Friday, April 16, 2010

Foot Soldiers

So it has been a couple weeks since the trip and I am still inspired. Its as if the people that attended the trip are in some kind of fraternity that no one can really understand. I see them on the quad and we speak and share a laugh. This is crazy because before we would pass each other by without even the slightest desire to talk to that person. I think that was the main thing that I garnered the most from this trip, the ability to bond with those totally unlike me, all different cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles. We learned history and made it applicable to our day and age.

Tolerance, respect, love are messages that we took from the civil rights movement of the past and are still needed in our struggles today. This trip has truly inspired me to be a better person and to cherish the opportunities that were afforded to me only because of the sacrifices of others. Before planning this trip I must admit I had a one dimensional view of the civil rights movement, slavery, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, KKK, and then all of a sudden blacks and white people were allowed to interact with each other. This was what I was taught in school, and what I saw on T.V. But through researching for and going on this trip I gained a new understanding of what a real hero was. As Joanne Bland said the “foot soldiers” where the real ones that brought about most of the change. It was people like Mary Louise Smith, Pastor and Mrs. Gratze, Emmitt Till and Sammy Younge Jr. just to name a bring few that really sacrificed to bring about the change that we see.

With that being said my favorite parts of the trip were the parts that really emphasized the part that “regular” people played in the civil rights movement. Such as the meeting with the “History Makers” those regular people that were called to do extraordinary things. I remember Mary Louise Smith- Ware, said she didn’t stay on that bus that bus to be some sort of activist, she did it because she was angry and tired of being treated as less than human. I also remember when I was talking to Pastor and Mrs. Gratze they said they did what they thought was the right thing to do and didn’t care that their position as white citizens would be jeopardized. People like Emmitt Till and Sammy Younge Jr. actually lost their lives for this cause, which is the ultimate sacrifice. I think that those who lost their lives in the movement would be happy to know that they were memorialized at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial. It pays homage to not only those who were well known but also those who were forgotten or overlooked.

But I just want to say that I am so happy that I went on this trip I gained a new understanding of how much power I have. You don’t have to be some grand orator or some charismatic figure, you have to be yourself and do what feels right that is what the foot soldiers of the movement did. I think all of those people who perished since the struggle would be happy to see a group like ours. Because in some way or another their actions impacted all of our lives no matter what race.I’m sooo happy I went!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Teranika's Post

Teranika Campbell asked me to post this for her:

When I returned to my dorm room after the coach bus departed, I dropped my luggage on the floor and flopped on my bed. I held on to a feeling that initially was a difficult for me to capture. Shortly, after trying to put my fingers on the feeling I called my father. Through conversation, I was able to reflect on what the trip meant to me. I voiced to my father how proud I was of my activists endurance and strength to obtain Civil Rights. I was in complete awe! In just a week my mind went into almost an overdrive of information and thought.

I did not know where to start with my father, as I loquaciously started a sentence and jumped to another topic about the trip. What still stood out to me and still holds presence is no other than, Ms. Bland. She personally inspired me. I doubt I will ever forget her, due to the impact she has had in obtaining civil rights in her community. When she picked up the rock, it was tangible evidence that evoking change is as real as the pavement we walk on.

I was moved during the tour of the Alabama State Capital. I was able to validate that African-American history is American history. It is a silly thought to detach African-American History from mainstream culture, as our heritage is deeply rooted and influential in American History. At the Arkansas State Capital the tour guide mentioned how uneducated blacks help to construct the capital, specifically the stairwell. African- Americans literally did build America, and is not something that can be deterred or doubted by time, as the stairwell is still standing.

Motivation. Hope. Appreciation. Simply put, three words that describe how I feel about the Pilgrimage. I will continue to inspire other students to attend the trip, as it has greatly been a life-changing, and mind-empowering experience.


--
Teranika L. Campbell
University of Illinois
College of Nursing, Junior
Women of Color Organization Member
Resident Advisor

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Musings

Dear reader,

Before I elect to put in words the emotions, sights and smells of the week I spent during the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, you shan't be spared from a brief introduction. :D My name is Victor Hong and I am an international student from Malaysia who is pursuing his studies here at the University of Illinois. I have had a hellish semester thus far, and upon hearing that the University Housing was organizing a trip to the South, I seized the opportunity on what i thought would be a perfect escapade to revitalize from the arduous academics. At that point of time it did not quite matter to me regarding the theme of the trip; I just wanted my well deserved rest and an opportunity to travel to the Southern States.

I got a little more than I bargained for.

Before arriving in the States, I have had a decent exposure to the historical background of this great country. However, after listening to the accounts of people from the Civil Rights Movement back in the 50's and 60's, it was very evident, that the sources in which I had used to learn about American History, was falling short in its actual depiction. The racial bigotry and hipocrisy that existed for centuries was seldom mentioned in the books I read, hardly highlighted at all. To my horror, it seemed that racism could drive people to perform incredibly inhumane, heinous and unbelievable travesties in the past. How is it possible, that the mere difference in skin tone, could drive man to perform such acts of reckless hate?

However, not all in the trip was doom and gloom. Despite the extreme circumstances and oppression that beset the African American population during times of racism and segregation, notable figures rose to fight against this system. Dr. Martin Luther King was quite a central figure throughout our entire trip. Yes, I assume you would associate Dr. King with civil disobedience and you most probably have heard of his speech "I Have A Dream".

Though his speeches exemplified nerves of steel and an indomitable will to convince his supporters to triumph over their adversities, Dr. King was quite uniquely different when he was not speaking into the microphone addressing thousands of people. When I spoke to Reverend Kyles (he was with Dr. King when Dr. King was shot at the Loraine Motel in Tennessee), Dr. King was no different than you and I as a person. He lived in constant fear for his own life as well as that of his family's. He had his own personal issues to be worried about, and to bring more burden to his shoulders, he had the weight of the pressure of his followers who were hoping his efforts would bring them a better future. Yet despite the atrocities that were oppressing his people and the immense pressure on his life, Dr. King never incited his followers to commit acts of violence to achieve equality. He could have blamed the defunct laws of segregation that beset his people and choose the easy way out by using physical violence to force matters. Instead, he chose not to be a victim of his circumstance but by becoming the master of his own fate by not letting the extreme circumstances around him dictate his actions and utilizing his influence and democracy to effect a change within society.

Initially this was a trip that was intended for me to go sight-seeing and to recharge my batteries.

At the end of the trip, I came back more exhausted than I had before I left for the trip. I did not get to see much sight-seeing (January please dont kill me!), but I did strengthen my moral fiber, made wonderful friends and have now traveled to more States than my American roommate. (my roommate is just embarrassed of the fact that I have seen more of America than he has despite him being an American citizen)

I hope you enjoyed reading this. The trip had a very profound effect on me and I would highly encourage you to get on this trip if you can! It's truly an experience like no other.

Warmest regards,
Victor






Sunday, April 4, 2010

What a life changing experience


I'm so glad that I chose to spend my spring break learning and embracing my history. So many people faught, died, and sacrificed for the opportunities that I have today. We are living the dream the Dr. King once had. This trip motivated me to be the best in everything that I do. We come so far but we still have a long way to go. I have much work to do in school, on campus, in my community, in church, etc.
This trip has reminded me of the quote that I live by and that quote is "To whom much is given, much is required ". We're standing on the shoulders of many of our ancestors. I know that I am making them proud.