By Noah Blanck, Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey 2016 Participant
On our first full day of the first Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey, we went to the Whitney Plantation and saw where the slaves lived. Our guide Courtni was incredible. She talked about the enslaved people like she knew them, and she was able to show us just how passionate she was about this part of history. Courtni showed us the brutality of slavery while also highlighting how strong and resilient the slaves were. At the plantation, I saw how well this group listens. My fellow participants were all respectful and able to think critically as well as ask great questions. We handled the intensity of the museum tour like champs.
I am from Reno, Nevada, a place that does not have very many Jews, so to see my peers, a group of teenagers, representing the next generation of Jews makes me proud to be Jewish. Reno is also mostly white, so as a Jew of color, being in this part of the country, where there are so many people of color, has been great, as I feel a little more in touch with my ancestors and with modern black culture. And that’s only after one day.
After our time at the Whitney Plantation, we talked to Jeff Asher, a crime analyst. Mr. Asher was smart and really does care about the city of New Orleans. It was interesting to hear his opinions on gun violence as he explained that even though most of the headlines we see are related to mass shootings, the real issue is street-level gun violence that happens every day in this country.
The Whitney Plantation showed the resilience of the enslaved people but the statistics that Mr. Asher shared with us show that at the street level, it is mostly black people killing other black people. I think that it was that unity amongst the slaves that gave them the strength to go on, and I think that is what is lacking currently. People come together from all over the country for shootings that gain much media coverage, asking for peace and looking for change. But everyone has become desensitized to day-to-day gun violence throughout the country. I think that we need to be just as motivated to stop all gun violence, not just the violence that makes the headlines.
If this is how I feel after one day, I know the rest of this trip will be just as eye-opening.