Five Questions with Erin Carley

Since August 2018, Erin Carley has been directing our WE Learn and WE Work programs. Born and reared in Chicago, she moved to Birmingham for her undergraduate & graduate studies and has been here ever since.

We appreciate her sitting down with us for Five Questions!

What do you like most about working at Urban Ministry? The KIDS! I get to work with the funniest and most colorful little personalities & bodies on the planet! Every day is never the same. They bring me a different level of perspective and joy.

Favorite movie of all time? Oooh… Can I do three? My top 3 would be Hercules, Tangled, and Tarzan.

Who is someone you admire? So many people… but if I have to choose, Tupac. He gets a really bad rep for being this “scary, violent & disrespectful hoodlum”, but his life and career show you don’t have to be polished or have a squeaky clean reputation to inspire people to pursue better lives or uplift communities. In the African-American community, I think, to some degree, there is this idea that sometimes you have to be polished & perfect with an education, with a squeaky clean background to be a role model or to even have the authority to speak on behalf of the well-being of others. As Christians, we know God makes it a point to call people who aren’t those things and because of that we learn that it’s not about who you used to be but about who you can reach once you are called to do so. He is an awesome example of that in the way he inspired people to think, stand against what’s wrong, and uplift his community.

Do you have a funny story that comes to mind about your time here at Urban Ministry? We had a field trip with the kids to Tannehill State Park. We were going to have an animal show. It was very vague. I am thinking, “Bunnies!” The woman is just a few feet in front of me with a basket and pulls out a boa constrictor. She starts walking towards me with it. I back up very quickly! I trip, I fall down, and I am lying there saying, “Don’t bring it any closer! Don’t bring it any closer!” The kids thought it was hilarious. I on the other hand; not amused.

What encounter have you had at Urban Ministry that is memorable to you? We had a student here this summer who was very combative. She was never disrespectful to me, but I felt like she was sizing me up to see what she could and couldn’t get away with. At one point she said to me, “I think you don’t like me.” I asked her, “What? Why would you think I don’t like you?”

She said, “At home, my mom yells at me. You never yell at me.”

“You think I don’t like you because I don’t yell at you?” Without putting down the way her family raised her, we got to have conversations about the ways people treat each other. We got to talk about healthy relationships and how to go about navigating relationships that weren’t healthy. In that, I realized you never know what impact you have on others. This really shed some light for me on what the kids experience and how important it is that Urban Ministry be their safe space. Some of these kids may not get love, attention, and care anywhere else, and they get it here every day. Ever since, I have been even more adamant about making sure that no matter what happens outside of the walls of Urban Ministry… inside, this would be a place where they are seen, loved, respected, heard, and supported unconditionally.

Thank you, Erin!