Angel Brown, Diversity Coordinator, Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill
I went on the Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope for the second time, this time with high school students from Trinity. I wanted to take these students on the Pilgrimage because a lot of them have grown up in Durham yet had many misconceptions, misinformation, or unawareness about the area that did not display the full richness that has been in Durham- past and present.
The Pilgrimage helped my institution because it forced students out of their bubbles of wealth, homogeneity, and perceived security to encounter real people who are their neighbors that they’ve never seen or cared to listen to their stories. The students were energized by learning about their intersection with Durham’s history. Many lamented that they are taught little or nothing at all about Durham’s history in their whole schooling even though the school itself has been located in Durham for 25 years. Lastly, many of the students have grown up in churches yet had a very narrow view of what the ministry of Jesus looked liked, who Jesus encountered, and what spiritual practices like lament and hope looked like.
Wow there were so many highlights! Some of the biggest highlights included seeing high school students walk 6.5 miles around Durham learning about the richness of her history, being present with people experiencing homelessness, and witnessing their different vantage points as we walked as Pilgrims. I loved seeing the students actively listening and being gripped by stories of people in Durham, especially black people, that they would have stereotyped or discounted- Will Elmore, Brenda McCormick, Sydney Brodie. Many of these students had never sat and learned from a person of color because their learning institutions, like school and church, are almost exclusively white. The biggest highlight was watching a senior student present the art piece made after viewing Sydney Brodie’s memorial quilt to her fellow student body and then creating a spoken word performance over lament and hope to share with the entire school community.
The transformation among the students has been so tangible. Many white students were mobilized to see their lack of education and awareness and to do something about it. They desired to own their inner poverty and liberate themselves from it for the sake of their neighbors and themselves. Black students were able to see themselves as more than just an oppressed group in the history of America, but also resisters like Virginia Williams, resilient like Dr. Aaron Moore, and profoundly impactful in American history like Pauli Murray. I saw a new level of dignity arise in all of them that was not present before. Lastly, the students desired to see their fellow classmates receive this gift of the Pilgrimage and be transformed like they were. There was collective energy to institutionalize the Pilgrimage into Trinity’s education as well as integrate the history of Durham (the pain and the hope) into the TK-12 curriculum.
Here are some powerful additional quotes by students:
“I think the biggest thing I realized is the hurt caused from being distanced and unconnected with others by staying in our comfort zones. I think that this allows stereotypes and biases to form out of fear of the unknown “others.” I learned a lot about how building bridges and breaking down those mindsets is necessary to living as a Christian and loving others well. I became more aware how these prejudices aren’t just out of hate, but often are a survival mechanism. I was really inspired to try to live in love and be changed by the ministry and life of Jesus in my everyday life.”
“I think they made me think a lot more about what’s going on in my community that I am not aware of. It also made me realize/think a lot more about my white privilege. It was crazy for me to think about how even though I live in Durham, a community, with so many people, I am in such a bubble it is almost like I live in another city.”
“I have a hard time speaking openly about the way things make me feel so I think this reflection time helped me to speak freely. It also gave me a different perspective on a lot of the matters even if I agreed with their opinion. I also think hearing the stories of people I know made me realize how close these issues are to us and how ignorant we can be by ignoring these things by not knowing the full story because I think we see things as only one-sided a lot of the time”
“I want to challenge Trinity to learn more about people whose stories aren’t always told and for students to learn more about how to recognize their racial habits”