I spent last week in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to explore food and culture and history with my teenager, and to attend the installation service for my friend and colleague, the Rev. Nathan Ryan. It was a rich and complex mix of learning and inspiration. A kayak tour of the bayou was a great way to explore an unfamiliar ecosystem (and see alligators!). The art galleries and shops and markets and local restaurants – as well as the public transportation and working class neighborhood of our New Orleans AirBnB – immersed us in the diversity of people in the area.
A visit to Congo Square offered us a new understanding of the differences in how enslaved people were treated by colonists of different origins, and a peek into a way that some enslaved people were able to hold onto their roots and identities. The adjacent Louis Armstrong Park taught us about the Black roots of all American music. The tours of the Oak Alley and Whitney Plantations gave us a visceral sense of the stark difference between the lives of the white planters and the people they enslaved, as well as a clear picture of the roots and growth of white supremacy culture.
Rev. Nathan’s installation was on our last day before heading home, and it offered me a kind of integrating experience; the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge in grounded in anti-racism work, and the service helped me get back in touch with a sense of hope that I’ve been seeking. These experiences and learnings will be woven into my reflections on awakening this month. I’m looking forward to sharing with you – and hearing your thoughts!
In faith and love,