My Story: My name is Alyssa Cudmore and I grew up in a rural town in the Willamette Valley in Oregon called Dallas. After working for a small civil rights nonprofit for the past four and a half years, and before heading off to graduate school for a masters in community-based natural resource management in the fall, I decided to take a bike tour along the historic Underground Railroad. This is my blog documenting the adventure!
Blog Inspiration: Inspired by the power of Brandon Stratton’s Humans of New York Blog , I have decided to use a similar model for mine- “Humans of the Underground Railroad.” I will be speaking with individuals along my route with no specific agenda- just to know a bit about who they are in an effort to paint of picture of the “modern” Underground Railroad. While I am no photographer and have no fancy camera, I hope I am still able to capture the essence of the people and of the communities I encounter along the way for you. If you are interested in the more mundane day-to-day encounters and ramblings I have, you can also take a look at my “Day to Day Happenings” section.
A bit more on goals of the tour: Our communities, our country and our world are facing obstacles today that have never before been encountered, and much less have solutions. I am a great believer in the power of the human spirit and our ability to innovate and collaborate to make change happen. However, I also know that our country and our world is severely divided in more complex cultural, social, economic, racial and environmental ways than I could ever include here.
This trip is my effort to understand and reflect on how we as a local, national, and global community today can best come together around some of the most demanding challenges of our time. I would like to understand what communities value. How individuals view themselves within their communities. What types of stories are we telling? What are the most salient issues for us as individuals, for our families and for our communities? What roles do we see ourselves taking to confront these problems? What is working? What is not?
As most of us have learned since elementary school, the Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. It also gave birth to our country’s first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change. The symbolism of this has stricken me since I was a little girl.
I am tirelessly interested in how we can bring diverging interests, stories and people together to solve issues and, at risk of sounding too cliche, to make our world a better place. It is our job to build and tell a story that empowers, repairs and completes our communities and the natural environment in which we live. And we can only do that successfully and sustainably together. But first we have to know and trust one another, not in spite of, but in celebration of our differences.
I heard in a podcast some time ago that Mister Rogers always kept a quote from a social worker he once met in his pocket, and I hope that it will emblemize this trip and what comes afterward: “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.”
What can you do: Along the way I would like to find one small community effort, project or idea that is working… or could work. It could be something as small as seeds for a community garden, or something a little larger like a new community center or a mentoring program. I will be donating a small amount of my money to the project, but if you have the means… and trust in me to find an effective cause, I would be so thankful for your donation.