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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Walking the path of change

Emerald.JPG An update from Emerald, a senior studio art major:

“You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”

As I read those words on the poster, I began to reflect on my experience on this trip. It’s hard to put into words just how amazing and life-altering this trip has been for me. Having the opportunity to hear the many untold stories from people who lived in a time of unjust laws and harsh treatment was a good experience as well as a sad one.

Being able to witness the stories of those who proudly fought for equality saddens me only because many of their stories go untold. Many in my generation do not know the other civil rights leaders and groups like the foot soldiers in Alabama or Medgar Evers or the three men who lost their lives in Philadelphia, Mississippi, trying to help blacks have the same rights to vote.

I have been to eight cities this week and have learned so much history. The greatest words I heard came from our many guest speakers. When our speakers were asked why they fought for equality and justice for all, without hesitation they said, “I did it for you.” They fought for the generations that would come after them so that we could live without limitations.

The other day, the group’s reflection conversation led to the discussion of how committed the people who lived in the civil rights movement were to ensure that life would get better for all if they continued to fight for rights. The group was later asked, what are we willing to commit to in today’s society to continue the fight for complete equality?

I did not say anything that day, because I was not sure. However, today I feel that the biggest committment I could make is telling everyone what I witnessed on this trip. Telling the stories of the people I have met and showing their faces from the photos I have with them. This experience has changed me and I am ready to walk on the path of change, and maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference, like those before me.

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