To say the Pilgrimage was amazing would simply be an understatement. This trip changed me more than any other trip I have ever taken because it was not just a trip. It was a Pilgrimage — a quest, a week-long, soul-searching journey that took my classmates and me to historic sites throughout the South and raised big questions about our faith and its meaning in our lives.
One of the core aspects of the trip was the idea of praying with our feet. Every day we journeyed historical roads across the South, reliving our country’s civil rights struggles. We explored sites like the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In Montgomery, we explored the new Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial. In Selma, we walked across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, where leaders such as Dr. King were bloodied and beaten because they sought the right to vote. Every night before we went to sleep we had reflection sessions on the day’s events. We would all come together as a group and discuss the morality of what we were seeing and how it made us feel. After our discussions, we would pray together and write in our reflection journals.
When we embarked on our journey I was beginning to doubt certain aspects of my faith. This trip caused me to grow in my faith because we were learning about some of the depressing, dehumanizing beliefs that resulted from a lack of faith.
At the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, for instance, I learned black women were once regarded as more sexual and aggressive. Some even believed black girls could not feel the same emotions as white girls. As a black woman, that angered me. To think that skin color determines your emotions!
At the Lynching Memorial Museum, row after row of rust-colored pillars bear the names of lynching victims in counties across the South and beyond. Metal plaques along the wall tell some of the victims’ stories. One black man, for example, was lynched for “annoying” a white woman, another for asking for a drink of water. So much hatred.
Yet despite it all, I walked out of both places a different, surer person. I was able to look at these disturbing events in history and understand the importance of my faith’s teachings on love, justice and personal responsibility.
I was able to empathize in a way I could not and did not before the trip.