• Caroline Penfield

How to Love A Place Like This

This past January I had the incredible opportunity to journey through the South with the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows, following the path of the Freedom Riders. Led by Melanie Bullock and Sandra Reid, we spent one week in class at Elon, during which we took a field trip to the International Civil Rights Institute in Greensboro, NC. We then spent nine days traveling through Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, and Atlanta. We stood in the most important Civil Rights landmarks in this nation while studying the leaders who made change.

I am from Birmingham, AL, and I am proud of it. I have struggled and continue to struggle with the violent and hateful past of my city, but I continue to lean into the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, pictured here at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

"I like to believe that the negative extremes of Birmingham's past will resolve into the positive and utopian extreme of her future; that the sins of a dark yesterday will be redeemed in the achievements of a bright tomorrow." -MLK Jr.

Our final project for the class was to record a podcast reflecting on our experiences. I am linking it here because I have yet to put this experience fully into words, but this podcast is the closest thing I have. It's about fifteen minutes, and pretty vulnerable, but so is interfaith, and so is activism. Because this journey was in my home state, a place I dearly love, the podcast centers around the idea of how to still love that place while reconciling the hard parts of it. It is called "How to Love a Place Like This." I struggled with this question throughout the journey. I hope that you'll listen, and I also hope that you'll consider taking this journey yourself, I can promise it will change you.

Finally, you may be wondering what this has to do with interfaith. After all, I am writing this in a blog that focuses on my interfaith internship. I think that this trip and my interfaith work have many overlapping elements, including listening to stories, being in sacred spaces, and striving to understand the perspective of others. Both what I learned on this journey and my work in interfaith are informing who I am becoming during this transformative time and changing the way I view the world.

Podcast: https://anchor.fm/caroline-penfield/episodes/How-To-Love-A-Place-Like-This-eabtmg

If you're not a podcast person, the conclusion I came to, for now, is that you have to love a place to want better for it, so that's what I'll be doing: loving Alabama and wanting it to be better.

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