Sometimes Things Work Out Even  Better Than Expected by Cephus Moore

I have wanted to visit the Memorial for Peace and Justice ever since I attended a presentation by Bryan Stevenson in Pittsburgh five years ago.  But unfortunately, I thought, there were two other scheduled visits prior to visiting the Memorial.  If I am being honest, I have to admit to myself that I was not looking forward to these activities because I was so focused on visiting the Monument to Lynching (as some call it) that I had heard so much about.  But I would soon change my opinion upon visiting the Legacy Museum and the Mothers of Gynecology Monument.

When our bus arrived in front of the Legacy Museum, my expectations were pretty low as I was anticipating going to the Memorial for Peace and Justice later in the day.  However, as soon as I entered the first exhibit of the Legacy Museum, I found myself transfixed.  This museum offered a variety of multi-media presentations; sleek, interactive elements; custom designed art installations, and more traditional museum fare.  What stood out to me was how well all these components were seamlessly blended together and how they worked in concert in order to convey important, but often overlooked information about American history.  And, it also struck me that perhaps the central message of the museum was that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration should have more of a central role in the telling of the American story.  I found that the museum presents the arguments supporting this central idea with the precision of a legal defense.  This isn’t surprising, considering that Bryan Stevenson is the museums creator. 

Although much of the museum’s content is heavy and difficult, the museum strikes an optimistic tone at the end, encouraging the visitors to continue fighting for justice.

Although I was most looking forward to the Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Legacy Museum has become one of the highlights of the trip so far for me.  So, I am so glad this was included in the tour.  I also found the visit to the Mothers of Gynecology to be very meaningful as well, plus the experience of meeting the monument’s creator, Michelle Browder.  Meeting the artist and hearing first-hand about her inspiration and intentions with regard to her work was an experience that I will not soon forget.

Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were unable to actually visit the Memorial for Peace and Justice in the end.  I had wanted to visit there in order to pay my respects in person to the U.S. citizens who died unjustly at the hands of their fellow American citizens without having been tried.  I feel it is my duty as an American, and as an African American especially.  My desire to attend this memorial factored heavily into my decision to apply for this program. 

Although I was unable to spend time at the Monument to Lynching, I found the section dedicated to lynching in the Legacy Museum to be quite informative.  After spending time in this section, I learned that many of the victims of lynching lost their lives for something as small as not showing enough deference or for having the audacity to be too successful in the eyes of their fellow white citizens.  The fact that these extrajudicial killings were seen as entertainment by the authors of the violence and by many of the assembled, who chose memorialize the heinous acts by posing in photographs; making postcards, etc. Visiting this section of the museum only increased my desire to honor these deceased individuals with my time and attention. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to pay my respects to these departed individuals whom I consider to be martyrs.  I am appreciative of the fact that someone has made such a strong effort to give these individuals the dignity and remembrance they deserve in a country that seems all too ready to forget them.

The topics we are exploring on this trip have relevance to my work in the classroom as a French and Spanish teacher, but I also have a personal interest in exploring these topics.  I am aware that this history has relevance to me in my capacity as French and Spanish teacher, but I also have a very personal connection to this particular aspect of history.  I also want to honor the many individuals whose actions and sacrifices that gave me the many rights and privileges, known and unknown, I enjoy today.  I feel I can do this by taking the time to learn as much as I can about them. 

During the trip, I have learned so much from other participants, whom I find very knowledgeable and helpful.  Another highlight of the trip is interacting with incredible individuals such as, Charles Person and Joanna Bland, whose activism helped to secure the rights and privileges I benefit from presently.  I am thankful to Classroom without Borders for affording me this incredible opportunity.  I am also very grateful to the organizers of the trip, Kate and Dr. Naragon, whose efforts have made this an unforgettable experience.

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