Building Up a New World
“I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.”
A contingent from Project HOME recently had the remarkable opportunity of participating in the "21st Century Freedom Bus Ride." Louis Thompson (resident of St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence and member of our Resident Advisory Council), Steve Lee (volunteer with our voter registration efforts), Will O’Brien (Special Projects Coordinator), and Will’s 13-year-old son Luke Risher joined a caravan of folks from around the country for a five-day trek through Durham, Atlanta, and Birmingham, during which we immersed themselves in the history of the civil-rights struggle and explored connections to contemporary struggles for racial and economic justice.
On the opening night, we attended a mass meeting and prayer rally on racial profiling in Durham. On Thursday, where we were met by a group of remarkable young undocumented students. They led us on a march through downtown Atlanta, using the form of a las posadas Christmas ritual, telling the story of pregnant Mary and Joseph seeking lodging through the lens of modern undocumented persons. We then moved on to Birmingham, site of the some of the most dramatic moments in the Southern freedom struggles, including the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which claimed the lives of four little girls, and the unleashing of dogs and water hoses on the children’s march.
We spent two days on a retreat with Dr. Vincent Harding, a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. He led us in reflections on the theme of “America, you must be born again!”
He invited us to share our own visions of what a new America could be. (Dr. Harding visited Project HOME in 2006.) The group of sixty-plus persons was truly amazing – black, white, Hispanic, native, young, old, urban, rural, on the rich side, on the poor side and everything in between. We shared our deepest yearnings for a beloved community, one of human dignity, freedom, shared abundance. Our Project HOME crew felt a deep kinship here with everyone, who, in various ways, were expressing our core vision that “None of us are home until all of us are home.”
“For me the trip was an eye-opening experience,” said Louis Thompson. “I thought that I knew a lot about the civil rights struggle. However, I learned a lot that I didn’t know, and it encouraged me to learn even more and to become more active in the rights of other who are less fortunate and who are displaced in society.”
We hope to bring back the learnings, the energy, and the inspiration to our continuing efforts here in Philadelphia to advocate and work for a more just and compassionate society. As our choirmaster Dr. Harding taught us to sing, “We are building up a new world, Builders must be strong.”
Many thanks to our friends at The School for Conversion in Durham, North Carolina, and the Mary House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Alabama, for organizing the 21st Century Freedom Bus Ride. And thanks to the many amazing people we met who are doing great work in many communities throughout the country to birth a new America.