Northwest Vista College is helping many of its employees see American history up close. For the first time in the college’s history, it sponsored a six-day trip with 30 faculty and staff to the Deep South.
Along with the collaboration of the San Antonio Peace Center, from June 7 to June 12, thirty faculty and staff boarded a 52-passenger bus and traveled throughout Louisiana and Alabama. The trip aimed to show employees an up-close account of how slavery and racism have been woven into every facet of American life.
In the past, NVC faculty Neil Lewis and Sarah Ball hosted a similar trip with students. This was the first-time faculty and staff went on the journey where they saw the impact of racism in many different areas, from voting and the prison system to the health industry. NVC staff member, Melissa Monroe-Young, helped with the planning this year.
Neil said the workshop was an opportunity for employees to not only learn together and build relationships but to transform our perspective about the American past and present.
“We’re proud the NVC administration has empowered employees to innovate and engage in difficult discussions together,” Neil added. “Peacemaking begins with being truthful and being real with each other.”
Each employee is expected to share what they learned in various ways from articles, videos, or presentations with students and their colleagues. NVC leadership has also committed to its continual support of future trips.
Sarah said it’s a transformational experience to include the African American perspective in historical narratives. She said learning how history truly impacted people builds community and a more equitable, inclusive society.
“It’s difficult work to confront painful truths about our history and our own biases, but this is an important step for understanding the power structures that have reinforced racial injustice, and it’s a meaningful way for us to challenge the narrative that we’ve all been given—for ourselves, our colleagues, and our students,” Sarah added. “It’s wonderful that we’ve had such amazing support from our college leadership, and that they have recognized this benefit to the college from the very beginning.”
Below are the places employees visited. To see more pictures from the trip, go here.
Day 1 – Whitney Plantation outside of New Orleans. Examine what a plantation and slave quarters resembled. Read and learn of the deadly revolts, which included the beheading of young Black men to scare other slaves from revolting/escaping.
Day 2 – Mothers of Gynecology – Learn the stories of Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey – three slave women used in gynecological experiments. Anarcha had 30 procedures performed on her in 3 ½ years – without anesthesia. The doctor later is coined the Father of Gynecology. The women were left traumatized.
Day 3 – Peace and Justice Memorial and Legacy Museum, which documents the most active era of racial terror lynchings between 1877 and 1950, and is a sober and meaningful site where people can gather and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality. The museum depicts the trauma of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and mass incarceration.
Day 4 – Representatives from Alabama Appleseed talked with the group to share their work and determination to fight inequitable laws in Alabama and how they help transition people into everyday life from the prison system. Ronald McKeithen was imprisoned for 37 years and now works with the organization to help people just like him find normalcy. Alabama Appleseed representative Dana Sweeney shared how his group was successful in getting Alabama to reduce the fines for traffic violations. Previously, if people couldn’t pay fines, they would get their driver’s license taken away, which is needed to get to work, take kids to school, etc.
Day 5 – Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama – Sam Walker of the museum gave the group a tour. He shared stories about how the town of Selma became the focal point for voting rights and the headquarters for Dr. Martin Luther King, which led to the March on Selma and eventually changed discriminatory voting laws. Sam participated in march activities when he was just 11 years old.
Garvin DansbyNVC Employee
The trip was one of the most life-changing events of my lifetime. It felt like I went back in time to fight for freedom and equality for everyone. I'm truly grateful to my ancestors.
Monica PohovichNVC Adjunct Faculty
In history, we often look at numbers and statistics. This trip allowed us to see the human element, the people involved. We were able to see the people of the past, not just a name or a statistic. We didn't have to imagine the past. We walked in the shadowed footsteps of the past.
Kari McKayNVC Employee
The trip was very challenging for me. It was heartbreaking to see the cruel and evil ways people were treated and to know your ancestors played a part in that. Seeing how racism continues today - especially in the criminal justice system is so infuriating! Meeting with Michelle Browder (Mothers of Gynecology) and members of Alabama Appleseed has inspired me. I’m researching social justice groups I can volunteer with to make a change. On a positive note, spending time with co-workers who are like minded and being able to discuss difficult issues in a safe space was encouraging.
Melissa Monroe-YoungNVC Employee/Adjunct Faculty
I'm proud NVC made this investment in professional development for its employees. The knowledge gained on this trip will impact not only the faculty and staff who went but will provide for more accurate truth telling of what our fellow citizens went through to help build this country (torture, suffering, degradation). The legacy of slavery still runs deep in many of our industries, but it starts with us to change that narrative.
Mallory PlummerNVC Employee/Adjunct Faculty
This workshop gave credence to the Human Rights struggles of yesteryear and today. Despite efforts to bury the spirit of African peoples and to eradicate their histories, the supernatural resilience of a people was demonstrated throughout this immersive experience. I am prayerful that empathetic change agents were birthed during this trip and that the sheer resilience and power of African Americans to exist amongst oppression are finally acknowledged in an authentic and proactive way.