Civil Rights Trail

Shadows, Dreams, Fears & Dragons: The Beginning of a Journey

I am about to go on a journey away from home. Which calls to mind these words from the brilliant Maya Angelou:

from the essay “Home” in Letter to My Daughter

So, while I will be traveling at a distance from what is now home, and from a further distance than what I consider home; and while I will be traveling in a part of the country that is wholly unfamiliar to me, I will be carrying some form of home along with me. I will be carrying “shadows and dreams, fears and dragons” as company, doing my best to befriend them, turning them into beneficial companions and staying aware of when they are contorting how I encounter and engage the people and the places I am visiting.  

What are my shadows, dreams, fears, and dragons? Because I am heading to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, at least three shadowdreamfeardragons present themselves.

My whiteness.

My Northern-ness.

My cisgender female-ness.

These seem to be the most obvious. And, at times, the most likely to be oblivious.

Despite possessing a healthy amount of self-awareness, I am guessing that my awareness will become even more acute on my travels. I will get to know this company in its latest incarnation for the first time. I have traveled as a stranger in strange lands before – not inherently strange lands, but strange to me and my perceptions. I have had practice. So I know that alongside these “shadows,” to counter their inadvertent bias, I need to bring these three other companions: curiosity, humility, and boldness.

Despite temperamental leanings in the opposite direction, this 17-day journey is not-fully scheduled. For those of you who know me, it’s time to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Don’t get me wrong: I have plans already written on the calendar at a particular time on a particular date. I would be wholly unrecognizable if I had not done so.

Yet, I am also cultivating the intention to allow Spirit to make its presence known on this journey. I am leaving ample space for sufficient oxygen that will allow small sparks to fan the flames of creativity or connection, perhaps even community.

It is my hope that this approach honors the truth that this journey is part pilgrimage, particularly my travels in Louisiana with my focus on visiting likely destinations of the Lost Souls stolen from New Jersey in 1818 and sent to the Deep South, a group of people whose story have I have committed the past five years of my time, ministry, and heart to honoring.

Even thought my flight to New Orleans does not depart until next week, you could say that this journey began while back. It is literally years in the planning. That said, the preparations have really ramped up in the past few months. Faster still, in the past few weeks. Before I get on that plane, I’ll try to write a little about some of these preparations.

Yet, let me start with gratitude. This journey is possible because of so many people, so plentiful in number that I cannot name them all, some of whom I have not yet met, but to whom I owe gratitude upon gratitude. Still, let me do the possible part of an impossible tasks and name these few:

  • my co-conspirators at the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project who are determined to remember and memorialize the lived lives of the 137 African American women, children, and men who were stolen into permanent slavery in 1818;
  • the Unitarian Society in East Brunswick, the congregation I serve as Settled Minister and which has granted me this sabbatical time;
  • the Leadership Leaves program of New Jersey Unitarian Universalist congregations, in which The Unitarian Society participates and which, through my congregation’s investment, generated the funds that covered the cost of my journey;
  • my husband, Tony, whose emotional support and spiritual companionship nourishes and emboldens me;
  • our friend, Patsy Jenkins, who, along with Tony, will be joining me for the final six days of the trip, as we follow the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama.
Got my haircut yesterday – getting ready for the trip. I look at this photo and notice the clothes I am wearing – it is cold today in New Jersey but I guarantee you, I won’t be wearing sweaters and turtlenecks down South…

If you are reading this, thank you for traveling along with me virtually. It will be good to have your company as well. Feel free to leave comments on the blog or on the Facebook pages where these posts end up.

2 thoughts on “Shadows, Dreams, Fears & Dragons: The Beginning of a Journey

  1. Thanks for this trip! I had not heard of the people stolen from New Jersey. I will be eager to learn more, although I am sure it will be painful.

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