Solidarity. Of course that’s something we all strive for when we go on these trips, but it always turns out to be more difficult than simply stepping in another’s shoes. We go on these trips to serve, and with that mentality, it can be difficult to live in solidarity with the community.
In Morton, the community instantly welcomed us. It was so heartwarming that the least we could do was join the community and live in solidarity with them. We worked with the nuns of the Excel Learning Center after school, but during the day we went to the schools and worked with the students. Every day we ate lunch in the cafeteria and joked around with the kids. We worked on in-class assignments with them. And we went to gym class or to the library. The teachers saw us as their helpers, which is what we were doing, but the students saw us as older kids who wanted to be at school and wanted to work with them. In an education system that still utilizes corporal punishment, instills a culture of seniority and hierarchy, and values “smartness” over “dumbness”, we were what the kids needed. We became a part of the classroom by the end of the week – a friend that these kids could turn to.
On Wednesday evening we cooked dinner, a vegetarian dinner, for our vegetarian guest. Morton is home to a chicken plant and chicken is therefore an important food group in the typical Morton citizen’s diet. We were gifted with chicken nearly every night by the nuns, but we made an exception on this night. Our guest was Miss Constance Slaughter, the first African American woman to graduate from Ole Miss’s law school, and she happened to be a vegetarian. She was in solidarity with us – she ate off of our plates, with our silverware. She politely accepted our simple meal of spaghetti and marinara and brownies for dessert. She made the effort to truly be with us, and we reciprocated – enveloping ourselves in her experiences. She told us exactly what we needed to hear: that being older college women in the schools here, we would inspire students to enjoy school.
So our hopes of being in solidarity with these kids and making a difference in their lives were reaffirmed by Miss Constance, and that made all of the difference.
When it came time to say goodbye to these kids, there were tears on both ends. We can’t be a part of these children’s lives every day, but for a week, we entered their lives and lived in solidarity with them. We took home a piece of Morton in our hearts, and hopefully they gained a sense of self-worth. Because that is what these kids needed and what we strived to provide them.
Class of 2015
College of Arts and Sciences
Service and Justice Trips Participant
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