My life has been consumed with details surrounding the impending service learning trip that 25 Follen youth will be participating in, beginning on Easter Sunday (April 16). I’ve heard a lot about previous trips and we have benefitted greatly for the experience and learning that has come from prior trips under the supervision of Ann Schauffler, Stan Griffiths, and others. Gray Watson (current trip manager) and I have been creating spreadsheets, blasting out correspondence, and trying to construct a week that will include hands-on service work, learning about environmental and systemic racism, and a dip into the fascinating and complex culture that is the Big Easy.
We will be working with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans and Habitat for Humanity as well as other partners to carry forward our service work. We’ll be visiting the Lower 9th and Ronald Lewis, a Mardi Gras Indian and survivor of Katrina who operates the “House of Dance and Feathers” museum. We’ll travel on the River Road to the Whitney Plantation – the only plantation that offers its tour and education from the perspective of the slaves who once lived there. We’ll enjoy a real Crawfish Boil one night, live music in Lafayette Square and Beignets at Café duMonde. We’ll have reflection and spiritual discussions with the minister and staff of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (part of the First UU Church of New Orleans) and with our own trip leaders.
Dan Baum, author of a fascinating account of life in New Orleans before and after Katrina called “Nine Lives” (on our ‘required reading’ list) reminds us: “Don’t think of New Orleans as the most dysfunctional city in the US. Think of it as the most functional city in the Caribbean.” And then, it all starts to make sense. Our trip will take place against the national backdrop of increased discrimination against people of many races, faiths, colors; against the heated and painful conversations going on in many corners of the Unitarian Universalist Association around systemic racism and discriminatory hiring practices.
It is a good time for us to be making this trip and I anticipate that there will be many stories, and much learning, to report on our return. I ask you to hold all the travelers in your hearts and minds as we make this journey of faith and discovery.
Interim Director of Religious Education