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Field Report: YMCA Educational Services (YES!)–Stephanie

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Some of my yard sign designs to be placed along the 5k race course!

Corporate Cup is in LESS THAN 48 HOURS.

These past several months have all boiled down to this day. I think we’re all ready for it to be over and done with so we can move on to less stressful things… like planning and promoting next year’s run on Saturday, November 11, 2017! All of the scrambling we’ve done to get to this point will only help us better understand what to do and what not to do next year. After the run on Saturday, my hope is to create a rough draft manual on how to navigate Corporate Cup for next year’s VISTA to build upon.

One of the next things on our agenda: a Spelling Bee?!

In other news, I graduated from the Civic Leadership Academy last night! For the past eight Wednesdays, I have had the opportunity to learn in depth about New Orleans’ city government through the Neighborhood Engagement Office. Now I feel as though I know more about NOLA than Seattle! I attended presentations by numerous city departments to learn about their functions, capacity, barriers, goals, and future plans. It was also a great chance to meet and hear from fellow community members–who had a lot to say but were equally impressed by the amount of work it takes to run the city. The following photos are from our tour of the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness office where high-impact events are monitored, ranging from Saints games to the upcoming NBA All Star Game to Mardi Gras to natural disasters.

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MISCELLANEOUS ADVENTURES

Angola Prison Rodeo

On a Sunday last month, my friend and I took a drive up north to go to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for the Angola Prison Rodeo (held every Sunday in October and during one weekend in the Spring). All of my attempts to describe the experience confirm how unsure I feel about it. It probably didn’t help that I watched Netflix’s prison documentary 13th the night before. On the one hand, the actual rodeo left me disgusted to see inmates being treated as subhuman gladiatorial entertainment. For example, one particular event had inmates lined up like bowling pins and standing as still as possible to avoid attracting the bull—last man standing won. I observed families seated throughout the stands and wondered what kind of impact, if any, this would have on children. The somber atmosphere was also apparent while driving through the bleak prison grounds which stretch as far as the eye can see.

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(Un)fortunately, the only photo I took at the Rodeo.

On the other hand, the grounds outside of the rodeo stands was a more positive environment that gave a sense of hope and value to the time that these individuals are serving. I noticed that each of the food vendors was run by a mix of religious, social, and literary organizations within the prison. The expansive hobby craft fair was an especially good opportunity for inmates to use their skills as salespeople and haggle with customers. It was also an opportunity for them to sit and chat with friends and family. Most of the inmates were walking around their booths among the public, however, there was also a section of individuals housed behind a fence trying to sell their creations as people walked by. It was a bit overwhelming seeing many of the same items on display but there were a handful that stood out. I left the rodeo with a lamp made from antlers of a deer found on Angola grounds while my friend picked up a notebook made by a man who sold little photocopied booklets of his strange stories accompanied by his peculiar illustrations.

It was an experience, to say the least.

Unpleasantries in the South

A few weeks back, my friend and I spent a balmy but slightly windy afternoon lounging around poolside trying to soak up some rays. What should have been a relaxing time was overshadowed by a casually racist confrontation with a complete stranger. This guy was inebriated but relatively conscience and aware of the words coming out of his mouth so I felt no remorse in turning up the sarcasm and sass. He initially stopped in front of our chaise lounges and made a comment about me sitting in the shade because I was Asian. Excuse you? I must have scrunched up my face in disgust because he immediately followed up with, “I’m not racist. I have an Asian friend in DC.” My reaction to his non-apology must have made him believe I wanted to get to know him because he decided to introduce himself to us and shake our hands for further awkwardness. He excused himself to the bar and left me and my friend to discuss our disbelief.

A bit later after we relocated a few seats over and back into the sun, he walked by our chaise lounges again and made his next best comment: “The Asian is in the sun now.” By then, I was fed up with the microaggressions and felt no obligation to interact with him, to which he attempted to introduce himself to us again. Our unfriendliness resulted in him walking away as though we had offended him.

My last interaction with this man occurred as we walked out of the establishment. I saw him standing on the sidewalk waiting for his ride and caught him huffing at us as we walked down the steps. I took this opportunity to approach him and told him straightforward that the things he said had offended me. Again, his dismissive reaction was to ask me if I knew who he was (Yes, Joe, I know your name now) and continued to ramble on about how his best friends are Asian. Then he mentioned that I reminded him of someone he knew, which stirred a memory in him (and made it sound like they had passed away). The blaring horn of his waiting taxi and his last comment that “You wouldn’t understand,” made me realize that he wouldn’t either. I don’t think I was expecting an apology, but it just felt right to speak up for myself. But I’m not sure how much longer I can openly do that following this presidential election…

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One comment on “Field Report: YMCA Educational Services (YES!)–Stephanie

  1. Emery Graham
    November 25, 2016

    Wonderful shared experiences. Thanks for letting your reader see the world through your eyes and cultural foundations.

Comments are closed.

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This entry was posted on November 10, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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