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Day 8: Thoughts from a Note Pad

By Stephanie Burton

On May 6, I began a journey of self exploration. In ten short days (that’s the power of this trip), I learned to soak up information, to dissect it in agonizing detail and to formulate new ideas, new questions. I’ve asked “how” and “why” several times along the way, becoming so thirsty for knowledge that I HAD to grab a notepad to keep it all together. Back, forth, up, down; the pen would not stop moving! One notepad led to two notepads, and so on and so on.

Now that the trip is over, I’m left with four notepads and a powerful assignment: to find the answers to my scribbling.

Each question stemmed from a conversation that I had with the people who were taking the journey with me—39 other students, members of the press, and the original Freedom Riders. I’m truly thankful for such an eye-opening experience. Thank you to everyone who uttered a word my way; you have left an imprint in my mental psyche forever.

Listed below are my top 11 questions:

1.     Why do we give others the privilege of interpreting the bible for us? If we took each phrase in the bible literally, would we all be dead? Are there people out there who live out the principles of the bible word for word?
2.     Bless the child that has its own. Why don’t I have an entrepreneurial spirit?
3.     Why is yesterday the 1st time that I’ve had a deep, spiritual connection with a person outside of my race?
4.     Someone said that the “Save the Children” commercials exploit kids because they find the most poverty-stricken kid to talk on camera, which causes the viewer to make generalizations about the entire impoverished group. But if even ONE kid is living so poorly, isn’t it still important?
5.     Does PR have a place in advocacy work? If so, what is the limit?
6.     Do introverted people ever make a notable contribution to society… famous introverts?
7.     Why does it feel so good to tell your story? And if it’s simply about telling your story, why do we get mad when the paper doesn’t print all of our quotes or everything we said?
8.     Am I supporting segregation by going to an HBCU (Historically Black College)? But what is the alternative? What college has diversity all across the board—gender, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc?
9.     Why didn’t the International Civil Rights Museum have an exhibit on American Indians’ struggle in the U.S.?
10. Do I have conflicting narratives?
11. When is it okay to label an event a “celebration?” Can we truly “celebrate” a painful event, even if it is 50 years later (the bombing of the bus in Anniston, Alabama)?

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2 responses to “Day 8: Thoughts from a Note Pad”

  1. Joan Eisenstodt

    20th May, 11

    Oh Stephanie, you have done an exercise in what is known in the facilitation world as “Q-storming”(TM) – a term and method coined by Marilee Adams. My friends think I’m nuts because I ask more questions than I answer .. and it’s because I think questions ultimately lead to a better place – better actions – thoughtful actions.

    Will we ever find answers to your questions and all those that each of you no doubt had?

    How will what you experienced manifest itself for each of you? for those of us who followed the journey? for those of us who have been active for years to renew our commitment/s? for those who have never seen a need to do more?

    Will this site remain open indefinitely for us to read what’s next?

    Thank you for being so thoughtful.


  2. Betsy Bean

    12th Jun, 11

    Hi Stephanie,
    Just now having a little time to read Student Blogs after the commemoration activities. I don’t think any of us in Anniston perceived the events as a “celebration” although we were happy to have you and the other students here. And we were happy to be able to show the work we’ve been doing to acknowledge what happened here and recognize the bravery of the Freedom Riders. I think the solemnity of the occasion occurred at the library when we sang songs together, prayed, and allowed people to share their feelings.

    On the other hand, you are right to question how a community or a country deals with painful events of the past, whether it’s the Civil War, Civil Rights, the Holocaust or the World Trade Center. I think historians everywhere have grappled with that in terms of whose story is told and how. We are questioning that here in Anniston as our Civil Rights Trail develops. For instance, were members of the Klan born evil or were there social, economic, and historic forces that helped create that organization and its appeal? How do we acknowledge the horror and longlasting effects of segregation in such a way that heritage tourists are interested? Yes, we are using the Trail for economic development reasons now that the textile mills, foundries, and pipe shops have moved to Mexico or overseas. We plan to ensure the Trail benefits African American entrepreneurs, with the idea of creating a local economy so we aren’t so dependent on the Dept. of Defense as historically has been the case.

    This has been a “tricky” endeavor for the whole community, that is, it’s not as simple as just painting a mural and putting up signage. It has pushed us and me individually, toward the heart of the matter, that is, “race in America.”

    Thanks for asking your questions. Betsy