Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2014

2014 marks the 10th Anniversary of the SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The eight-day bus journey takes students, faculty and staff to visit the American South’s civil rights landmarks and leaders in the movement. The group’s stops include Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor; the campus of Ole Miss in Oxford; and the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated.

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Thank you to the nameless

An update from Rahfin, a junior majoring in economics, political science, public policy and religious studies, and minoring in mathematics: 

When I first started thinking and writing about migration, I was inspired by my own family’s migration story. My father, who spent years washing dishes to get through school, and my mother, who sacrificed her own education to support the family, gave me a chance that millions didn’t have. And, to a large extent, my parents have taken advantage of America’s strong institutions. Their skills were rewarded in the free market economy. Their children were given access to strong public schools and civil society groups. Their dreams — and their sacrifices — paid off.

I have often credited the success of my parents to their ambition and hard work. Today, South Asians, like my parents, are among the most educated and richest groups in America. It has been easy to believe that my parents and millions of others like them have lifted themselves — by the bootstraps, if you will — to economic and social success.

But I never asked the more important question. Millions of people in this country worked hard — and continue to work hard — with no hope of a better tomorrow. Why was the story different for my parents?

On Sunday, SMU civil rights pilgrims were fortunate to participate in the 49th annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Ala., which seeks to “preserve, commemorate, educate, and raise awareness about the Voting Rights Movement.” It honors the legacy of voting rights marchers who were violently confronted at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, a day now known to the world as Bloody Sunday.

It was the blood, sweat and tears — but more importantly the courage — of all the foot soldiers who participated in the civil rights movement that make my reality today possible. Without the civil rights movement, my migration story would have never occurred. The success I reap today is because of the sacrifice of so many on an earlier day.

We often forget to thank those who came before us — those that made today possible. I, and the pilgrims on this journey through the Deep South, thank the nameless and the faceless. We thank those that pushed America to become a more inclusive society. We thank those that paved the way for future civil and human rights movements. In the words of the late Michael Crichton, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”

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