Over the course of the 2015 summer break, some of our amazing Xavier University of Louisiana students have been doing great service in their free time! Below is a story written by Xavier University of Louisiana sophomore Ashley Gragg, detailing her experience at Baltimore earlier this summer break with fellow classmate Jessica Ray. We as the Xavier Herald team commend both Ashley Gragg and Jessica Ray for doing such amazing work within the community and using their free time for service! If you would like to spotlight a Xavierite who has been doing great things during the summer break, feel free to send us their story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday May 1st we boarded the plane to Baltimore with nothing but plane tickets and hope. We had no idea where we would stay, how we would get around Baltimore, or how we would even afford to eat. Within thirty minutes of landing in Baltimore God allowed everything to fall into place and we didn’t have to worry about anything! Our first day, we didn’t waste any time getting involved. We found ourselves in what is considered the “Hood” of Baltimore, near North Avenue. Many people are familiar with this impoverished and run down area, from the TV show “The Wire”. However, the atmosphere and culture of the neighborhood is nothing but welcoming and humble. We witnessed the historic and rare union of the West and East side of Baltimore’s black youth. Dozens of cars, dirt bikes, and motorcycles emerged from the distance and when they reached a stop, all of what the media would deem as “Black Thugs” suddenly jumped on top of their vehicles and raised their fists high with the words unity painted on their windows. Witnessing something to this magnitude was breathtaking! The youth are truly leading the revolution in Baltimore, and it’s sad that the news has done nothing but discredit and tarnish their image.
Contrary to popular belief, there has only been ONE riot in Baltimore, while residents have been protesting for weeks on end. Our second day we attended the huge national rally in City Hall. There were people from every walk of life; all races, ages, and classes. During the rally, the leaders of the local Blood, Crip, and Black Guerilla Family joined the speakers to announce that they would no longer have ties to their former gangs. Instead, they would be uniting as a massive force to protect the community of Baltimore from police brutality. Following the rally, the youth led a 5 mile march back into the projects. It was disturbing to know that throughout the entire rally snipers were assembled on top of a near building, pointed directly at all of us. As we marched down the blocks it was crazy seeing all of the tanks and police in full riot gear, while all of the protesters were extremely peaceful.
Our missions for the trip were to be a part of our generation’s civil rights movement, as well as raise donations to help out with the damage from the riot. We spent a total of four days in Baltimore. Prior to going, Jessica and I created The People Project, which we use to inform people about social injustices and raise funds. We chose to use the donations to help a single mother named Laporshae Lawson, whose home was burned as a result of being next to one of the liquor stores that was looted and burned. Ms. Lawson has a son with cerebral palsy, and he is also quadriplegic. We are still collecting funds and expanding on our website below.
Be sure to check out their website to help donate to the project: http://jray2018.wix.com/thepeopleproject