“History, despite its wrenching pain. cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” Maya Angelou
This week’s portion is the beginning of Deuteronomy. It starts with Moses recounting the journey the Israelites have taken out of Egypt. He goes over the details of the physical journey and the deaths of the Egyptian warriors. He also looks ahead to the Land of Israel and reiterates that it has been allocated to the Israelites. This story is important because it reminds us that both remembering history and thinking about the future are important. We have been fortunate to be able to focus on both during this past week.
We examined the past in several locations this week. On Saturday, we visited the Mississippi History Museum and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. We saw exhibits ranging from information about the Native people who lived in Mississippi before Europeans moved in, to how enslaved people came to Mississippi and then worked toward more independent lives after emancipation, and further to the modern day Civil Rights Movement and how people of color are still fighting for voting, economic, and education equality. On Sunday morning we started at Mardi Gras World to learn the history of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Then we spent the afternoon at the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum and touring the neighborhood. We examined why the flooding was so bad in different parts of the city, the recovery efforts, and how neighborhoods and people are still affected today, 13 years later. We spent Monday afternoon at the World War II Museum so we could better understand the American perspective of the war. On Thursday, we had a private concert and learning session at Preservation Hall, which opened in 1961 to provide a place for people of color to share their musical talents and works to protect, preserve, and perpetuate the musical traditions and heritage of New Orleans.
While examining the past, we also worked toward building a better future. We have been volunteering at Youth Rebuilding New Orleans and NoLa Green Roots. Both of these organizations are working to provide resources and improve quality of life within communities based on what people within those communities have expressed they need. By remembering the past and listening to those they are serving, these organizations are crafting a better future. As we have painted a house, created a driveway, and planted hundreds of seeds, we have supported these communities.
As Mitzvah Corps of the American South, we will continue to pray with our feet by taking the time to listen to the history as we determine the best next steps for creating change in our own communities.
Beth, Amy, and Elias
Mitzvah Corps American South 2018 Team Leaders