City Year San Jose – Project Ubuntu visits

Alex Rouse is serving as a Corps Member for City Year in San Jose.  Below is her blog about the week Project Ubuntu visited.

Week Twenty Six

by Alex Rouse: http://alexcysj.tumblr.com/

This week seemed to completely fly by. In fact, I can hardly even remember any details from the week days. I am getting to the point in the year where the days and weeks run together and I am simply aware that I am part of a process that is much bigger than the day to day tasks I am completing. One day I will be able to step back and look at this year with more thoughtful reflection. For now, each day I am busting my butt tutoring my focus list and collaborating with the teachers. I’m never going to forget these kids.

Friday, we had the privilege to receive a presentation from Daniel Becton about his work with Project Ubuntu. Daniel is a City Year San Jose Alum who also worked for City Year London before founding Project Ubuntu. He is currently traveling around the country to visit, celebrate and support people in one community in every state and Washington, D.C. who embody “ubuntu” through their commitment to service, and to inspire a wide-ranging audience to engage in service themselves. “Ubuntu” is a philosophy found throughout the southern nations of Africa that is characterized by the notion that a person is a person through others. The idea is that everyone’s sense of humanity is tied to one another’s. I really enjoyed hearing Daniel talk about his experience nomadically traveling from state to state to celebrate the human condition in its many forms. He said a few things that will stick with me including, “Education is empowering, but school is oppressive” and “there are so many groups that preach love but think that they are juxtaposed to one another and that they are loving and the other group is hateful.” It made me think. I found myself thinking a great deal about how much I miss Bike and Build and about my negative views towards Christianity.

My go-to response when someone asks me for money on the street has become, “I only have a debit card, can I treat you to Subway?” Usually people decline my offer and I go on my way, but sometimes people will share a meal and some conversation with me. Yesterday it started with a question. “Hey miss, are you single?” Yes. “Well damn, that must be by choice.” Sure. “Listen I’m out here homeless and it sure is cold and I sure am hungry, can you spare any money?” I only have a debit card, can I treat you to Subway? He agreed and we set off on what would become a very interesting and reflective experience for me. We were standing in line at Subway when he finally asked the question he had seemed to have on his mind throughout out entire young relationship. “Now ma’am I don’t mean any disrespect, you are very pretty, but do you by chance…like girls instead of boys?” I do, I am a lesbian. This opened the flood gates for all of the questions that he had ever wanted to ask a lesbian if he ever found himself face to face with one. Right or wrong, I held him to very low cultural expectations and did not hold any of his ignorance against him. It was clear that his questions came from a place of real curiosity and misguided information rather than a place of disrespect so it did not make sense for me to respond with anything other than politeness. I’m always curious to see people’s different perceptions of lesbians; especially when they have little to no exposure to actual lesbians. “How do you know you are a lesbian? You’re cute enough to get a man, did you just get tired of being mistreated by men? Maybe you haven’t found the right dick yet? You live with girls, aren’t you sexually attracted to them? So you hate all guys? How long have you been this way?” After I had answered these questions to his satisfaction he asked my least favorite question. “Do you think that maybe I could join in with you and one of your lovers?” I smiled and said absolutely not. For the life of me, I can not figure out why someone would think that they would be at all wanted in that scenario. We finished our Subway and then ventured over to Walgreens to find some healthy snacks for the next day. Once I was satisfied with the amount of vitamin C and protein he was heading back out into the night with, it was time for us to part. He had one last question for me. “Ma’am do you go to church?” No. “Well, I am a church going man and at church they teach me that homosexuality is a sin. That would make you a sinner…but I think Jesus himself would be proud of the kindness that you have shown me tonight so thank you.” I thanked him for his kind words and went on my way.

 

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