It starts with community. We began our day at Our Lady of Guadalupe/the International Shrine of St. Jude, our local parish church community. It’s a lively service with people from all walks of life gathered in worship. What stands out is the music: simple, powerful and filled with joy. That and the fact that EVERYONE SINGS! We encourage groups to begin the day here with a snapshot of what it means to “rest” in the company of faith expressing itself in song.Here are what some of our students wrote about the experience thus far:
Last night we started our trip with the Ceremony of Lights, which was an official welcome where we each stated our hopes for the trip. This morning we had breakfast and played Apples to Apples, then headed off to church! Church was a lot of fun, there was lots of singing and clapping, which is very different from what I’m used to! Now we are headed to the Whitney Plantation, I’m excited to see what the day brings! New Orleans looks totally different from Nebraska, its so cool to see the different architecture, climate, people and ideas.
I feel like we had a really good start to our trip last night between sharing our intentions, and bonding over the game “Categories” for probably an hour. This morning we all woke up around the same time and shared breakfast over a game of Apples to Apples, where Brandon killed the game with his unique sense of humor. Then we went to church, which I personally loved because the atmosphere was so joyful and you could sense the pride people have in their faith. It was an new and rewarding experience to see a cultural difference from my own typical mass, which was rich with New Orleans tradition and heart. We are now headed to Whitney, which I am very excited to see because Sergio told me it is the only plantation that is seen through the eyes of the enslaved.
We started the day yesterday by exploring the street that the Duchesne House is on. We stopped at some fun stores and ended up at the Community Book Center, where we listened to a really interesting book club discussion. It was a very welcoming night and we all got to know each other better throughout dinner and an intense game of categories before we went to bed. After breakfast and a fun round of Apples to Apples we went to church. I really enjoyed it because of the fun music and the energy in the room. We’re on our way to the Whitney Plantation which I think will be really interesting. Even though it’s really different than SF, I’m having a great time in New Orleans. I love the architecture and the vibrant colors of the houses here.
This project has been amazing so far. Yesterday, we sat in on a discussion in the Community Book Center about Nora Zeal Hurston’s book about an interview with an enslaved person who was illegally imported to the United States a few years AFTER the official end of slavery. The discussion was very enlightening and challenged us to have an open mind and to tackle loaded questions such as, “What is race?”. We also took on perspectives about what poverty FEELS like rather than what it LOOKS like. I discovered that culture is a process that has existed through our ancestry, not an event. I enjoyed this conversation. The communities are beautiful and vibrant! Today, we went to mass at one of the churches. It was really nice. The music was uplifting and beautiful. I found a lot of similarities between this New Orleans, church service and the service at my Pentecostal Church in Miami, Florida. I found both similarities and differences between mass at my school in Miami and the mass in New Orleans. Right now, we are heading to the Whitney plantation. I’m excited!
And so we arrived at the Whitney Plantation.
Today we toured the grounds of the Whitney Plantation, which is just outside of New Orleans. Upon arrival we received admission lanyards with the name of an enslaved child from the plantation. On the back of the lanyard, there was a narrative of their experience in bondage. One of the main purposes of the Whitney Plantation is to show the importance of how these children of slavery shared their stories, since the only perspective we have is from them. There were four memorials that we visited while at the plantation. The first memorial included the names of enslaved Africans and where they originated from. The second memorial we visited on the tour consisted of a random selection of many enslaved Africans and various quotes and pictures. The last memorial on the tour was for the children who died during their time on plantation. The only reason this was documented was because these children were baptized at the nearby Catholic Church, so their birthdate was recorded and so was their death. There was one final silent memorial that we went by after the tour. The memorial commemorated the victims of the 1811 German Coast uprising. This was the heaviest memorial of the day, consisting of statues of the fallen whose heads were on pikes.
Touring the Whitney Plantation today was a fascinating experience. I am a person who absorbs information through hands-on learning rather than reading facts about something, and being able to walk the grounds on which enslaved people worked was eye-opening. It was especially touching to be able to read the names of the thousands of people who were enslaved. There is something about reading people’s names that makes them more real. Instead of reading about the statistics of deaths as a result of slavery and simply imagining masses of miserable people, I was able to read the names Maria Juana and Francois and imagine living human beings who had emotions, friends, and family. This allowed me to understand the reality of slavery beyond the impersonal facts that are spewed at me from my history textbook.
When I went to the Whitney Plantation, I was intrigued. Intrigued about the theme of children used throughout the tour. It was very interesting learning about the enslaved women used as “baby factories” and how children lived on a plantation while the older slaves were working in the fields. More saddening though, was the list of babies and children who died as a result of inhumane living conditions and the starvation they went through growing up. One example of which was a mulatto who was only fed enough to stay alive by the father and forced to wear a cow bell around his neck 24/7. He is quoted to have said “I never knew what was a good night of sleep until 17 years old, when my father died and my mother took off the bell.”
Today at the Whitney Plantation was a moving and powerful experience. The grounds were haunted by the history of slavery that took place but they were also beautiful. I know the most beautiful part of the grounds was the backyard of the “Big House”. There was a path way leading to a statue of what looked like a boy and then a tunnel of trees. But besides the sights, our tour guide spoke with such emotion, I couldn’t help but feel overcome with sadness. Everyone hears about slavery but, no one I feel is ever explained the work that came with slavery. I found the memorial that had the dates of when the children died to be moving. When looking at the wall, I found a girl who died exactly 150 years before I was born. The Whitney Plantation is somewhere all people around the country should visit. It is an amazing experience that has evidently changed lives and that can educate those who still remain unknowledgable about the details that took on a sugar cane plantation.
– Jacinthe Marlow ‘21
After the Whitney, we made our way to Congo Square, a place where enslaved Africans had a brief moment to put aside their day to day struggles and be together in community through song and dance.And finally, dinner and conversation about our time at the Whitney with our friend, the Rev. Dr. Denise GravesAs you can see, it was a full day. The students are now asleep (yes, it’s true!) exhausted, stretched and ready for Day 2. We set out early (5am) for a long drive to Grand Coteau to work in the Thensted Center with kids in a summer camp. We’ll get a chance to visit our Sacred Heart school there as well. Stay tuned and make sure to follow us for more updates.