When I first learned of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC), I was newly retired and looking for ways to give back to the community. During that time, Candace Simmons was the volunteer coordinator at the NURFC and she invited me to be part of a committee discussing how volunteers would be an integral and essential part of the new center’s success. After learning more, I knew that this new role was right for me and became the volunteer stage manager for the NURFC ground-breaking ceremony, where I had the pleasure of escorting First Lady Laura Bush and Muhammad Ali to the podium to address the crowd.
Needless to say, my volunteer commitment was strengthened. This newly enhanced commitment followed me as I transitioned to become a member of the inaugural docent (exhibit guide) class under the management of Chris Shires. The class was composed of some of the same docents who are still volunteering at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center today. It didn’t take long for me to realize the value of my volunteer commitment to the NURFC. For me, it reflects a sense of belonging. For them, I believe it reflects their commitment to offer our visitors knowledge that can light up their lives, and at the same time, challenge them to become a light for others.
Through structured development and meaningful community experiences, I can explore and understand different cultures and educate our guests and visitors. One such model is the current special exhibition, Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later. Such stories are absolutely necessary, but are so infrequently told. As a docent of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, I’m inspired and believe that I can make a difference in the world and in our community.
James Brock, docent, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Image: James Brock touring a group on the 2nd floor in front of the Slave Pen.