The whole group!

Hey y’all. I decided to handwrite this final blog in a beautiful and peaceful spot in New Orleans called City Park. This post will be a reiteration of my thoughts and feelings on Saturday, May 28th, the last day of our experience in NOLA.

During our last check-in with the group last night, I found it difficult to sum up this entire experience. I am still processing all the profound moments, realizations, meaningful lessons learned and the relationships that have been formed with all the beautiful people I have met on this trip. There is not one person on this trip that I can imagine not sharing this experience with. You all have been a part of the collective will to rebuild this city and have contributed to my own personal growth that enables me to continue to want to make social change. Thank you all.

The knowledge that I have gained on this trip does not compare to the acquired knowledge and critical analysis that transpires in the classroom. Although both are important and complimentary, there is no way that I could possibly gain the insight and perspective that I have to begin to understand the man-made destruction that has transpired in New Orleans as well as the utter resilience of the communities. Here are a few people who exemplify this strength:

Tanya Harris – A wonderful, hilarious and courageous woman. Your story inspires me and empowers me to further pursue my social justice advocacy and continue on my path towards community development from the ground-up. Thank you.

Eli…from the Food Co-op. Your passion to attain equality and social justice and to create a genuinely democratic and inclusive space in New Orleans motivates me to give more to the community I live in back home. “Personal responsibility is collective responsibility.” – Eli

Jenny Cunnins and Bobby Wach from the Magnolia School. Jenny, your courageous story has motivated me to strive to overcome my own hardships and abandon feelings of hopelessness. And Bobby…the beautiful and joyful colours of your artwork make it impossible to see anything in a negative light.

I cannot thank these people in particular and all of y’all I lived with for the past two weeks enough for giving me new knowledge and perspective and teaching me about the individual and collective strength that human beings possess. You also taught me how to overcome moments of anxiety and speak genuinely from my heart…

Although most of the people I encountered here were not only extremely friendly and welcoming, but also very conscious about the social and political implications of the disaster, there were a few people I met who were very oppressive as well and continued to blame individuals for their suffering that was caused by systemic issues. For instance, one day I was stuck in a cab with a very racist man who believed that in America, everyone has equal opportunities. As the conversation progressed, I became more and more uncomfortable. Yet, I decided not to tell the man that his comments were racist and highly inaccurate. This is one of the reasons why I chose to share with you above some of the people I met who use their voice and tell their stories to both heal and battle the oppression that is faced daily. These people give me the strength to use my own voice to stop oppression, intolerance and social injustice as well. Here, I must also make reference to two of the most radical and wonderful people I have had the pleasure of getting to know – Pascal and Sarah, who are always willing to use thier voices and act to promote social justice.

“Justice Delayed is justice denied” – Pascal Murphy

When I think of New Orleans and my specific experience here, a few words immediately come to mind: progress, recovery, community, strength, resilience, resistance and voice.

I’m sitting in the beautiful City Park thoroughly enjoying my last day here. As much as I am eager to go home and share this experience with everyone I know, I want to stay here in New Orleans. I will miss you very much NOLA. Thank you.

Peace and love y’all,

Emma

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