Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream...
—Martin Luther King Jr.
A Compassionate Listening Journey:
Listening with the Heart in Alabama
With CL Facilitators Yael Petretti & Joel Berman
I was surprised, pleased and blown away by the impact this trip had on me. An avid student of history and the Civil War, I had never deeply experienced the emotional, physical and societal toll of slavery and the lives of black people in the South. I really liked the frequent debrief sessions, which were very important for processing the intense material. Listening sessions were very interesting and instructive. Riding on the bus was a good way to connect with others on the trip. I find I am using Compassionate Listening just about daily! This was truly a "life-shaping" experience.
2022 Alabama Journey Participant
Our country suffers from deep racial tensions and increasing political polarization. We can do something about it. Using the peace-making philosophy and powerful tools of Compassionate Listening, we can build our skills of deep, empathic listening and speaking from our hearts even in difficult conversations; we can educate ourselves about the painful history of slavery and current realities of racial injustice in America; we can learn to engage in sincere self-reflection about our own biases, conscious and unconscious; we can learn to cause less harm, and we can bring the healing gift of Compassionate Listening.
Our three decades of experience throughout the world have proven that the practice of Compassionate Listening is a sure way to melt fearful hearts, enhance understanding, heal division, and turn former "enemies" into partners for peaceful coexistence.
8 nights Accomodation
Two expertly trained Compassionate Listening facilitator guides
Access to a diverse range of speakers
Meals listed in Itinerary
Private Group Transportation
Dedicated pre-trip customer service and on-ground support
Our “road map” will be the Five Core Practices of Compassionate Listening. We will use these concepts to process and deepen our learning and our connections with the people we meet as well as with one another. These practices are:
Cultivating Compassion for Self and Others
Developing the Fair Witness (Suspending judgment)
Respecting Self and Others
Listening with the Heart
Speaking from the Heart
The Journey includes Implicit Bias training by Will Osmun, Ph.D. While the focus of this trip/training is on individual relationships and responsibilities, we acknowledge that systemic and institutional racism/oppression need to be addressed at all levels of society.
We invite you to participate in this deeply transformative Journey of the heart, to listen, learn, engage in anti-bias work, and to build relationships.
This trip will include sites and meetings which will require walks of up to 1 mile in Montgomery and 4 blocks in Birmingham. For those for whom this would be challenging, Ubers, Lyfts and taxis are available.
Watch our video to hear from Journey participants about their experience.
Our journey includes 6 nights in Montgomery, and 2 nights in Birmingham. We will listen to the personal stories of a diverse range of people - from civil rights icons to right-wing conservatives. Through our hosts’ lived experiences, we will learn about Alabama’s history, civil rights struggles, creative collaborations, and visions for a better future. As one of our hosts, historian Edwin Bridges, has written: “Almost every great theme in American history can be found in the story of Alabama.”
The trip is carefully crafted so participants’ time is divided between listening sessions and group reflection. We will also visit museums and major historical landmarks in the struggle for civil rights. Click here to see our provisional itinerary:
We have found through experience that participants benefit much more from our listening sessions if they have had some exposure to Compassionate Listening practice and principles in an online or in-person training before the trip. At the very minimum, participants can read our basic manual called "Practicing the Art of Compassionate Listening," by Andrea Cohen. Facilitator Joel Berman will also offer a brief online Introduction for participants.
We will have an orientation Zoom call before the trip to update participants on logistics and final details.
We will also provide two two-hour Zoom trainings with Will Osmun, Ph.D., on Implicit Bias before the trip.
During the Journey, we will have time to reflect on our experience and to deepen our understanding and practice of Compassionate Listening. The Journey is designed as an experiential training. We live our practice and trust in it deeply.
We will be able to confirm this trip once all payments are in - the deadline is December 1, 2023. Please wait to purchase your flight tickets until then.
Our opening circle will begin at 7:00 pm on January 8th in Montgomery (check-in begins at 4:00 pm). Our Journey ends in Birmingham at 1 pm on January 16th.
Journey is not currently scheduled.
How to Fundraise for the Cost of your Journey
Participants in each one of our Journeys have successfully raised all or most of their trip expenses. Some have even gone beyond, raising funds to cover missed income while they are away. You’ll find sample letters below.
We encourage you to request support from your network of family, friends, and colleagues. Supporters often express gratitude for giving them a meaningful way to make a difference in the world. Participants have also used our films for their fundraising efforts in home or small-group gatherings. Our short intro video, for example, can be found on our Media page: Media | Compassionate Listening Project.
In recent years, people have also successfully used various "gofundme" sites and Facebook fundraising (if they are deeply connected on FB).
The key to fundraising for this trip is to make it personal. Letters using peoples’ names - instead of “dear friends” - will be much more successful than email blasts, generic letters or FB posts. You can also consider personal emails or letters that direct them to a gofundme site.
You are welcome to offer tax deductions for donors in the United States as we are a non-profit, but that’s only possible with checks written out to TCLP or if they donate to us online (they can include your name in the instructions/comments). We cannot give tax receipts to people who donate to a gofundme or to you directly. We’re happy to process payments coming in your name and apply those funds to your account.
You will find some fundraising letter examples here.
In the unlikely event that we must cancel this Journey due to a resurgence of the Covid pandemic, or other force majeure, we will refund your payment in full.
If you cancel -
Cancellations received by deadline: full refund, less $200 administrative fee.
Cancellation after Deadline: no refund unless trip refills to maximum. (If the trip fills to capacity and we are able to fill your spot, we will refund in full)
We suggest purchasing third party travel insurance which includes coverage for cancellation for any reason. Forbes magazine publishes regularly updated travel insurance comparisons here.
Please note that our trips are billed as a package and refunds cannot be provided for unused portions.
Please bring proof of a negative PCR test received within three days of departure, if possible. Please bring your vaccination card with you. We’ll be masked while indoors and on the bus and we will check everyone’s temperature and ask about symptoms each morning.
We take our responsibility to keep our participants safe and healthy very seriously. We will continue to monitor the public health situation as the trip approaches.
"A life-changing journey that will deepen your appreciation and understanding of the complexity
of racial relations, of the construct of race, and of your own implicit racial biases; and, particularly,
of the depth and breadth of the damage inflicted by slavery and racism. It highlights the work
that still needs to be done concerning reparation, restitution, and reconciliation."
~ 2020 Participant
Read about our ground-breaking first Journey here.
Trip Preparation Page:
After we have received your trip registration and deposit, we will provide you with the passcode to access to our Trip Preparation Page.
The 2023 Journey will be co-led by Compassionate Listening facilitators Yael Petretti and Joel Berman. Will Osmun will provide pre-trip implicit bias training.
Yael’s connection to the civil rights struggle grew out of her participation in the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington, her life-changing experience of helping build Resurrection City and tutoring children of color whose schools were being desegregated in southern Virginia. Certified as a CL facilitator in 2004, she led and co-led a number of CL delegations to Israel-Palestine where she lived for almost three decades. Yael co-authored “Making Peace with Faith: The Challenges of Religion and Peacebuilding” (Peace and Security in the 21st Century, 2018.) She lives in New England where she facilitates CL trainings and volunteers as an Alternatives to Violence facilitator in a men's high security prison. Witnessing the “new Jim Crow” there has brought her around full-circle to rejoin the struggle for racial/social justice here in the U.S. In January 2020, she initiated and co-led the first domestic Compassionate Listening delegation, “Listening in the Heart of Alabama.” You can visit her website at listeningwiththeheart.org.
Concord, New Hampshire
Joel is a retired family physician who delivered primary care in the village of Penacook, NH from 1980 to 2006. He ended his medical career as Chief Medical Information Officer at Concord Hospital, overseeing the introduction of electronic provider order entry and participating in organization-wide improvements in medical quality and safety. During Joel's four Compassionate Listening Journeys to Israel and Palestine between 2015 and 2019, and his Journey to Alabama in January 2020, he recorded and transcribed more than 40 listening sessions that form the basis for public presentations designed to humanize the “other” and help local audiences recognize the common humanity and shared values of people across geo-political divides. He received CL certification training in 2016 and 2017 and has facilitated Compassionate Listening training sessions throughout New Hampshire.
Will Osmun, MM, MS, MA, Ph.D., Journey trainer
As a volunteer on a Crisis and Suicide Hotline, Will was trained in Empathic Listening. He has a BA in Communications and is certified in Compassionate Listening, Mediation, Immunity to Change and Motivational Interviewing. In his recent role at the Urban League of West Michigan, Will provided trainings on Implicit Biases related to the ‘othering’ of historically marginalized groups. As a CL facilitator, Will understands the change process and lovingly encourages participants to lean into their discomfort as they develop new skills and deeper understanding of themselves and their ‘other’. See Will's website here.