Wednesday, March 26, 2014

AFRO 298: Day 1 at the National Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, NC

            Day 1 was a pretty reflective day. It gave me so much new insight to the Civil Rights era that I do not recall running across or learning in the classroom. The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is one place that I have enjoyed on our journey during the trip. There was so much information on the walls and reenactments that made me feel as though I was apart of the Civil Rights era. Being able to experience walking through a reenactment of the F.W. Woolworth Diner where the Lunch Counter Sit-In was very powerful. Four Black male students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College came into the diner one day and wanted to be served by White servers. The White servers did not serve the Black students from North Carolina A&T and continued sitting at the counter day after day doing homework and preoccupying space to bring awareness to the community of what was occurring. When I first thought of them doing this, I asked myself, “Well, what about the summer?” It turns out they already had that planned. During the summer, Black students from the community’s high school would come to F.W. Woolworth Diner to take the place of the North Carolina A&T students mocking them by doing schoolwork and demanding to be served. This movement grew larger and larger until one day, White people became fed up and stopped giving their service to F.W. Woolworth ending in the victory going for the 4 Black male students from North Carolina A&T eventually being served and bringing the awareness they wanted in the Greensboro, North Carolina community, which is where the original diner was located. It felt great being able to walk through the diner and watching the scenario of what occurred during this time period. It was like a determination booster to continue making a difference within my college community at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign being a STRONG African-American male on a Predominately White Institution (PWI).
            I was more touched by the image of the inside of a bus in the south that segregated Blacks and Whites. It was the first time I was able to truly interpret anything in the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. When asked to look at this image the first time, I had a look of “this man is asking me to look for something that I didn’t know existed on a bus back then.” It wasn't until I looked up to see two different types of straps that were used to support bus passengers that had to stand up if there were not enough seats. The ones towards the front appeared to be white from the black and white blown up image on the wall that was in the shape of a circle or a ring that gymnastics members use to perform flips. These white rings would provide support to bus passengers that were White at the time. Looking towards the back of the bus, I noticed there was a huge difference in supporting Black passengers.  From what I could see, there were black or dark straps like book bag straps that hand down to adjust the length of the book bag – very thin than the straps that go over one’s shoulders. There was not much support and I would assume this would make Blacks wrap straps around their risks portraying them as being enslaved on the bus and humiliating them to a certain extent because I am sure they were embarrassed to even be on the bus falling and tripping everywhere with every turn and stop of the white driver.

            A bright red with white letters that read, “Coca Cola” on a vending machine was pointed out to me as well as we moved through the exhibit. I was asked what stood out to me and I noticed that one soda at the time was $0.10 cents. When I was asked what else I noticed about the machine, I gave the same response as I did previously to the bus standing support. Someone pointed out that on the other side of the Coca Cola Machine, the soda cost $0.05 cent, $0.05 cent cheaper than it did on the other side. Analyzing the machine before the tour guide could even get words out, I predicted that the machine with the lesser value Coca Cola was for Whites at the time, and the greater value Coca Cola was for Black which was VERY NEW to me. This is something I felt should have been expressed in history textbooks during this time. This would have given me more of a sense of how petty, unequal, and unfair it was to charge someone for the same beverage, in the same machine for different prices. It somewhat defeats the purpose. I was more disgusted at the fact that Coca Cola would even sell soda from a two-door machine with different prices. What does this say about their company’s values, how they value their customers at the time, equality, and segregation? I could not believe that Coca Cola, a major food and beverage company in today’s society promoted the advancement of segregation as if White’s money was different from Black’s money as if it all wasn’t going to the same coin dispenser tray in the machine.
            Between the two experiences that I shared previously in addition to seeing the Ku Klux Klan outfit and hearing about all that they did to Blacks back during the late 1950s and early 1960s, I was pretty upset from the first site, on the first day. I would not say I was upset, but more so uncomfortable. Two scenarios that were very new to me that were not published in textbooks that would have helped me obtain a better sense of this era failed me to some degree, but helped me see 12 years later (from the second grade to my second year of college at The University of Illinois) how small actions such as food or beverage for survival, materials for protection, and other objects that add value of security and survival in people’s lives at the time promoted segregation and hit many Black people’s pockets hard as they already were uneducated and did not have an abundant estimated gross income. These scenarios have refreshed my memory as to why it is important to give up my seat for senior citizens disabled persons on a bus and hold on to the strap to support myself standing up and why it is important to work hard to when investing in beverage vending machines in today’s society without having to worry about there being different prices based one the color of my skin or risking my life because food is a necessity that should be convenient, price-wise, for everyone. It’s a sad feeling that my ancestors, grandparents, and heck even my parents as my father was born in 1959 in Alabama had to experience this but it is a reminder to always have a voice and be an ally as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say himself, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Day 1…was insightful and a huge bite to digest.

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