Hey! My name is Molly Weyer, and I’m a freshman. I’m technically and undecided major, but to spare myself from the agonizing questions of “what are you interested in?” or “have any ideas?” I tell people I’m a psychology major. So, to get right to the point, why would a psychology major want to go on a High Impact Leadership Trip that focuses on environmental racism and social justice? The two don’t exactly have a lot in common. However, Concordia being the rad and totally liberal arts school that it is, focuses on becoming responsibly engaged in the world, and that’s a good enough reason for me to pack up a tiny suitcase, cram myself into a van, and drive for umpteen hours to a place that is equally cold and dreary as Minnesota during this time of year. It’s not the only reason, however: in my first semester here at Concordia, when I still had to ask people for directions to the library, I took an inquiry class about the Bakken oil boom happening in North Dakota. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but the results changed my perspective on the world and the environment and what it means to be sustainable.
I also became involved in the SEA, or the Student Environmental Alliance. Being involved with people who cared so much about the environment (S/O to Sam, our fearless leader/co-president of the SEA) has motivated me to take several of the issues in the world to heart. Taking it personally, and getting angry and frustrated and just caring has already made me, and my life, better. We are living in a time of change, and this trip has opened my eyes to some of the ways people are trying to affect said change. My family has been several places all over the United States throughout my childhood, so I’ve seen the world perhaps more than others. I’ve seen the homeless in San Francisco, reservations in New Mexico, and I’ve been to the “big city” Chicago. I’ve been to Washington D.C., the place where our country honors those who uphold our freedoms and values, and Virginia, where some of the first American colonies got started. But just as a precedent, Detroit was a smack in the face.
Okay. That was quite the schpiel. But now that I’ve explained myself a bit, my reactions and reasoning can perhaps be better understood.
We started our day with the Ford History museum. I was expecting one thing: cars. And of course, it delivered. But it also delivered on early machinery, aviation, trains, furniture, clothes, and most importantly social justice history exhibits. I had my angle
all ready to go. Ford was a pretty big part of my family because of the 1966 Ford Mustang my dad rebuilt. I spent many hours in our shed, handing my dad tools and honestly, probably being generally annoying. And actually, it was pretty neat to see the history of the man who made that ‘stang possible. After walking into the museum, however, I realized my reaction, and therefore blog, would be much deeper than I first anticipated.
One of the powerful exhibits was seeing Abraham Lincoln’s chair that he was assassinated in. I’ve been to Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. before, so I already got the history on where he was shot, how John Wilkes Booth got in, how he got out, and what happened after. The chair was having that experience come full circle. It feels wrong to call the murder of one of the greatest presidents my “tourist experience” and I’d like to think I got more out of it than that. His importance is even more pertinent, especially after our trip to the museum of African American history.
The courage and consequences it takes to do what is right was embedded into that chair. His quote “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” is still relevant today, especially in the polarization happening across America. He has one more quote that I’ll leave here at the bottom because it also relates to the next exhibit I visited. Make of it what you will. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
Sitting in Rosa Parks seat on the bus where she protested in Montgomery, Alabama was the most powerful exhibits in the museum, and perhaps one of the most powerful moments of my life. Being able to stand in history is unique and powerful. I’ve been fortunate to have done it before, such as standing where John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married in Virginia, or where Native Americans lived in New Mexico, but each time it takes my breath away. This time was different. I had the chance to sit in the actual seat, and for a while, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Who did I think I was, sitting my white privileged butt in the same seat as a woman who had the courage to stand up for what she
believed in a time where doing that could get you murdered? That bus was a sacred place. It demanded respect, the same respect Rosa demanded when she said “no.” I ultimately ended up sitting in her seat under the rationale that perspectives matter. It was a time for me to self-reflect and ask myself, if I had been in that situation, would I have had the courage to stand up (or in this case, sit down) like she did? And in that moment, if I was completely honest with myself, I think the answer would be no. A big fat no. I’d like to think that I would, but that bus seat forced me to reflect on my own inadequacies. What did that say about me as a person? That I was weak? Lacking gumption? That I don’t stand up for what matters? I’m trying to view my thoughts as a starting point, and not a downfall, however. It brings in my life quote: “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” So hopefully, today, and every today after, when I ask myself if I would be brave enough to stand up against injustice, the answer will be yes.
After all that, it seems like I can’t possibly have any more thoughts and reflections and experiences crammed into one day, right? WRONG. That was only my morning. After the highly amazing Ford Museum, we packed up and made our way over to the Hope House to help with the project “Voice for Earth.” It’s a house and garden that was started in 2002 with the goal to provide a connection to the earth and environment through interfaith spirituality and creating a sustainable and natural garden. The project we would be helping with was shoveling mulch that was accidentally dumped on a rain garden they had planted the year previously. Having done chores like that for my dad for years (S/O to you, Dad— building character) I, and the rest of the group, got right to work.
It felt pretty amazing to be doing some hard labor, getting my hands dirty. I was doing something! I could see the progress and the immediate rewards of shoveling mulch from one spot to another. After having my brain crammed with information for several days, it was nice to just do. But, of course, the trip was high impact leadership, so I learned nonetheless. We met up with some pretty amazing people, including Patty, one of the women to founded the project, Naim, a future leader of project, Abdul and his son, Ahmed, who are community members, and Matt, a friend of Naim’s and a contributor to the project. They were gracious and informative and passionate about what they were doing. The passion was contagious as we got to work and everyone was having a good time despite the dirty work. Comparing it to my own hometown community of Sauk Centre and college community of Moorhead, I’ve never seen anything like it. Especially after we finished up with the manual labor and went on a tour of the surrounding neighborhoods. We saw how they collected rainwater because city water is too expensive to sustain the kind of garden they have, we saw structures built for community spaces, and little parks with homemade benches.
These people are so invested in their communities, which is refreshing. Community is emphasized at Concordia, and definitely important in Minnesota, but this level of commitment and dependence on one another was something I had never seen. This trip has elevated my stands of what a community member should act like, and provided ample space for me to improve how I interact with those whom I live near.
All in all the day, and whole trip, have been amazing. People are what make this world go round, and this trip was about how actions can affect cities, communities, and the environment. I plan on taking my experiences, both easy and challenging, to avoid going back into my own little bubble at Concordia. Bonding with the people on the group has also taught me a little something about community. Diversity is everywhere (some differences more obvious than others), whether we’re in Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL, or even Moorhead, MN. If I had to state just one of the hundred things I’ve learned on this trip, it would be that differences should be celebrated. When they are, its what brings people together.