I started off the weekend in Charlottesville, and my parents had come to visit me. We took a lovely trip to Kroger, where I saw a funny display of a rabbit. I am always really impressed by the people who do these kinds of things. I am just grateful that someone took their time and energy to add joy to the lives of others when they could have easily got down so easily about working in a grocery store.
On Sunday, I had a bit of a morning. My parents had left after seeing me at 7 in the morning, and I went back to bed. I was supposed to get up at 10 to pack for a Spring Break trip but I woke up at 11:40 in a panic.
I decided to spent my spring break in Charlottesville, but not at UVA – hence, why I needed to pack. But our week started at 12:30 on Sunday and I didn’t have a ride to get to our meeting place. After 30 minutes of texting around, I found someone who got me a ride and my week had begun.
Charlottesville City Plunge is a spring break trip – outside of UVA – exploring what it means to be a citizen of Charlottesville as university students, with a place whose history is tied up with the oppression of its inhabitants. On Sunday, we ate lunch and headed to the Abundant Life house. Abundant Life is a Christian organization centered on community, in which their resources, time, and energy are spent on living intentionally with the members of the Prospect Ave community. We ended up touring around Charlottesville.
I had done this tour once before and so nothing was new to me, but hearing some of the ways Charlottesville as a city had oppressed in its inhabitants still blew me away. UVA was built on the backs of slave laborers, and in Jefferson’s design, it was built in a way to hide the population of slaves that built it and their conditions of living.
There are two First Baptist churches in Charlottesville – one black and one white. The elevation of Charlottesville as a city has been manipulated in a way that those who are richer and whiter are higher up than those who are poorer.
A few weeks ago, I came across this article: A stolen slave auction plaque shook Charlottesville. It was so surreal to be taking this tour of Charlottesville and see the paper and tape currently where the slave auction plaque used to be.
The biggest shock and the hardest to swallow is that entering the territory of UVA is a statue that is titled the “futiliy of resistance.” It references the futility of resistance against white supremacy and it is known that that is its actual intended meaning. Which is mind-boggling considering the events of August 12th in Charlottesville.
The rest of our week consisted of food – chili, salad, mac and cheese, spaghetti – volunteering with Abundant Life in middle and elementary schools, games like Avalon, Secret Hitler, Taboo, Body Body, and speakers who talked about racism within the context of education.
There is a lot of brokenness and systemic injustice when it comes to the education system across the country. That can be hard to swallow. For me, it was painful but not surprising to see that come up in reference to New York City – my hometown. It’s one of the most diverse places in the country yet has one of the greatest segregated school systems.
It can be hard to think of a solution. And one solution may be imperfect for a problem that affects those in different parts of the country differently. Everyone should have access to a quality public education and teachers should teach with empathy. Students should have their needs met and teachers need counseling to help combat the emotional stressors of being surrounded by children who don’t have their needs met. There is potential in every child and it would do some good if the systems that are built could acknowledge the inherent dignity every child has.
On Wednesday, March 11, after our morning lesson, there was some chatter about UVA potentially talking about postponing in person classes after spring break. Considering we were all in Charlottesville, it was extremely disappointing to have that be a possibility. Around 12, the rumor was confirmed. President Jim Ryan suspended all in person classes and a reevaluation on in person classes based on the Coronavirus is due around April 5th. This was sad because fourth year students received news that they may not walk around the lawn. Students across all years cannot spend time with professors, in clubs, or with their friends on Grounds. Second year students like myself would need to declare our majors without advising. International students like my roommate who could not travel home would be dealing with isolation and a lack of university resources.
It was honestly just a lot.
My concern for myself was declaring my major and also going back home to New York, where a state of emergency has been declared. The fact that it is probably safer to stay in Charlottesville than go to a high risk area of contracting the disease.
I called my parents and they flipped out. They said that I should come directly home in that instant. Considering there is no precedent for how to deal with this pandemic, I can’t blame them entirely. But I don’t think immediately demanding I come home was the best option when there are two elderly people with existing medical conditions in our home and I could bring it in.
However, my parents have the authority and I headed home on a Greyhound. I slept most of the way and when I reached Baltimore, I listened to two Beautiful Anonymous episodes – “My Girlfriend Cheated, I Got A Dog” and “Prison Bound.” Lessons learned from these two – go to therapy to deal with any sort of large build up of emotion, forgiveness is hard but leaves you lighter, drugs can really ruin lives, take care of your mental health instead of hiding from your emotional wounds.
Currently, I’m at home. Classes start tomorrow. It’s really gonna be hard to Zoom my classes when I have so many people at home. I share a room and I don’t have a desk to do work because my room is tiny. I have to make the best of some crappy circumstances. But look up, buttercup. I’m alive! I got to watch Fringe, the best sci-fi, detective, romance, bromance ever! I have more time to work on the blog now that most of my extracurriculars are cancelled.
I’m kind of tempted to start a vlog or podcast but I don’t know what it would be about.
Hope you friends are well! Stay safe and wash your hands!