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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Welcome to Selma

Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2011-Casondra in SelmaAn update from Casondra, a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program:

We were riding the bus, and all of the pilgrims were told that our first stop was a museum in downtown Selma. Then, amazingly, Minnijean Brown boarded our bus! One of the Little Rock Nine was in my presence and it was like being in a room with a rock star! (I love these surprises on our trip!) It is amazing the civil rights celebrities whom we are able to see and hear their firsthand accounts!

She had such a good attitude about today (not about the problems, but how to look upon the past), but I think one thing she said that affected me personally was that she was able to forgive herself for forgetting the awful things that happened to her. The malice with which the children treated her and the others was ridiculous. And what she says is true. The media never reported how many times soup was dumped on her, but they only reported when she dumped the soup on the boy and she was expelled. There is so much history that has been left unwritten. I know on this trip I am learning more than any book can teach me.

Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2011-Selma civil rights muralMeeting Miss Bland was like having my granny back. You listened and you respected her for her life, her maturity. I loved the walking tour and the rock. Miss Bland took us to the starting ground of the marches that went to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We each picked up a rock that the leaders stood on and it showed me that all of these heroes and she-roes were ordinary people who kept going in the face of danger.

Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2011-Edmund Pettus BridgeWhen Miss Bland told us about her walk on the bridge on Bloody Sunday, it was hard to think of children in the march getting trampled and the sheer brutality of the police. I know this brutality existed, but it still takes me aback every time I hear of it. I’ve been raised to respect and honor the police and people who work for our government, but it’s only through recent times that this can be true for all Americans (and of course I’m being way too broad…I’m sure governmental racism still exists somewhere in America).

But on Bloody Sunday, the screaming, the tear gas…how do you treat humanity like that? We all have our differences, and I understand the institutionalization of the innermost feelings of white Southerners then, but still…how do you hurt a child? Of any color or origin?

Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2011-Viola Liuzzo memorial markerCivil Rights Pilgrimage 2011-Viola Liuzzo painting on civil rights muralOn the way to Montgomery we stopped at Viola’s memorial. It’s just so incomprehensible for me to think of such hatred that the Klan would kill her for being a good person. She looked into her heart and helped people who were working hard and needed a ride back to Montgomery from the march in Selma. She and so many others were killed and hurt just because they were following their moral code.

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