree with. I believe that people should be allowed to do what they would like as long as it doesn't harm anyone else, but that doesn't mean I will support it or be in favour of it. So I didn't sign the wall and I'm still not sure whether that was the right choice or not.
Was a rather interesting day, we had a bus accident (someone scrapped the bus whilst trying to change lanes) so our panel discussion for that day was cancelled. But we did get to have an awesome night in New Orleans eating benets and celebrating as bears when Baylor won their basketball games.
This was a real eye opener because I didn't believe this could happen in America. I couldn't believe that 3years after Katrina, people could be living in a hollowed out shell of a house and that the poorer areas could be left relatively unchanged since the disaster.
It was awesome to be able to do a little something, but it made me feel sad to leave when there was still so much left to do.
On a brighter note though NO was fun for so many other reasons. I got to eat an amazing Oyster po'boy which is basically a deep fried oyster sandwich, one word = Awesome. Our planned night out in NO went a little pear shaped though, because it was pouring and we sort of ended up walking for a mile and a half going to a place we didn't even end up going. But then we danced in the rain, had benets and coffee for dinner and danced on Bourbon St. picking up beads and roses in true NO style. It was a good night.
The last day of our trip was where I realised just how awesome it had had been and just how much I didn’t want to leave, but hey. The highlights of the day where when we stopped at Rachana's parents Shipley's and they gave us free reign of the doughnut shop allowing us to get whatever we wanted. Thank you so much Mr. & Mrs. Chhin. As well as this really awesome contemplative worship session that C Mac led us in.
The most awesome parts of the trip though were things like playing catchphrase til the early hours of the morning and having awesome conversations with people I would never have met any other way. This trip changed my life, it’s been amazing and taught me so much about myself and others, changing my world view . . .
Thank you everyone who made this possible and to everyone who participated, you've changed my world
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