MLK Alternative Break Reflection By: Michaela Herrmann


I’m not proud to say that for most of my four years at CofC, I was accustomed to think of Martin Luther King Day as a day free from classes (and only every other year, at that). I was virtually oblivious to the true virtue of this day as a national call to action in the form of a mindful day of service to honor the spirit of our drum major for justice. This has changed, undoubtedly for the better, thanks to the incredible group of people with whom I spent this 2016 MLK weekend as a part of the Alternative Break program. Through our experiences at New American Pathways, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and the Center for Human and Civil Rights, we learned about several different, yet interconnected, issues: refugees and the challenges they face when starting over upon moving to the US, the legacy of MLK and the many brave people that participated in the American Civil Rights movement, and many ongoing movements for freedom and justice that are constantly happening around the world.

Our trip coordinators placed a high value on discussing our feelings, epiphanies, and questions about what we learned, which was one of the most valuable aspects of the weekend. Our sometimes silly, sometimes profound, and often both, conversations were immensely helpful in ensuring that we thought critically about how we contribute to the lives of others without prioritizing our own egos or what we think a community needs, rather than listening to what it asks for. It was interesting to hear what stood out to each individual as we had our shared experiences, which emphasized how differently we all think and the importance of understanding an issue from multiple perspectives. I truly felt like I came away from the weekend with new friends that I had genuinely connected with over issues we were all passionate for and committed to teaching others about, and I look forward to what each of us will accomplish

Although I intended to pursue a career in social justice before this experience, I’ve come away with an understanding of the necessity to carefully reflect on one’s motives before appointing oneself to be everyone’s savior. I still want to support and pursue justice for others, but I recognize that the first thing to do is to educate myself and to recognize the importance of engaging with a community or movement in a way that best suits its needs, and not my own. Alternative Break, and every single person in our group, played a part in teaching me this lesson, and I couldn’t be more grateful or glad that I went out on a limb and was a part of this weekend.

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