While it was sad to leave Indonesia, it was great to come back to the United States and be reunited with out Indonesian friends! Much of our time in Michigan was spent in Detroit, learning about the city and its rich history. We went to the Charles H. Wright African American museum in Detroit and had a wonderful tour. Our tour guides were from the different eras in African American history and it took the group a little while to figure out that their accents were fake. We also had a themed tour of the underground railroad tour at the First Congregation Church in Detroit and the Indonesians asked if all museums in the US were like that.
Anyway, all the time we spent learning about race relations in America really got me thinking about our country’s history. The United States prides itself on freedom and equality, yet we struggled (and still do struggle) to grant those values to every citizen. For the Indonesian students, it was their first introduction to slavery in the United States and they didn’t quite understand the concept of the underground railroad. By explaining slavery, the civil rights movement, rascism, and the experience of African Americans in the US, I began to see just how dark and horrible our history is. Slavery, an institution that lasted far too long in my opinion, was something that was based on the color of someone’s skin, enforced because of economic reasons and justified by the bible. It was interesting to see the way in which religion in the United States had a profound impact on , both for and against it. I think that slavery is a good example of how religion and religious teachings can often be used in a manner that has negative effects on the lives of many. When you reflect on slavery and the intense struggle that African Americans have had with American civil society, you start to realize just how significant it is that we have a black President.
When we were Indonesia, Jack was telling the Indonesians how Americans typically tend to shy away from any discussion that relates to race-relations today. Many people prefer to think that rascism and tense white-black relations are things of the past, but in reality, they are even more pressing than they were before.
Another day in Detroit we went to the Capuchin soup kitchen which was probably my favorite place on the Michigan part of the trip. We ate our lunch there and then worked in the community farm, Earth Works. We learned about the Capuchin friars and about the work the soup kitchen does to empower its surrounding community. I personally love when organizations don’t simply “help” those in need, instead they give them to tools and basic information for them to help themselves, giving them agency in their lives. It’s a truly remarkable organization and I love the locally grown food aspect. In Detroit, there’s really not a lot of access to fresh fruits and vegetables and people really don’t have a lot of options when it comes to grocery shopping. Capuchin Kitchen, however, saw an opportunity with empty lots of land and changed them into something productive for the community.
While we were there, we also got the chance to meet with a Friar who told us a little bit about the Capuchins and Saint Francis. Saint Francis was someone who believed in the equality for all people. regardless of gender, race or economic standing. He devoted his life to working with marginalized people, something the Capuchin friars still do today. I think that in the United States, there’s a common perception that religious institutions are corrupt and inherenetly evil. To those people, I would ask them to spend a day at the Capuchin soup kitchen and they would see just how powerful a faith-based organization can be in revitalizing a community.
Tomorrow we’re headed to NYC to see the Statue of Liberty among many other things. We have an early morning and have to be at the bus station by 5:30am.
Thanks for reading and check back for more updates on our exciting travels and learning experiences!