At the beginning of this trip I did an interview with KDKA in which I was asked “What are you hoping to get out of this trip?” My response was, “I hope to get the answer(s) to move our country forward in fighting for civil rights here in the present.” I am grateful and blessed to say I have found those answers through the institutions of learning, first hand testimonies and scholarly discussion during this past week. I’d like to share my final thoughts through a list of seventeen answers that will help us continue to fight the good fight and get into good trouble!
1. Love is the answer and a powerful weapon. (Throughout the trip I wrestled with the question of how do you manage to stay in a place of love against people who have so much hate in their heart for you. Dr. King, Coretta King, the works of Ghandi and biblical scriptures consistently reminded me to operate in the space of love to create change)
2. The people | Foot Soldiers (Foot Soldiers was an idea we were introduced to in Birmingham with the understanding that although the Civil Rights Movement had powerful leaders; it was the people who mass mobilized and fought for change. I will always think about the thousands whose names are unknown but their commitment to nonviolent resistance no matter the cost has provided me the rights and opportunities I have)
3. Students and Children ( It’s the youth of this moment that truly allowed us to move forward. From Project C to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; it was the children who has the courage to demand their rights as citizens of this country. We must learn from them and embrace our generation of young people who with the right teachers and opportunities can lead us in the work still left to be done!)
4. Art (Through put each museum art was used to tell the story or express ideas, emotions or messages connected to the story. Art is such a powerful tool for storytelling, healing and empowerment! We must use it in all its forms, from music to paintings, to poetry, to sculptures and everything in between!)
5. Black Women (I would be reminded without honoring the black womens of the movement who did the hard labor, mobilized the people, created the plans and influenced the movement in ways that go unknown. I’ve never been more proud to be apart of such an elite group knowing that I must continue their work.)
6. Purpose (From Dr. King to Muhammad Ali, to even the students in Selma who didn’t March but taught the children the school lessons they missed who had been in jail all day all understood and embraced their purpose. This trip spoke to me in ways my purpose exist in the classroom and as a person. From the exhibits, to the speakers, to random people we met along the way and my dear colleagues, God consistently reminded me of and emphasized my purpose in this world.)
7. Principles (A wise person once said if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I’m so grateful for the principles of Dr. King, Ghandi, Muhammad Ali and so many others that I now hope to put into practice in my own life)
8. Courage over Fear (even the strong weak but we must choose courage over fear. If students and babies were willing to sacrifice their innocence, physical and mental safety to fight for equality and freedom I must do my part in this journey to a “beloved community”.
9. Socratic Seminars (The revelations I received this week while in academic conversation with my colleagues has truly been tremendous. I am grateful for their willingness to engage in dialogue, share perspective and wrestle with the unknown while highlighting and reinforcing the variety of ways knowledge and stories were presented during this trip! “Shoutout to Michael for his great leadership and setting the context of the places and spaces we visited during this trip!”
10. Read ( When meeting with Mr. Pearson at Mary Macs Tea Room in Montgomery Alabama, I asked him what message would you share with students and he emphasized for them to READ. I’m looking forward to leasing by example with the numerous books I picked up on the trip. Not to mention how historically the civil rights movement is connected to reading from scholarship and education but also a tactic used by students during sit-ins and protest: they never lost sight of education.)
11. We stand on the shoulders of giants. (I am so grateful for the people who came before me and impacted their communities and the world to create a place where black people were seen as humans who deserved freedom and rights. There’s an Ubuntu philosophy that goes, “I am because you are.” This belief highlights the interconnected was of humanity through different countries but also cross time.)
12. Hiding in plain sight. (As we traveled, there was a constant observation of where these historic events and building took place which is a reminder to me that often times the way to get things done as well as the answers we seek are hiding in plain sight if we just look close enough!)
13. Legacy (I wrestle with answering the question what is the civil rights movements legacy; but am honored to pick up the torch to continuing to the mountain top of freedom for All)
14. I am the missing piece. | (Joanna Bland emphasized that individually we are the missing piece of the puzzle which is the most important piece because it completes the puzzle. I do not take lightly how the daily ways I live and educate can dismantle systemic racism and must lean into being an active foot soldier for justice)
15. Spiritual Awakening ( This trip was for than a scholarly seminar for me but a spiritual awakening of the soul. I am grateful for the love of God and the time I’ve had to grown spiritually in my own journey as a Christian. No matter tour religious denomination there was a theme of respecting that a higher spirit was calling each person to do their part and that prayer changes things)
16. Black Power ( The pride and joy that I exert when thinking about black people, culture and history is overwhelming.)
17. Healing ( This country has so much trauma to heal from and on this trip I did some healing of my own. We as a country and as individuals must confront the evil, violence, hate and trauma that is a part of our past and present to create a better future full of light, peace and love.)
P.S. The number 17 is significant as we always had to count off when traveling here and there to make sure we had everyone; I was #17 and because of this amazing journey, the number 17 will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks to my fellow scholars who took this journey with me and made it more than I could ever imagine. Thank you to Kate and Michael for leading us with a heart of service and thank you to the Classroom without Borders organization for providing me this transformational experience as an educator and as a black woman in America. I am forever grateful
My heart is full. My mind is full. My spirit is full. And I can only hope that the answers I’ve shared have also provided you with solutions to create positive change in your own way!