Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

An eye-opening spring break experience

Another landmark the group visited was the Brown Chapel where Martin Luther King Jr. preached at. In front of the Chapel is also a monument dedicated to King. Photo by Andrew Smith.

As we approached thirty hours total bus travel, I realized that our week had come to an end and that the people I had spent the last week hanging around with, talking with and growing with were all going to head in their own directions.  Although we were parting in a physical sense, our minds have a similar quest to bring about unity, equality and understanding in the Whitewater community.

The trip covered many cities significant in the civil rights movement, including Cincinnati, Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala., Selma, Ala., and Memphis, Tenn.  Each city offered its own piece to the puzzle that was the legacy of the Civil Rights Spring Break Tour 2011.

This puzzle was more than just an educational opportunity; it was an emotional journey, a life-changing opportunity and an eye-opening experience of which I am, and will be, eternally grateful.

One of my favorite pieces of this puzzle was the Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church, which we visited in Montgomery. This was where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached as a senior pastor, held the first meetings for the bus boycott, was a powerful member of the community, and essentially began his role in the civil rights movement. To me, this was a powerful place.

Another powerful stop on our tour was the Southern Poverty Law Center, where we learned in a good amount of detail that the battle for civil rights and equal opportunity is not over.  The problem now is that discrimination is less tangible; we are not dealing with blatantly segregated schools, bubblers or waiting rooms.  We are dealing with covert racism. This was quite eye-opening. We found out there are more than 300,000 people involved in the white nationalists, and a 66 percent increase in the number of people involved in radical racist groups. There is even a sect of the KKK in Madison.

We also visited the Parsonage Museum, which is where King lived when he was senior pastor at the church. Many threats were made toward him and his family during his time here.

Well-spoken teacher and National Education Association member Shirley Cherry made us feel like we were reliving a part of history as she took us on a journey into the daily life of King.

When we reached the kitchen, she told us the story of when King had just received a threatening phone call saying that if he wasn’t out of town in three days, his house would be bombed.

It was at this point that King began to question, and doubt, his direction. He sat down at the table with a hot cup of coffee and prayed, asking for guidance. An inner voice told him that this was what he ought to be doing, which reassured him. She painted this mental image so well that many in our group began to tear up as she touched us with her moving story.

We also talked to someone else who knew King, Joann Bland. She walked across the bridge in Selma, had been a civil rights activist from the time she was eight years old, and was arrested numerous times before the age of 13.

The first place we visited with Mrs. Bland was Brown Chapel, where a civil rights movement monument is dedicated to King.  On this monument are the words “I had a dream.” Mrs. Bland asked us, “What do you think is wrong with this?” We told her King said, “I have a dream.”

That is precisely it; although we have made grand strides in the equality of humanity, we have much further to travel on this journey.

We also spoke to a Rev. Grets, 82, who was a close friend of King. Grets helped instill in us the idea that inequalities and injustices are less visible today. He also talked about RACE, which stands for Respect All Cultures Equally, and how that mentality can and should be applied to every human being.

I feel this trip really put it in our minds that we are the generation with the responsibility to take the reins, grab the bull by the horns, and guide the movement. The torch will be passed. Will you be there to accept it, or will you just ignore the inequalities and injustices that exist?

Through our travels we discovered a lot about each other, we made friends on seven-hour bus rides, we talked, discussed and argued about all sorts of topics.

Having end of the day discussions helped reiterate the knowledge that we had learned and observed each day. Through these group experiences we were able to see life from a different perspective and form new friendships as we studied and experienced the history of civil rights.

I hope that with this experience and the knowledge we have gained, we can continue to lead the civil rights movement still active today through advocacy, raising awareness and community service that will bring lasting unity to the Whitewater community.

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Founded 1901
An eye-opening spring break experience