August 7th, 2009 – by Emily Benner
After watching the movie about the Anacostia River, I was quite disgusted by the way people treat this body of water. This river is an important part of the culture of the community, slowly getting stomped on due to pollution. I learned that people’s sewage goes into the river, along with things from storm drains, store run offs, and a dump site for companies. I was not looking forward to the canoe trip down this trash infested river.
I was very surprised by my surroundings when we started our trip down river. The river was kind of gross, but there was not as much trash as I was expecting from seeing the movie. This trip was a relaxing time to see a side of the suburbs of DC and get closer connections with housemates. I think having the race between the four canoes was the most fun I’ve had with our group, laughing and being silly. Granted, we’ve had way too many laughs with crazy stories, but it was just a fun experience exploring the waters. Even though the canoes were really spread out I took the time I had to truly get to know two housemates I have had very little one on one time with. Mattie and I canoed with John and Will, who we also drove with, and had some good conversations.
I was really pleased on what I got out of the trip learning about the locus flowers; water lillies, the invasive magenta plants, how to canoe, how the river was used before this century, and how to enjoy nature even if it isn’t at its best primped stages and all glamed up.
March 27th, 2009 – by Emily Benner
My internship at The Faith & Politics Institute has been an exciting plunge into the world of Capitol Hill. Faith & Politics, an interfaith organization, works to bridge the divides in our society by providing opportunities for members of Congress to unite their work with principles of compassion, healing, and forgiveness.
Because of FPI’s relationships with those in the political world, I’ve been able to have experiences like attending the Attorney General’s confirmation hearing and seeing President Obama speak in the Capitol building. My most meaningful opportunity, however, was when we led a congressional civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama. With almost 200 guests, including more than two dozen members of Congress, diplomats, media personalities, and others, we traveled to Alabama to visit civil rights historical sites and to hear from those involved in the movement. I rode on the same bus as Congressman John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement, and heard heartbreaking stories of the hate and violence he experienced. I participated in a role play led by Rev. Jim Lawson, the nonviolent theorist who studied under Gandhi and taught nonviolence to Martin Luther King, Jr. and others involved in the civil rights movement. I marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 44 years after hundreds of African-Americans were brutally attacked by state troopers there during a peaceful march for voting rights.
Of all these experiences and others, my favorite moment came in a small church in Selma. The daughter of former Alabama governor George Wallace, the segregationist who famously tried to stop the desegregation of the University of Alabama, introduced the morning speaker, Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, our first black Attorney General, is also the brother-in-law of one of the students Governor Wallace blocked from entering the University of Alabama. Seeing the reconciliation of these two families and hearing them both express forgiveness and a desire for healing, along with an acknowledgement of the work yet to be done, brought tears to my eyes. It was a beautiful example of the possibilities for racial reconciliation and reignited my hope that our country can find restoration and healing in other areas of conflict. I was reminded that faith and politics don’t need to be mutually exclusive, and that the principles that guide my life through faith can and should be related to my opinions about public policy. I am hopeful that, as a nation, we can learn from the tragic mistakes of our past and move forward in reconciliation and healing.
March 27th, 2009 – by Emily Benner
‘I can’t believe I’m here witnessing a great change in history.’ This quote was spoken from a woman behind me as Obama gave his inaugural address to millions before him. This quote is not the thought of one, it’s echoed in the minds and hearts of the millions packed in a confining mall on the 20th of January, a Tuesday. Although the full scope of Obama’s presidency will take years, even decades into the future to comprehend, there seemed to be a dignified solidarity among many Americans and people around the world, all hoping for change.
Growing up in a generation where the gap between negatively recognizing people’s differences, such as the color of their skin, is coming to a close. Maybe I’m naïve; this could be my optimistic personality seeping through, however I’m recognizing that my generation and those younger than me seem to appreciate what makes each person unique. Rather than judging based on religious orientation, race, or gender, people are drawing conclusions based on others characteristics. Clearly nominating and electing an African American President never crossed the minds of my parents or grandparents generation. A shift, or change if one will, is beginning to take place where the Emancipation Proclamation is finally being fulfilled.
Obama too identifies this change. In his inaugural address, Obama commented on how the world is changing and we need to change with it. This I believe on all levels; everyday brings about new challenges and room for growth.
As I reflect on my experience in the bitter cold, waiting nine hours to hear the swearing in of the first African American President, my mind begins to imagine the future. What other milestones in history will I get the change to witness?
Most importantly, I’m glad that I can forever say I witnessed the swearing in of the first African American President. As I hope for change, for world peace, and world citizenship, I still question how much I’m willing to change.
November 14th, 2008 – by Emily Benner
October 30th, 2008 – by Emily Benner
The main thing I got from reading [Widening the Circle] was that community is very important, but is something that our culture really doesn’t value anymore….It gives the comparison of community to food. I thought that this was a great analogy because (being Mennonite) the most popular activity in my communities is…eating. The author mentions how “When people in community have their own individual food “stashes” or personal preferences which are indulged privately, it sooner or later leads to isolation and separation from others, whereas sharing food, and agreeing on dietary guidelines brings people together.”
against hip-hop dance. Rennie really makes his audience think….This past weekend was a very big weekend for Dance Place. Saturday was the big fundraiser benefit. We had a tribute to hip-hop artist Rennie Harris. His performance was brilliant. From watching him up on stage he put so much in his dance. Through his work he told stories from his life and after the performance he told the audience a little about his traveling hip hop company. He told of the stereotypes that are often heldI’m thrilled to have the chance to work with and see so many talented artists. I’m beginning to feel at home at Dance Place.
October 24th, 2008 – by Emily Benner
Some of the students at WCSC have sung choir versions of songs by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Tonight we’re all going to see them in person! “Wanting Memories” and “Who We Are (For Each Child That’s Born)” are two of my favorites. I saw a documentary on this group, and it was downright inspirational. 4 and a half more hours til opening…
October 1st, 2008 – by Emily Benner
On Saturday I went to the Arts on Foot Festival in Chinatown and on Sunday I went to the Adams Morgan Festival. I really enjoyed both days–especially watching dancers and listening to their music….I love having endless opportunities of things to do on the weekend. It was also great to be able to spend the day without having to spend money (other than transportation). I also love how easy it is to get around the city.
I really enjoyed [this week's reading for Doug's seminar]. At first I wondered why we waited until the fourth week to read something about intentional community. Then I thought about how the reading made more sense now because we have had a chance to see what living in community is really like. [Something] we all have in common is that we yearn for relatedness and wholeness. Yet…the majority of Westerners live in separation and isolation….In some ways I didn’t identify with what Hogeland was writing, [but] I am in fact very Western when it comes to entertainment. [With friends, I] like to go out to eat, watch movies, go shopping, or play video games. I really liked how Hogeland stated that entertainment should rejuvenate us and relationship is a key ingredient in entertainment. I had never thought about that before but it made perfect sense. When I go out to coffee with friends and catch up on everything, I feel much more rejuvenated then when we sit and watch a movie. I am excited for this semester and how we will choose to entertain ourselves in the city.
October 1st, 2008 – by Emily Benner
WATER sponsors yoga on the national mall once each month to celebrate the full moon, so this week I attended the first one that took place this fall. [I went] with three other women: a young woman in her 20s, one woman in her 50s, and a Catholic nun who is in her 80s. It was a wonderful group with which to reflect, share, and stretch in silence, in the light of the moon.
The book Doing Justice by Dennis Jacobsen was an informative book for me….I appreciated the faith-based component of Jacobsen’s form of community organizing….Too many Americans, in my opinion, are unfazed with the condition and horrors of the world: the extreme inequity, the poverty, the hunger that faces so many of the world’s people….The church’s role is not to solely increase membership, but to respond to the needs of hurting people, to proclaim God’s Kingdom, and follow Jesus’ teachings….The church exists for those outside its walls.
October 1st, 2008 – by Emily Benner
My whole life I have grown up seeing power as basically only a bad thing. However, [the last reading for Doug's seminar class] made the point that although power tends to corrupt, powerlessness also corrupts. However, many people just sit back and don’t want to make a change. Some fear added responsibility, some lack confidence in their gifts, some prefer to surround themselves with dependable relationships, and some want power but only for themselves and their churches. I realized that I find myself in this group, mostly because of the first two fears. Yet we have to remember that God is the source of power and that power can be a good thing as long as it is rooted in love and is shared. That is why power has had a negative connotation in my mind, because power is almost never rooted in love.
September 23rd, 2008 – by Emily Benner
I’m up at 8:00 nearly every morning and don’t get home until 6:30. I share a house with 13 other people (and only 2 other guys.) I bike ten miles to and from work every day. I babysit a three year old and a six year old three afternoons a week. I dodge traffic, dodge metro fairs and dodge homework until the last minute.I’m exhausted and exhilarated.
I didn’t have a wash cloth or soap for the first two weeks I was here. I can’t see the floor in my room because my unnamed roommate doesn’t use drawers or a laundry basket. There are two liquor stores within a block of each other near our house. I’m working at an organization trying to clean the 2nd trashiest river in the U.S…and it only has 14 full time employees. We walk under the single, creepiest overpass in the world to get to the metro station.
And it’s sweet.
We never know what time dinner will be in our enormous house: sometimes 6:30, sometimes 9:00. There are five tubs of sour cream in our fridge and seven gallons of milk hardly get us through half a week. Our compost pile almost overflowed the week after we arrived. There were 8 dirty cups perched around my room for more than a week. The kitchen trash goes out almost daily. I never thought I’d live in a house with a complaint box.
But it’s a necessity.
One of my housemates weeds forests and gets school credit for it. Another one saw a clerk fudge the numbers to allow a Spanish-speaking immigrant her citizenship. My roommate worked 15 hours straight and met the archbishop of the Washington, DC diocese. He also got punched in the head on his way home the other day and he never swung back. Even though there are three guys sharing a bathroom with one girl, she hasn’t found the toilet seat up once.
Everyone’s still civil.
It’s 60 degrees out and we still have our air conditioning on. One of my housemates sits on the back porch reading a book, even though I wouldn’t go out without a coat on. There’s a Guitar Hero marathon going on outside my bedroom and four participants are not participating, just watching. We don’t have grass in our back yard, just mulch, the biggest rosemary plant ever, and a tiny fishpond. All nine of our fish have names. There are eight bikes in our back room and only half of them are worth riding.
No one gives a rip.
During rush hour I make it home far faster than any car. It’s fun to give up your seat on the metro. The Barra Brava and their cheers/facepaints/flags are absolutely fantastic. There’s way more free stuff to do here than you ever imagined. 61% of campaign donations in our neighborhood went to Barack Obama. The streets are terrible in D.C. Our neighborhood has a fitness facility free to any DC residents. Even in American’s capital, you don’t have to talk politics.
We’re not in Harrisonburg anymore—and I love it.