Beloved Community Pilgrimage

Photo Credit: Clément Bardot [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Application Deadline: January 5, 2019
Notification of Application Status: January 18, 2018

Application Fee: $10
Registration Fee: $750
Scholarship Award: $700 or $400
(Scholarship recipients will be required to pay a $50 or $350 registration fee)

The Beloved Community Pilgrimage, which will follow the historic route from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, is a spiritual and inter-racial learning experience. This walk with history makes space for the meeting of ancestral wisdom and pain on a journey toward equity and healing. Guided spiritual practice will invite pilgrims to challenge and expand their role in a beloved community. Together we will seek a more holistic and sustainable posture for compassion, active resistance, and dismantling white supremacy.

The route from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, USA largely stays true to the original 50 mile path walked by 3200 people comprised of citizens, civil rights leaders, clergy, and historians in 1965 famously led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This march, attempted twice before its successful completion in March 1965, was pivotal in provoking national and international dissent for racial violence which led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Throughout the week pilgrims will visit influential and relevant sites, share spiritual practices, meet local community members, create a collaborative art piece, and walk 5-15 miles together each day for five days.

The group will meet in Atlanta, GA, on the first day. Housing arrangements will be made with host families in the area. A rental van will shuttle the group to Selma on the second day for the start of the walk and return the group to Atlanta on the last day.

This pilgrimage is for people of any race and heritage.

Selma to Montgomery: Walking Towards A Beloved Community Pilgrimage Route | Photo Credit: Katie Archibald-Woodward

Trip Leaders

The Selma to Montgomery Pilgrimage: Walking Towards A Beloved Community will be lead by Yadenee Hailu, Bianca Esquivel, and Michel Gribble Dates.

Yadenee Hailu is serving as the Intern Minister at Hope Unitarian Universalist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA and is a third year Master of Divinity student at Phillips Theological Seminary. She completed an ACPE accredited unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)  and walked with Heartbeat in 2018 on the Camino Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage. She studies and takes great influence from Mysticism, Zen Buddhism, psychology, and the magic of music and dancing. Rooted in Love, she is ready to engage conversations, learn, and transform together.


Bianca Esquivel lives, works, and plays in Austin, Texas where she currently serves full-time as a Senior Family Services Coordinator with Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. She is a certified yoga instructor and spiritual director. She was a Heartbeat pilgrim in 2017 on Camino Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage and walked with Heartbeat again in 2018 as an apprentice leader. Bianca’s passions and hobbies are rooted in service, radical compassion, holistic health and wellness, spirituality, and care for people and the planet.


Michel Gribble Dates is a student at the intersection of the spirituality of life and the science of life.  She is the creator of Ombrella, an organization helping people recalibrate their lives to love God and their neighbor as themselves through spiritual practices, active social justice and attuning their daily rituals to how our physiologies were created to thrive.  Her aim is to be a conduit for healing. Michel’s first walking pilgrimage was with Heartbeat on their inaugural Camino Interfaith Peace Pilgrimage in 2014. She hasn’t wanted to stop walking in community since!


Pilgrimage leader Michel Gribble Dates and friend Thomas Hampton on the Edmund Pettus Bridge while scouting the Selma to Montgomery route. | Photo credit: Katie Archibald-Woodward

Physical Expectations, Training, and Terrain

Pilgrims are required to train with a loaded pack and must be prepared to walk up to 18 miles on any given day. The majority of the walk will take place along Interstate 80, requiring participants to sometimes walk off the shoulder in grass of varying heights and denseness.

The trip leaders will work to find a pace that works for everyone, usually a fairly brisk walk. The element of a physical challenge and willingness to push through discomfort is an intentional aspect of the pilgrimage and we believe this can be an important tool in the transformation process. Sharing such an experience with others and offering or receiving support along the way can augment the positive outcomes. If pain or discomforts arise, each pilgrim will be personally responsible for expressing their needs and judging their ability to continue.

A few other details to keep in mind:

  • Our group will be expected to walk rain or shine unless dangerous conditions are present. Heavy-duty waterproof gear should be packed.
  • Access to restrooms will be minimal while walking – at times trees and shrubs may be the only available coverage.
  • Group time will be spent sitting in a circle, sometimes on the ground, for up to one hour.
  • Each participant will be required to carry food, water, and any other personal supplies needed during the day while walking.

Cost and Application Process

There is a $10 application fee, and you must be at least 18 years of age for the entirety of the event to be considered. Those who wish to apply must complete the online application and have a mentor, teacher, or spiritual leader complete an online reference form by January 5, 2019. 

Please have medical history information available for filling out the application to help us ensure that selected participants are physically and mentally able to complete this pilgrimage. Please be aware that the co-leaders of this trip practice spiritual accompaniment, have experience leading wilderness trips, and are certified in First Aid, but are not medical or mental health professionals. A brief phone interview is also required once the application is submitted. There is space for 9 participants and applicants will be notified of their status by January 18, 2019, or before. All selected participants will be required to provide proof of insurance and emergency contact information and sign Heartbeat’s Release and Indemnification Waiver and purchase travel insurance (if not included in current policy).

The cost of this pilgrimage is $750 and scholarship funds are available for those with limited income. The registration fee covers meals, lodging, guided walking, and program.

Scholarships are available for those with limited income. There are two scholarship options:

  • A full scholarship award of $700, and recipients will be required to pay the remaining registration fee of $50
  • A partial scholarship award of $400, and recipients will be required to pay the remaining registration fee of $350

Additional costs:

  • Travel to and from starting/ending point in Atlanta, GA
  • Necessary gear to complete packing list (see below)
  • Travel insurance

Pilgrimage leader Michel Gribble Dates and friend Thomas Hampton on the Beloved Community Pilgrimage route | Photo credit: Katie Archibald-Woodward

Packing list

*Please be mindful that the packing list includes what you will be wearing (for instance, you will wear one pair of socks and pack two— three total). This list may also be updated.

  • Socks (3) light wool for hiking
  • Sock liner (3) prevents blisters (optional)
  • Underwear (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Comfortable sports bra (2)
  • Shorts (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Pants (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Shirts (2) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Long sleeve shirt (1) lightweight, quick dry (mostly poly/nylon fabric)
  • Sweater (1) (fleece or wool)
  • Comfortable clothes/pajamas (to wear in evenings)
  • Bandana
  • Lightweight hiking shoes
  • Light sandal or flip flops (to wear in evenings)
  • Rain jacket (WATERPROOF)
  • Wool beanie/hat
  • Moleskin (or other blister treatment)
  • Earplugs
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush
  • Laundry detergent (powder, small packet, or small bottle of concentrate like Dr. Bronner’s)
  • Toothpaste (small tube)
  • Soap (small all purpose bar for body and hair, if possible)
  • Pain reliever (Ibuprofen and/or Tylenol)
  • Water bottle (at least 900ml/32oz)
    • If you drink a lot of water, you might want to consider a hydration pack. If you’ve never used one before,  here’s an article from REI to help you choose!
  • 5 safety pins (for hanging clothes to dry)
  • Plastic plate, fork, and spoon
  • Hiking towel (small quick dry)
  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Backpack
  • Journal
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera phone, charger, and waterproof container (ziplock bag can be sufficient)
  • Small pocket knife (see TSA regulations if transporting knife in carry-on luggage)
  • Feminine Products
    • Having your period on a trip like this can be a pain, but here are some ideas that have helped us in the past. Here’s an article from REI for general advice about having your period while backpacking.
      • Try a menstrual cup, like the Diva Cup or MeLuna It’s sustainable, eco-friendly, and typically only needs to be emptied every 12 hours. So you can wear it all day on the route and not worry! If you have never used a menstrual cup before, we highly recommend trying it during at least one or two cycles prior to be on this pilgrimage.
      • If a menstrual cup is not for you, that’s cool! But please keep in mind that you will need to carry out any waste while out on the route (there will be access to trash cans/bathrooms each evening but they might be few and far between during the day). Zip-top bags are the best way to carry out used tampons, pads, and toilet paper to contain odors. (Tip: To further help with odor control, include a dry tea bag or ground coffee.)
  • Feminine Urinary Device (like this one at REI)
    • Optional. If you do opt for one and have not used it before, we recommend practicing first! Try practicing in the shower with and without clothes on.

Cancellation policy

Registration fees are nonrefundable unless another participant is able to fill a cancelation.