Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2010

During Spring Break 2010, students, faculty and staff are taking an eight-day bus ride to the American South’s civil rights landmarks, with stops in Little Rock, Arkansas; Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson and Oxford, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. They will be led by Ray Jordan of the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life; Dennis Simon, associate professor of political science in Dedman College; and junior Linwood Fields, a political science and English major who participated in the 2009 pilgrimage.

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Between fear and peace

Bethany.jpg An update from Bethany, a sophomore political science major:

No words can explain the past couple of days with my new 30-some odd friends. For once in my life, I am left full of emotions, but I remain incapable of identifying what I’m feeling.

Since our departure we have ventured through Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi, discovering the dark gloomy past of some of these frozen-in-time towns. As we traveled through unchartered lands, I was thrust back into the unknowing that plagued the ’50s and ’60s. Nothing was unchanged. The forest that lined the streets was crying out to me with the voices of those who disappeared while seeking refuge from evil. Chills and uncertainty have become commonplace, but peace is never too far off.

Today as we headed to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, my body became overwhelmed with discomfort. For we had just finished watching “Murder in Mississippi,” and I knew what horrors had happened on the same road we traveled. I was shaken. I could just imagine how scared the three young men would have been. There was no protection, no safe haven.

As we stepped into the church I was immediately overtaken with peace. The residents and mayor of Philadelphia had such calmness about them that it began to radiate throughout the room.

This has been the case throughout the trip. The people in each town have embraced us with such hospitality. The sense of community, unity and hope has been prevalent. The history that they shared has been life-changing, and I will never be the same again. It was people who were my age and many times younger who changed America forever. It was their drive and persistence for a better future that made them put everything on the line for you and me.

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