SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2013

During spring break 2013, students, faculty and staff are taking a nine-day bus ride through the American South to visit civil rights landmarks and leaders in the movement. Political Science Professor Dennis Simon leads the pilgrimage with the SMU Chaplain’s Office.

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Choosing nonviolence

An update from Hiba, a junior majoring in biochemistry and human rights with a minor in Arabic:

Growing up takes patience with yourself and with those around you.

Selma, Alabama, is a quaint old town that values its history. It is a place where relics of the past stare at you and say “do not forget our history”: you can see the divide between the tiny rickety houses where African-Americans lived on one side of railroad and the beautiful antebellum houses of the white people on the other side. While driving around, you will see old theaters with a blacks-only entrance at the side and a county courthouse that you might associate with great protests and riots. Most important and most unique, you will see these preserved churches that shine as beacons of progress and change in an otherwise unchanging town.

On March 7, 1965, over 600 people marched on foot from Selma to Montgomery to protest African-American exclusion from the electoral process and the unjust death of Jimmie Lee Jackson – an African-American who had been killed while protecting his 82-year-old-grandfather at another protest. The marchers made it as far as Edmund Pettus Bridge (still in Selma) before state and local police attacked. Tear gas was in the air and the stain of blood on the ground as people were clubbed to death by local police; there was the sound of bones breaking as police horses trampled over marchers, and the general sense of panic as marchers saw the limp bodies of friends on the ground…

Today, at the Tabernacle Baptist Church (the site of the first mass Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee meeting in Selma), I met a woman who explained all this hate and hurt that she experienced as one of the foot soldiers on that Bloody Sunday. Despite all of it, she decided to practice nonviolence because “she was growing up.”

I hope I can grow up that strong one day.

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