Sorry for bombarding the blog with a bunch of #JustPhelpsScholarsThings posts, but this one I just have to add. The Indianapolis Trip takes the scholars to lunch at Jiallo’s African Caribbean Cuisine and to the highlight of the evening: the Conner Prairie Interactive Historic Park. While the museum has a variety of interesting, interactive exhibits like hot air ballooning and animal zoos, the attraction that we are participating in is called “Follow the North Star”, a living drama in which guests are taken on a trailer to somewhere in the forest and act out the part of runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad. It’s not a mandatory trip, but I genuinely recommend prospective Scholars to try it out.
The bus ride is a four-hour trip with a pitstop after the second hour, so bring homework or a soft pillow. They also play movies for those who have nothing better to do; “Big Hero 6” and “Totoro” premiered on my bus’s little screens but after the first movie I chose to spend my time sleeping in awkward angles.
When we finally arrived at Conner Prairie after lunch, night was falling and the sky was darkening rapidly. They told us multiple times to bring layers (which I had done), but don’t forget to bring a pair of gloves too or else you’ll spend most of the time jamming your hands into your pockets.
I don’t want to give too much away but it’s so intense that the visiting group goes through a debriefing session right after the experience. It’s probably my favorite Phelps Scholars field trip so far not only because we dug into African American history but because it turned the slaves’ experiences from something we read in a book into something we smelled, heard, saw, and felt. We made the choices and decided if the chances of dying or, worse, being caught and punished was worth our freedom (don’t worry, they’re not allowed to physically harm you). It’s difficult not to empathize with them when a slave trader treats you like cattle and screams in your face, or when you hear a gun clicking somewhere to your right as you’re forced to kneel in the wet dirt.
The thing is once the experience ends and we’re led into the warmth of the building, the fear and the hope that we felt fades into memory. That was until the employee that led the debriefing session asked us whether we supported slavery. Of course the answer was no, but she retaliated by asking us, “Who makes your shoes?” The discussion and the experience made us realize that slavery has yet to become a thing of the past; while we don’t hear it screaming bloody murder in our ears every day, somewhere out there, slavery is a very present, living hell for a young girl or boy. In other words, they don’t get a debriefing and a fun retelling of events with friends.
We did a mental “I see what you did there” nod to our FYS professors because the trip was related to our current reading of Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book addresses the issue of women oppression in the developing world and how that led to underaged prostitution and rape as a weapon of war, delegated by a culture of power that takes advantage of the idea of honor and a woman’s social standing.
Again, I love, love, love this trip and I recommend anyone to try it out. Really, just join PSP for this because 1) you get to go on a road trip with your friends and 2) Follow the Star is normally $20 per person and, unless you live in Indiana, there’s a small chance you’ll ever be able to do this in your life.