Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cemetery Mapping in Mound Bayou

It is the end of day three in Mound Bayou and we finally feel as if we have accomplished some things. While the students understand that community work is a process, and takes time, they are also beginning to see that community work measures even the tiny accomplishments because it keeps us going when we feel we have achieved even a partial goal.

After being out in the heat yesterday and then staying up late for Dr. Moore to arrive last night, we really did not want to get up at 6, but had decided that an early start would be better.

We headed out to map the second cemetery by 7 AM this morning. The grass was wet with dew, it was quiet and still, but the haze of the morning from the sun beginning to burn off the damp grass was already evident. We had learned some things after yesterday's first effort and were more organized today. The first cemetery was small; we picked it in order to be able to complete one today and have that sense of accomplishment.

After that, we moved on to the oldest part of the original cemetery. We "partitioned" it into a grid with the landmarks and began working. The bayou was to the east and you could smell that distinct bayou water smell--not unpleasant, just distinct. After little more than an hour and mostly in the shade, I was wet with sweat, though the students were faring better.

We came back to the facility and began looking at the pictures and reviewing notes to map the layout. Dr. Moore cooked breakfast for us while we worked. After bacon, eggs, and pancakes, the students cleaned up the kitchen while I showered and dressed.

We decided on a road trip for the afternoon as part of the class is experiencing the culture of the Delta. We went to Leland, and I cannot wait to post some photos from there once I get back to Internet (I am limited to iPad 3G right now and no way to upload).

We were only 5 minutes from Greenville, so drove over to give a quick hello to one of our new grads who just finished his MSW last week. As we were driving back to Mound Bayou, I was talking about how much the Delta reminded me of the Texas plains, only not as green or as wet. It evoked the same emotions in me, however, as driving the llano estacado-the "staked plains."

For dinner tonight, it was just two of the students and me. We discussed the organization of the project, and after the morning's review, we finally have a more effective system. As the evening wore on, we engaged in conversation about our experiences, race and color and ethnicity, in what I would say was an open and respectful and honest manner. We talked about how and why we avoid it or try to pretend those experiences are irrelevant.

I tried to do a lot of listening to these young and clearly smart people. And I was also in my teacher mode. We were all exchanging experiences, but there were those moments when I had to move beyond that and point out systemic factors that affect all of this. Way too complex for typing with two fingers on the iPad but definitely worthy of discussion.

One last warm fuzzy--Jean and Brittany (Mayor's wife and daughter) and friend dropped by to make sure we were okay and had all we needed. Jean has her hands full right now and yet took the time to come by and make sure we are doing okay and have what we need.

Perhaps that is another of the reasons that Mound Bayou is a place you want to call home.

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