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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Civil rights movement isn’t over

An update from Jillian, a senior anthropology and human rights major:

As our trip comes to an end, I find myself very challenged by the ironic juxtaposition of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the real-time condition of the movement’s participants. During our visit at Mt. Zion Church yesterday, our guest speaker was asked what the individuals who spent great time and energy fighting for the right to vote did after they had succeeded. The answer she gave was simple, yet shocking: they went back home.

DSC_0174The current reality for those who fought and advocated for civil rights, in addition to their children, continues to be one of perpetual poverty and societal oppression. While we cannot forget about the remarkable advances and achievements of the past civil rights movement, we must recognize the need for this continual advance. It is not enough for us to assume that the movement has gone and passed when it is still very much a part of the structural inequality we have in place today.

While at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama, this week, we were reminded about the current civil rights issues in our country today. Our tour guide stressed that we must educate ourselves and learn how to sympathize and empathize with the past civil rights advances in order to apply that understanding to the pressing issues of immigrant, Muslim, and LGBT discrimination today.

Offering a visual representation of this lack of completion within the fight for total and inclusive civil rights was the fountain displayed outside of the memorial center. Constructed as a timeline of specific events, the creator purposefully left a blank space between the last event and the present day, representing the need for civil rights work and activism today.

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