Two months of joy and sorrow in the city of contradictions

It has been almost two months to the day since we’ve last spoken! Ah, how tauntingly “write a blog post” has been staring at me from my to-do list. I have so much to tell you that it’s been overwhelming to even know where to start. There are things on my heart that I want you to know. Soon, so soon. For the time being, I’m going to just share the highlights of January and February. I could delve deep into any one of these updates, so to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the options and probably much too wordy, I’ll just lay it all out there. Life feels full over here–my heart is tearing at the seams with love and hope. I feel excited by and at peace with the future as opposed to terrified by the possibilities and unknown outcomes (aka anxiety). Ah, the retrospective growth. What are these new days of delight and trust?? It’s almost unnerving. Almost.

At the beginning of January, the New Orleans YAV house began reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar. I’d previously heard an interview with Alexander by Krista Tippet for On Being, so I was eager to dive into the text they so passionately spoke about in the podcast. I went into it assuming I knew nothing and was proven right pretty quickly. There was and still are a lot of political aspects that go unlearned and untalked (this can’t be a word) about in mainstream culture. My heart feels close to the issue of mass incarceration this year living in New Orleans, the city that puts more people of color behind bars than any other city in the world. Yes, the world. The house also watched 13th, a documentary that explores the history of race and the criminal justice system in the United States. It was a hard watch, emotionally draining, but incredibly important. Both are definitely required reading and watching for all Americans who advocate for racial justice.

Shortly after starting The New Jim Crow, we visited the Whitney Plantation. “As a site of memory and consciousness, the Whitney Plantation Museum is meant to pay homage to all slaves on the plantation itself and to all of those who lived elsewhere in the US South,” is how they describe themselves on the website. It’s the only plantation in the country that honors the slave experience and doesn’t try to romanticize the era or gloss over the horror and inhumanity. At the end of the tour, our guide urged us to remember that America’s wealth came from the free labor of our African brothers and sisters. I couldn’t help but hear Trump’s voice at his inauguration speech saying, “Make American Wealthy Again!” Does he remember where our wealth came from? Is he simply romanticizing injustice? Upon leaving the plantation, Hillary and I drove straight back into New Orleans for the Women’s March where we walked until our feet were sore. I was marching in response and resistance to Cheeto’s inauguration, but also against anti-LGBT laws, our criminal justice system, and white supremacy itself–just to begin. The resistance is real you guys. By the end of January, I was starting to feel burnt out.

It was indeed a heavy month so it was only fitting that I was tasked with the job of leading mediation at our Thursday meetings (spirituality night) for the month of February. I felt myself fall into more of an alignment that month and the overall state of our country became less overwhelming (slightly) as I figured out manageable ways of taking action and staying informed. I am deeply grateful to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast for keeping my spirits up and giving me laughter while still convicting me to take action and stay involved. Another podcast, The Daily by NYTimes, has keep me informed with fantastic reporting and storytelling. I love listening to their 20-minute daily show while making my breakfast. February was full of reading (Blue Like Jazz and My Name is Lucy Barton), meditation, and City Park walks. I also started a vocational discernment course through McCormick Seminary which has been illuminating, albeit a definite time commitment. I’ve been working on applications (going to stay vague on that one for now), keeping up with reading and classwork, attending our tri-weekly house meetings, and spending time outside the house as well. My plate feels full but in a really good way. Hoping I can keep the balance.

Speaking of balance, MARDI GRAS (!!!) held none of that ish. I ate an entire (gluten-free vegan) King Cake by myself and loved every minute of it. It was an exhausting couple of weeks and I could write a novel on it all so let me just leave you with some pictures.

Highlights were catching my first Muses shoe, Zulu morning with my housemates, watching the beautiful floats at Orpheus, and being eating cake for the first time in forever. The house was a wreck by the end of it as were our emotional lives but…worth it. We seem to be recovered and solidly stepping into the Lenten season.

As I type this, I’m sitting upstairs listening to St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ recent album Sea of Noise and it is well with my soul. Highly recommend for any and all humans who need some satiating tunes in this time of social and political turmoil. Just throwing it out there. On the table to my left lies my Lent devotional called Wondrous Encounters written by the Christian mystic Richard Rohr. Since it’s been so long since I’ve written, I aim to write more than just once this month. Coming up is a post on my intentions for this season of Lent and a reflection on Ash Wednesday, as well as some happy happenings that will help you know me better and get a sense of what my life really looks and feels like these days. As always, thank you for your support, in whatever form. I will forever be deeply grateful for the support the propelled me into this YAV year because it is, with absolute certainty, transforming me daily. Blown away by all of it.

So much love until next time!

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