Thursday, March 29, 2012

Overall Experience

Now that's it's been almost a week since the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, I can't help but miss everything! I'm so happy that I decided to go! Every stop was so great! We went from Ebenezer in Atlanta to the panel discussion in Montgomery to marching across the bridge in Selma to 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham to Central High in Little Rock to Lorraine Motel in Memphis! With so much more in between! The experience was priceless!
I've attached my pictures from the trip below....I made it a public album so anyone can see! Enjoy!

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2942220795483.2119448.1260111888&type=1

Monday, March 26, 2012

Group Shots

On top of the Peabody Hotel




Heifer International




16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham




Brown Chapel in Selma



Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center



Rosa Parks Museum



Ebenezer Baptist

Civil Rights Pilgramage

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage was an opportunity for students to visit sites of historic importance to the U.S. civil rights movement. During this trip, students had the opportunity to meet with individuals who were able to share a story or their personal story about this significant movement. As we all know there are many people who were affected and/or made an impact during this time but have not been able to share their story with many. Our students were given this chance to hear these stories to help them better understand the true importance of this movement. I did not realize how much this trip would have an impact on me and my values. I am a changed person because of this trip and I contribute this change to the people I met, the museums I visited, and the students who learned.

So many people sacrificed to make things better for the future and I am forever grateful and thankful for those who struggled to make a difference so that I can be treated fairly/equally. We visited Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, Little Rock and Memphis and each place gave me a new insight about this movement but I mostly enjoyed Montgomery and Birmingham. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was not the only person who made a difference during this era but he was the "face" for most of the movement. I continue to wonder what his thoughts were. Did he know that his words, steps, etc would change society (generally speaking) forever? Did he truly know how great of a person he was? I could go on and on about the questions I have that will never be answered but I won't.

In one of the museums I saw a photo of his father and mother taken during the funeral and that was the first time I had seen an image of them. Never had I thought about how his death affected them. Of course we think about his wife and children but I personally hadn't thought of his parents or siblings. Speaking of his siblings, it was truly awesome to hear his sister, Dr. Christine King-Farris speak at church and then to take a photo with her after the service...a highlight for me!

This trip was will leave a lasting impression on me and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to go with January Boten and the 46 students. I am in higher education because I want students to learn outside of the classroom and this trip taught students so much more than I had ever imagined and hopefully, they will use what they have learned to become a person and stand up for equality for all.


This. Trip. Was. AMAZING!!! If you have never heard of the U.S's Civil Rights struggle I urge you sign up next year. If you feel like you know all there is to know about the Civil Right's Movement I encourage you to go because you are guaranteed to learn something new. Many times people think the Civil Rights movement was just for African Americans but in reality it served to break the barriers of segregation and inequality for other people.  


One of the many events that struck a chord was the Voting Rights Museum. It told the stories of people who are not seen in a large majority of history books across the nation.  It told the story of people who marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 to protest the lack of voting rights. During this time, regulations and stipulations made it difficult for people to vote. You had to guess how many jelly beans or cotton balls were in a jar or complete a literacy test. The marches and protests that occurred during this time period paved the way for the rights we need  to hold dear today.  One of the many lessons I learned on this trip is to VOTE. If you are of age and a citizen of this country YOU NEED TO VOTE! You may feel as though your vote does not matter, but your vote can be the deciding one. Many people have sacrificed and died for this cause so do not take this right lightly. 
Finally I figured out how to get on this blog! We did have a great time~ And we all came back on campus safely!!! I will miss everyone!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snapshots...Day 8

Friday, March 23, 2012
University of Illinois Civil Rights Pilgrimage - Day 8
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas


Central HS National Park & School








Heifer Intentional Headquarters










William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library






Little Rock River Walk, along the Arkansas River








Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snapshots...Day 6

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
University of Illinois Civil Rights Pilgrimage - Day 6
Location: Birmingham, Alabama




At the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute


At the 16th Street Baptist Church









Snapshots...Day 5

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
University of Illinois Civil Rights Pilgrimage - Day 5
Location: Selma, Alabama

The Edmund Pettus Bridge - Site of Bloody Sunday March, Selma, AL



Selma Civil Rights Institute




George Washington Carver Homes, walking tour by Coach.


Historical Slavery Reenactment




Selma Civil Rights Panel




Welcome to Birmingham, Alabama!



Pictures at Five Points, after a great dinner






History Makers @ United Evangelical Lutheran Curch (Montgomery)

These women were beyond belief. The accounts of historical times in U.S history was incredible. Learning about the Civil Rights Movement through oral histories from the actual people that experienced it is unlike any textbook I have ever read. There conviction, determination, fiesty-ness, and inability to give up is unbelieveable. I felt like I was in the middle of a conversation amongst my family members. They were so friendly and giving which made me feel welcomed and wanted to hear every word they said. I can't explain this event much more because you just had to be there to experience the gift of their words.

Alabama State Capitol

This place was especially great because it was the place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a speech in front of 250,000 people. An interesting fact that I learned was that Dr. King Jr. was not exactly on the capitol when he gave his speech, but rather in front of the capitol steps because he would have been shot by troopers if he stepped on the stairs. This was very intrigiuing to me because I couldn't find the problem with King stepping on the stairs of the building. He wouldn't have hurt anyone, but I guess the hatred was so deep that even that movement would have been too much for the White residents to take. Inside the building there was a bust of a woman (I forgot her name) that improved the mental health facilities in the town of Montgomery. This was a great achievement, but it was very strange that MLK did not receive any recognition for his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. This again, showcased the inequality in the 1960s, as well as in contemporary times.

Southern Povery Law Center

To begin I believed that this tour was going to be boring, but this was a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. I don't know what I expected to encounter, but I assumed that it wasn't going to be interesting or fun. I was mistaken as soon as I entered the building. The walls were papered with images of the Civil Rights Movement from "Whites Only" signs to protesters being attacked by dogs and sprayed with water hoses. This immediately caught my attention and caused me to fly to the walls to read the information. I loved that this center showcased and put a face to some of the hundreds or even thousands that were slain during the times of Civil Rights based on their want for equal rights. Of course I knew there were more people lost in the struggle than the publicized Emmitt Till, but to read the reasons they were killed and how was unbelieveable. I was sad, but proud that these individuals died for a righteous cause and also if it wasn't for them I would not have the privileges I have today and neither would any other minority in America. Once again this experience made me want to do more with my life and help others even more. I don't have to suffer the same obstacles my ancestors had to because they made sure that I didn't, but like Ma'am Joanne stated "each generation is only a puzzle piece and if we don't have all the pieces the picture is incomplete." I want to make sure the generation that comes after me will have even less things to worry about when it comes to their skin color, religion, sexual orientation etc. The center also focused on not only hate-crimes that occured during the Civil Rights Movement, but also those that exist today. The latest one that was documented happened in 2006 and this is only 6 years ago. I could believe it, but it was still a shock that we read about these things in history books just to see that they are also present in contemporary times. There were also cases that focused on nationality, sexual preference and mental capabilities. I had only heard of one of these cases in mainstream news which is ridiculous. Hate crimes like those in the past are never considered hate crimes and if so they are never publicized and made known to the masses. This frankly pisses me off and shows me that we as a nation still need to look in the mirror to see the truths that we try to sweep under the rug.

Southern Povery Law Center

To begin I believed that this tour was going to be boring, but this was a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. I don't know what I expected to encounter, but I assumed that it wasn't going to be interesting or fun. I was mistaken as soon as I entered the building. The walls were papered with images of the Civil Rights Movement from "Whites Only" signs to protesters being attacked by dogs and sprayed with water hoses. This immediately caught my attention and caused me to fly to the walls to read the information. I loved that this center showcased and put a face to some of the hundreds or even thousands that were slain during the times of Civil Rights based on their want for equal rights. Of course I knew there were more people lost in the struggle than the publicized Emmitt Till, but to read the reasons they were killed and how was unbelieveable. I was sad, but proud that these individuals died for a righteous cause and also if it wasn't for them I would not have the privileges I have today and neither would any other minority in America. Once again this experience made me want to do more with my life and help others even more. I don't have to suffer the same obstacles my ancestors had to because they made sure that I didn't, but like Ma'am Joanne stated "each generation is only a puzzle piece and if we don't have all the pieces the picture is incomplete." I want to make sure the generation that comes after me will have even less things to worry about when it comes to their skin color, religion, sexual orientation etc. The center also focused on not only hate-crimes that occured during the Civil Rights Movement, but also those that exist today. The latest one that was documented happened in 2006 and this is only 6 years ago. I could believe it, but it was still a shock that we read about these things in history books just to see that they are also present in contemporary times. There were also cases that focused on nationality, sexual preference and mental capabilities. I had only heard of one of these cases in mainstream news which is ridiculous. Hate crimes like those in the past are never considered hate crimes and if so they are never publicized and made known to the masses. This frankly pisses me off and shows me that we as a nation still need to look in the mirror to see the truths that we try to sweep under the rug.

Civil Rights Memorial

To begin, the memorial structure was beautiful. To see all the names of the fallen soldiers of the fight for equality was painful to see, but to know that they are being remembered and their stories are not being forgotten is great. Also, to know that people like Rosa Parks and Emmitt Till's mother touched this memorial and stood in the same place that I walked was unbelievable. Being that close to greatness is indescribable.

MLK Parsonage

Seeing where Dr. King Jr. lived for a brief time in his life while he was the minister of Dexter Church (I believe) was surreal. To walk in the same kitchen, living room, bedroom etc. was incredible. To know that he had an epiphany in the same kitchen I was in that pushed him to go forth with the Civil Rights Movement made me want to do more with my life. It made me look at my place in history and ask myself "What are you doing to not only better yourself, but to help your fellow peers reach there goals as well?" I whole-heartedly believed that I knew almost everything that could be known about Dr. King Jr., but this experience showed me that my textbooks could never teach me as much as the oral histories of those that knew him personally or were around him on a ono-on-one basis. I am so thankful for everyone that helped make this trip happen (s/o to January) because it has only been 3 or 4 days and we still have so much to see and if we went home today I would still deem this a more than successful trip. Viewing the window that had a bomb thrown through it and knowing that the biggest bomb did not go off, which would have surely killed Dr. King Jr., Coreeta King and their children, did not explode reinforced my faith in my Savior. It showed me that He had plans for MLK and it wasn't his time to die. Being inside the home also gave Dr. King Jr. a more humanistic appeal. Despite his last name he was always a King in my eyes. Reading about him I pictured him about 6'10'' in height because his words and the things he did in his lifetime were so monumental, but being able to understand his life as just a regular guy of a short stature made him seem even greater in my mind. His life, struggles, triumphs and accomplishments shows that despite any challenges you have to go through whatever you put your mind to and that you have a passion for can be achieved.

Wednesday


Today we ended up starting the morning by getting on the bus and heading to the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. It was really a fantastic museum with a lot of great visuals. The two that stick out in my mind are the following: a comparison of white vs. black classrooms and a comparison of mortality rates for infants. The comparison of white versus black classrooms was startling. The white classroom had an old school projector, nice desks, with different colored walls, and a nice tile floor with quality lighting. On the other hand the black classroom was filled with poor quality wooden desks, wooden floors in poor shape, dreary walls and an old chalkboard with poor lighting. It is one thing to hear about these differences but being able to see them first hand right next to each other was a startling experience and really pushes you to think about the inequalities that exist especially within the education system. The other visual that I found fascinating was the mortality rates. This visual had white crosses and black crosses sitting right next to each other. There were more black crosses then white ones showing the fact that more black infants die then white ones. This shows that there were huge divides in access to medical care, and even now there are huge divides with access to medical treatment.

Once we passed these visuals there was a room that was dimly lit with panes of glass with pictures of black people as well as white people with sounds clips of people making rude statements against the black community. In the back of this room there was a KKK robe. I am not sure what it was but there was something about this room that just gave me the chills. It was so powerful and emotional.

Then the rest of the museum was filled with a combination of more exhibits and pictures from the civil rights movement in Birmingham. No matter how many times I see the pictures of people getting sprayed by the hoses they will always upset me. I had a conversation with another one of the girls on the trip about how even though those pictures upset us there are a decent amount of people in this world that could look at those pictures and think that that is the correct thing to do, that those black people deserve to feel that pain. I cannot even being to imagine seeing a picture like that and finding joy. I see that picture and all I see is the desire for equality to the point of risking ones on personal safety.

After we finished up at the museum we headed over towards the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is the church that was bombed with the four girls that were killed. One of the interesting things I learned was that when the bomb exploded part of a stained glass window broke, it was a window with a portrait of Jesus, however the only part that broke out was his face. I thought that was very powerful. We learned all this from a man who gave us a tour of the church as well as showed us an informational movie about the church.  After that we all walked around the park that was across the street and I personally did the “Freedom Walk” which was a circular path with artistic representations of different events and occurrences from the civil rights movement. The most powerful one was where there were two black walls with metal dogs coming out of them.

Now we are headed on our way to little rock. I really enjoyed today and am really looking forward to the rest of the trip. I just can’t get over how quickly the trip is going. And I don’t even want to start thinking about all the homework I need to do before break is over.

Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery

The Rosa Parks Museum was freaking awesome!!!! I never knew the backstory of her story relating to the Civil Rights Movement. I did not know details in her life like the fact that she was not a plantiff in the case against her declaring that she went against a White person's orders. Regardless, she was still seen as the female face of the Civil Rights Movement. We spoke about the women that refused to give up there seat to a White person previoulsy before Mrs. Parks, but yet we were never introduced to them nor were they mentioned as participants in the struggle for equality on a major scale. I chalk this fact up to the fact that just like other great strides in American history Blacks always seem to be missing. As we spoke in the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Ma'am Joanne asked some of the students who did we do our elementary book reports on during Black History Month and it was sad to hear that each Black history maker mentioned from a large number of students were one of a group of only five Black greats. This was clear evidence that shows that Blacks are too often left out of history, which gives Blacks, as well as others the false sense that there are only a handful of Blacks that contributed to World History. Moving back to the Rosa Parks Museum, this shows why so many foot soldiers were left out of the textbooks that helped in the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement. Those women who defied the authority of the Whites that told them to give up their seats may not have been mentioned or well-known, but they still played a huge role just the same as Mrs. Parks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Selma

The past two days have just been wonderful. Currently, we are on the bus on the way to Birmingham. We spent the day today in Selma. We started the morning at the National Voting Rights museum. Then we had a driving tour of Selma where we learned all about the history of the city. After that we had a real southen lunch while foot soldier for freedom, Joanne Bland, spoke with us. After lunch, we participated in a slavery recreation and then a panel of Selma's Civil Rights leaders. A whole lot of learning packed into one day! It makes me think of the current practices happening in the US to try to keep people from voting.

Day Four Adventures


Day Four of the UI Civil Rights Pilgrimage offered us an amazing opportunity to further delve into events of the Civil Rights Movement. Over the past few days in Atlanta, we have learned about the generalities of the movement; focusing on the overall qualities and events. Today, we began bright and early in the morning at the Rosa Parks’ Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.  


There, we saw a good reproduction of Rosa Parks’ arrest and aftermath. The exhibit presented a lot of information and original documents from those times. We learned about the immediate aftermath for Mrs. Parks as well as the significant dates of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We even saw clips of President Clinton recognizing Rosa Parks for her efforts to begin the modern Civil Rights Movement. We were even able to take pictures with a statue of Mrs. Parks from the famous picture.


Our next site was outside the Southern Poverty Law Center fountain. We took many pictures and even a group picture (which our amazing advisor January should post) of the unique monument to those who have senselessly died in the fight for the Civil Rights Movement. Afterwards, we took a brisk walk around downtown Montgomery before heading to the home of Martin Luther King Jr and his family while he was pastor of the Dexter Street Baptist Church


We had a great tour guide who was quite knowledgeable and very personable. She gave us a great introduction and a tour. I was truly shocked at just how close we could get to the actual artifacts of the King’s home. We saw the original furniture, set up, and even the crater created by the thrown bomb during the bus boycott. It was truly a hollowed group, especially the kitchen where MLK Jr. is said to have gotten the courage to continue the fight. 



When we were finished with the tour, we ran back to the Southern Poverty Law Center for a tour of the museum. It was a great opportunity to learn more about each person’s individual story who died senselessly. After the SPLC, we visited the Alabama State Capitol Building. It was a beautiful and historic building but we all got the feeling that they were ignoring critical parts of the state’s history (eg: the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, MLK Jr, etc). We found little if no mention to these events however many displays to the building being the place where the birth of the confederacy occurred.







Our next stop was the United Evangelical Lutheran Church. There we met a good friend of January who had put together a panel of living witnesses for us. Not only did they cater us dinner but the members of the panel presented us their own individual experiences from the era. Included among our distinguished panel were individuals who had participated in the fight in Montgomery, a former pastor, a neighbor to the Kings, a close co-worker to MLK Jr. in Atlanta and the family of one of the plaintiffs whose case reversed the legality of bus segregation with the US Supreme Court. 



I don’t think I can adequately describe how amazing the presentation was. Each person combined real world memories and experiences which were inspiration, education and even humorous. I must give much thanks to them and let them know how life changing I felt the experience with. Each has lived a unique and fulfilling life and continue to be making a difference in their community; building a better world for tomorrow.