Minister’s Musings

alabamaI just returned from four days in Alabama, including a day in Birmingham at the Civil Rights Institute museum, and I found the experience of the museum deeply moving. It was built next door to the 16th Street Baptist Church, the black church where four young girls were killed in a bombing by members of the KKK in 1963, and across the street from the park that was the site of many protests, including the famous Children’s Crusade, where schoolchildren braved police dogs, water cannons, and arrest for civil rights. Birmingham was once the most segregated city in the US. What I took away from the museum was a sense of awe at the courage of so many black residents and a few white allies, great sadness at the violence and hatred of that time, and frustration that 50 years later we in this country are still facing racially based oppression and denial of civil rights, particularly all the attempts to limit voter’s rights around the country, aimed, often, at poorer people of color.


This Tuesday, seven of us from TRUU (Heather and Greg Rydell, Katie Marshall, Jude Bartels, Kate Friesen, Jan Quint, and I) had the privilege of attending a tour given by the Valley Settlement Project about their work here in the valley over the last four years. We visited the “Busesito” – the bus set up as a preschool which visits the different trailer parks in the valley) and heard stories from the the women who run the Mentor program, which places volunteers from the Latino community into elementary school classrooms to support the generally mono-lingual English-speaking teachers. Each volunteer commits to 300 hours during the school year, and these volunteers have now given thousands of hours of time to both Anglo and Latino children in the school. They talked about how this program has also changed the lives of the volunteers, many of whom had been isolated and afraid to interact with the wider culture before becoming volunteers. The Valley Settlement Project is based in the Third Street Center, and it was wonderful to learn about the work of our neighbor! They are interested in volunteers who would like to work as language tutors.