Civil Rights Pilgrimage South

During Spring Break 2011, students, faculty and staff are taking an eight-day bus ride to the American South’s civil rights landmarks. Political Science Professor Dennis Simon leads the pilgrimage with SMU’s Chaplain’s Office.

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So many stories to be told

hanna.bmpAn update from Hanna, a sophomore political science and marketing major:

I do not know how to even describe my day today or where to begin. This morning we went to the Civil Rights Memorial Center, where we learned about the 40 freedom fighters who fought for their lives. I realized my own ignorance at the museum because out of the 40, I only knew about 15.

The museum was beautiful; pictures everywhere on the walls and descriptions for people to become educated. I loved the hallway to the Wall of Tolerance; the pictures dealt with current movements: Gay movements, immigration issues, Middle Eastern movements, etc. It is a hallway dedicated to our generation and the fights that need to be fought.

Mr. Jake was our tour guide today and took us all over Montgomery, including the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. The church was beautiful, and I could still feel Dr. King’s presence within the walls. I did not know whether I had chills or was cold, but I believe they were chills. I felt his warmth surrounding me. For lunch, we went to Alabama State University, a predominately African-American university. We were stared at by everyone. But everyone was welcoming and nice.

Then we were off to the Dexter Parsonage Museum, where we met Ms. Cherry. We are so fortunate to meet such amazing people. Ms. Cherry, a teacher, is so passionate about her job at the parsonage. She led our group through Dr. King’s house and described everything in a way that made us feel the King family’s presence in every room. We finished the tour with Dr. King’s kitchen, where Ms. Cherry explained the epiphany Dr. King had in that kitchen. He was told to fight for justice and righteousness from an inner voice when he began to lose hope. We were standing in the room where Dr. King was able to stand up and go on through his own strength and faith.

For dinner, we met with Reverend Graetz and Mrs. Graez and the Harris family. All four are so beautiful, I cannot describe them any other way. Beautiful inside and out. Mrs. Harris’ daughter, Dr. Montgomery, was so intelligent and willing to share her stories. She imparted a sense of wisdom and knowledge that stuck with me; it was so important to her that we learn the past in order to prevent repeating mistakes in the present. Reverend Graetz and his wife were such uplifting and positive individuals who utilized their faith to do great things and fight for the oppressed.

I became emotional during the dinner because it broke my heart that Mrs. Harris was losing her memory when she has so many great ones to share. I realized that there are so many people willing to give their stories; it’s a matter of us stepping up to open our ears to listen.

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