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Alabama Pilgrimage Introduction

holly, joshi, alabama

The Alabama Pilgrimage is an experiential learning program of GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) that seeks to tell the truth about American history, highlight inequities in health, economic, and criminal justice outcomes, articulate connections between slavery and mass incarceration, and interrupt current, incomplete narratives about oppression, crime, and punishment.  

Inspired by the 2018 openings of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial of Peace and Justice, the March 2023 Alabama Pilgrimage lead a cohort of community leaders through the cities of Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery to confront the histories of slavery, emancipation, and the Civil Rights Movement, and be in conversation with present-day Alabama communities to learn about the persistent effects, manifestations, and roots of systemic racism today. This was GLIDE’s fourth Alabama Pilgrimage. 

A diverse group of participants joined including:  

  • Leaders and staff from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Health Team
  • Participants of GLIDE’s Men in Progress violence intervention program (MIP) 
  • GLIDE staff and leaders (GLIDE) 
  • Bay Area Community leaders and influencers (BAC) 

Like other experiential learning programs at GLIDE, the Alabama Pilgrimage is built on the assumption that personal transformation + community engagement + political activity = social change. We understand that sparking individual and community level transformation are critical to meaningful and sustainable social change. Influencing world views and challenging established mental models by centering history through the eyes of the marginalized, revealing facts and data that are often concealed, and highlighting modern day manifestations of oppression opens the door for discussions, strategies, and actions focused on realizing the alternatives. 

This experiential journey is intended to spark the motivation, deepen the commitment, and fortify the individual and community resilience needed to engage in the skill building and strategizing critical to deep and lasting social change. Connecting all participants and reconnecting African American participants to a deeper truth about the suffering, resilience, creativity, and genius of African Americans uncovers important lessons, forgotten wisdoms, and a path toward truth, justice, and reconciliation.      

The Alabama Pilgrimage is an important tool for GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice to advance its vision of racial justice and reconciliation. One of many touchpoints between GLIDE and UCSF – a potent partnership meant to facilitate equity in the UCSF Health system and to make health services more accessible and responsive to San Francisco’s most marginalized people.

The 2023 Alabama Pilgrimage brought UCSF and GLIDE staff, GLIDE program participants from Men in Progress, and Bay Area community leaders together to learn with and from each other. Importantly, this program brings together participants with significantly different racial, ethnic, and professional backgrounds. The diversity of participants on the pilgrimage presents both challenges and deep opportunities for racial healing. Our approach is radically inclusive and committed to truth telling, in alignment with GLIDE’s values.  

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