After returning from the Richmond trip, I feel almost enlightened. I feel like I have become more adept and interactive within my environment wherever I go. This trip brought a good amount of information to process as well as understanding two different cultures. Everything that I experienced on this trip has brought me to a better place psychologically as I believe I have a good understanding of understanding different opinions within different cultures. Overall this trip brought a lot of closure from all of the information i gained on this trip. There is not so much more to say as I am going to continue along the path of educating myself about my surroundings and the people within them and how to critically fight and attempt to establish better communities and people throughout the course of my life.
Upon returning from Richmond, I continue to be intrigued by what I have learned from my trip, and continue to question “where can we go from here?”. I am upset that the U.S. is still living and not learning from the confederacy, however I am optimistic that the future can be bright after reflecting with my classmates. Seeing the passion from everyone to advance our country away from this state of bias and inequality gives me hope for the future. I realize things can not be changed overnight, however making small steps each day gets us closer to our goal. I have continued to discuss what I learned with my friends and family back home, and how what I saw in Richmond relates to our lives back in New Jersey. I am thankful for this trip for teaching me so much, but also showing me how much I still have to learn. If I want to make a greater impact, I need to continue to educate myself by asking critical questions related not only to my work in Bonner, but my continuous social justice journey.
During this trip I have been a ball of unsettled emotions. I have been frustrated, disappointed, anxious and at some points of the trip truly happy to have attended the trip because of the pleasurable company I have found among my Bonner Peers. During the trip my hope for any progressive reform of our current government to end perpetuating systems of oppression that marginalizes folx has completed diminished. During this trip radicalism has been affirmed, and the need to completely abolish the current governing system we have has been cemented in my mind. Further learning about the civil war, the continued intentional, radical, and direct policies and culture that enslaves black folx and people of color has never been moderate in its effects and intent, it has always been direct and blatant no matter if we’re in the North or South. Consequently, my idea of social justice has shifted and the idea of policy reform is no longer palatable to me, rather the act of uprooting our toxic system and culture now defines social justice for me. The frustrating part about this shift of my social justice definition is that uprooting the current system begets the question: what will the new system look like and how it would function? The truth is, I have no idea, but what I do know is that it is not what we have had in the past and it is not what we have now. Thankfully, during this trip I have found that I am not alone in this standing. However, the conflicting part about the shift of my definition of social justice is that to be able understand social concepts I had to attend college, a place where scholarship elitism is continuously bred, and because of this I find that even my definition of social justice is not radical or revolutionary so long as it is not easily accessible to everyone, not just the peers, staff and faculty I’ve established relationships with at TCNJ.
After the Richmond Virginia Trip I had a lot to think about in terms of my privilege, my adherence to a toxic system, my palatability to white folx and most importantly: my ignorance. When learning about the civil war, and race relations as it has dictated this current “democracy,” I have realized that as much as I have learned about social justice there is just so much more to learn as the definition of social justice evolves. Most importantly after this trip, I have found a new fear for my future. My fear is that as I become more adherent in a system to just “survive” and live my passion for social justice diminishes. My fear is that I will reach a point in my life when my desire to live comfortably by appealing to a toxic establishment is overshadowed by my desire to abolish this oppressive culture and society we currently live in. The great part about recognizing this fear is that I can now proactively ensure I do not succumb to the paralyzingly fear, but the saddest reality for me is that this fear, and the concept of social justice, is not something other people actively think about or worry about because they either do not feel the need for it, or are still wearing the physical and mental chains the WASP never took off.
This experience was definitely a unique one. I feel like I was able to get an idea of how Richmond was in the past and how it is moving forward today. Additionally, how they are working to find the right way to tell their history. I think working with some groups in the community definitely allowed me to compare Richmond to the communities where we do service and see if the services and programs they do would be possible in the communities we serve. This trip was also unique because we had great reflective conversations that really challenged me to think about the places we were going and the service we were doing and I feel like it helped me get the most out of the trip. Overall I think I learned a lot from this trip and I’m grateful for everyone who added to the experience both the folks in Richmond and my fellow Bonner’s.
Being on this trip has reconfirmed many of the things I have known about the history and current state of segregation in Richmond, however being here first hand has allowed me to see and hear things that I could not have found otherwise. Seeing the greatness of the statues on Monument Drive but the horrid views that they stand for puts it into reality that our country is still not fully past the confederate viewpoints. Having a facilitated reflection following monument drive and other museums, we were able to analyze the various systems, structures, and cultures that keep things from becoming more progressive. I am intrigued how history is portrayed from the “white perspective” and how the realities of what truly happened are hidden from the majority of America. I am interested in where not only Richmond, but all of the U.S. will go from here to re-vamp how history is portrayed.
As I have now been in Richmond for about 4 and a half days, I have done nothing but listen. All of this new information through museums and tours have given me the an unbiased view on the institutions that uphold this society today. The numerous primary sources that I have met from both these tours and my service (ex. Mr. Harvey) has allowed me to experience the past through a different perspective that I cannot even begin to comprehend. After having some free time to digest and process all of this information, I am beginning to accept and recognize all of this new information. I have constantly questioned my own personal identity on various occasions, primarily asking myself questions regarding my ethics, morality, and basic lifestyle. I have come to realize my privileged time on this earth, and I cannot help but think of how different my life could be by listening and experiencing different perspectives on this trip. Richmond has made me become more conscientious of how I act around others as well as how I treat others. I have encountered a stagnant mindset through which I am lost in myself. I am trying to piece everything together, ranging from the knowledge that I have gained from this trip, and who I want to become in the future. It has dawned on me that I have not yet become the person I want to be in this world just yet. My brain is in a state of mush through which I am constantly questioning everything around me, and what my place is in this world. As I continue to walk through the storm in my mind, I am also constantly reminded by the people around me that there is hope for good people in this world. The people that want to create change not for themselves, but for others that cannot speak for themselves. I cannot really get to a point in this blog as I am just writing what I am feeling as my neurons continue to fire upon every single word I hear from the mouth of others. All I know is that this trip has taken me on a journey not only physically, but both mentally and emotionally. My maturity as both a brother, son, friend, and anything else I can be to other people is beginning to blossom from the middle of my big head. I feel like this trip has placed me on a path to ask questions I would generally ignore and really open my mind to just how messed up the society we live in really is. I cannot dictate change, nor can my mind really come to a solution to create it, but I must say I am going down a path I would generally never have thought of going down. My motivation to become a better friend, student, and family member has just increasingly been on my mind. I want to accomplish things that I thought I could never do. I just feel I unlocked the door to setting my mark on this world, although I have no idea what is behind it.
Our time in Richmond thus far has made me reflect a lot on the history of race in Richmond, but also this country. From visiting the American Civil War Museum to touring the White House of the Confederacy, I think a constant theme for me has been to examine another perspective aside from the one I know. Despite my hesitation, I enjoyed the tour of the White House of the Confederacy. I learned a lot more about Jefferson Davis, and our tour guide was very informed. I enjoyed our service with Peter Paul, and loved the diversity training given by Charm. I think my favorite part of the trip thus far has been speaking with people who can tell us more about Richmond from their point of view. I’ve also enjoyed the time I have spent with my class. I have had some very interesting, and reflective conversations with people I do not normally speak with. I think overall this trip has given me a new way of looking at race, and recognizing the complexities that come with trying to find a solution between opposing perspectives on race.
Thursday’ service was perhaps my mom memorable moment of this trip. I loved working with Megan in the community garden, and laughing at Bea’s personality. These people are so gracious and giving, and revealed more about what they thought of Richmond as Richmond natives. I felt a true sense of community, and left being more whole. There has been a lot to reflect on with this trip, but I’ve enjoys every last bit.