Day 7 – Tuesday
Pack and leave Healing Waters and Selma
Day in Montgomery
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Southern Poverty Law Center
Lunch – Filet and Vine
Equal Justice Initiative
Alabama Statehouse/Confederate Memorial/Speeches
Fried Tomato Buffet
Sleep – Hargis
Today we went to a place like no other. Dexter Avenue [Baptist Church] was a place that had lots of spirit and I could feel the energy that Dr. King left there. -Henry
The Southern Poverty Law Center opened my eyes to all the hate in the USA. Touching Emmitt Till’s name was like touching him and telling him I was going to make his death mean something. It was then, touching his name and tracing the letters, that this whole trip, every moment and every person, became true, real, honest, moments in time. -Eliot
Thinking about what the Equal Justice Initiative guys said about using your passion to help others — I’ve actually thought about that a lot before, how whatever I decide I’d like to do, I should use it to help those who are hurt by this society. -Leah
Our time with Evan and Luke (at the EJI) was a discussion between people who clearly had so much respect for each other. We talked together no at each other. The stories of death row and child imprisonment that continue today was the first time on this trip where I truly and deeply felt inspired to find my passion and work with it to create positive change just like these men had. -Lucy F.
[The EJI] had this exhibit that almost brought tears to my eyes. It showed the soil from where different lynchings took place. I imagined holding the grains of people’s identity in my hands as they slowly passed through my fingers… I gave my speech today and felt like I put my whole heart into it. I closed my eyes and imagined James Baldwin’s eyes twinkling as he smiles.” -Lily C.
I was happy to be able to preform my speech by the dirt of the lynchings. It was so powerful to stand in front of part of what Ida B. Wells devoted her life to… I hope to keep Ida B. Wells’ spirit close. I would love to strive to be like her. She was so strong and courageous. -Nomi
EJI really made me think about two things. First about children having their lives stripped from them and then how can I use my passions to relate to fighting for civil rights. I couldn’t ever imagine being taken away from my life and sent to prison for something I did as a teenager. -Lily B.
I loved how they (Evan and Luke from EJI) spoke about using your passions to help the cause. I spent some of this time planning out my entire future and how I can contribute to inmates in need of medical attention… Such an amazing last day in the glorious state of Alabama! -Marley
I will never physically be in Alabama again but my mind will. Today was our last full day in Alabama. Alabama taught me so many things and changed my perspective on the world outside of VT. -Owen
The reason I loved this trip was just because we got to live what we had been studying for so long. -Sam
Day 6 – Monday
Meet Sheryl Threadgill and other participants of the voting rights movement in Wilcox County at the historic Antioch Baptist Church.
Miss Kitty’s Restaurant in Camden for lunch,
Shoe Store Museum,
Black Belt Treasures – a gallery of over 400 artists from all over the Blackbelt
Conversation and dinner with the BAMA Kids
Our visit at the [Antioch Baptist] church in the morning was a really warm experience. Their stories were amazing to hear. -Hayden
As we raised our voices and sang Carry It On, you could feel the powerful presence of history. -Lily C.
[In the Shoe Store Museum] I was really struck by these handmade blankets that it said were made by a slave named Emmy in the 1800s. My name just seems like such a big part of who I am. Imagining a girl with my same name but with a completely different life was really powerful for me. -Emmy
I felt that we had hopped through the floorboards of someone’s attic and was just looking through their history. It also had the same smell. -Henry
Betty Anderson told us this incredible story about how Sheriff Lummie Jenkins stood in front of the courthouse and said, “I will die and go to Hell before I let a n**** vote.” And the minute the words left his lips, he dropped dead. Betty’s grandmother stepped over his body and in to register. -Tula
At BAMA Kids for the first time I felt white, really white. -Mason
We have been so lucky to go places we are welcome. Today I think we got a taste of what it was like to not be completely wanted by the BAMA kids. It felt like we were kinda being mocked for our whiteness. -Nomi
I could not tell if the divide between us was caused because we were [mostly] privileged white kids, or ‘cause we were just outsiders. I wonder how we would feel if a bunch of black kids came to Vermont knowing a whole lot about syrup, such a usual and interesting thing to us. How would we feel? -Huxley
Day 5 – Sunday
Church service at Ye Shall Know the Truth Baptist Church
Picnic with Mary Lee Bendolph and the folks of Gee’s Bend.
Afternoon – Dr. Bernard Lafayette
Evening – Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Boynton
I rarely go to church and it’s usually on Christmas Eve. The atmosphere in this church was so different from the ones that I have been to with my family. The singing especially was really different. They seem to have so much more energy and it was really powerful to see and be a part of. -Emmy
Being with the people of Gees Bend was like being with people you already knew. -Riley
Mary Lee Bendolph (from Gees Bend) was like the nicest woman I ever met. -Van
(Editor’s note: Today we discovered Van’s natural talent for quilting. Get that boy some sewing needles!)
Dr. Lafayette’s stories were amazing and he and his wife were so friendly. It’s hard to comprehend that of everything he endured in his career, the scariest thing was riding a horse. He was very funny, too. Afterward, I got his autograph and he wrote “To Leah, the future is in your hands.” Then I asked him if he had known Septima Clark from the SCLC and he did!!! I am so happy. Estatic, even.
Dr. Lafayette: freedom fighting, snake holding, AK-47 swallowing, horse fearing, badass. -Mason
Hearing Lafayette’s story showed me that even the small contributions you make toward equality are worth it. -Huxley
Just thinking about how incredibly courageous [Dr. Lafeyette] was. Until now I don’t think I’ve grasped how crazy powerful nonviolence is. He protected a man that beat him, pointed a gun, and planned for his murder. I would never have the intense dedication, power, patience, and courage to do that now but I hope someday that I will.
[Dr. Lafayette] started talking about fear and how sometimes you find yourself in situations and have to stand up even if you don’t know the consequences. -Zoe
Day 4 – Saturday
Journeys for the Soul with Joanne Bland
Brown’s Chapel – Cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Charlie Lucas – “Tin Man” Artist
Surprise meeting with Afriye We-Kanduthis
Dinner at Healing Waters Retreat Center
Talk with State Senator Sanders
[Joanne Bland’s] passion for history and her passion for spreading seeds for the future was evident in every move. When I held the stone that John Lewis stood on, when I felt the power of the place we were standing, felt the power of history channeled through Ms. Bland, I knew I had to make my change, fulfill my piece in the jigsaw puzzle. -Julia
As we sat in the pews [of Brown Chapel] all I could think about was Shea or Rachel [from Selma, Lord, Selma] or Dr. King may have sat here. As we made our way from the church and looking at the I Have a Dream monument made me think of how invested Sophie was in changing it. -Nomi
When we pulled up to Brown Chapel the first thing I saw was that the memorial said, “I have a dream,” and that just gave me so much hope that I even might have had some part in changing that made me feel like I can really help and change what I think is wrong in the world. -Lily B
Charlie Lucas’ art was really beautiful. I love most of all when he said, “Make something every day,” because it spoke so beautifully of how important it is to never stop at what you can do. Always strive one step further. -Tula
I had a really fun time playing drums with all those people. I like the way they got everyone to join in in some way by playing or just clapping. I thought the one chant that Afriye was doing was super cool. The way it sounded was really satisfying. -Daniel
I didn’t really like going to the drumming place, but I think Afriye said one of the most powerful things I heard all trip. She said not to be blind to color, because we should be conscious of race, but not to base our decisions and opinions on it. -Hayden
I can’t really sum this day up in a sentence, but then again you can’t sum our history as a nation up in a sentence. That’s what today was: a day with love, hate, compassion, forgiveness, community, and unity. For me the most inspire minutes of the day were spent with Ms. Bland in the graveyard. It is a magical place right there in the center of community between the graves of those who built this nation and those who may have worked to take it down. The moss grew off the trees, long, twisted, soft, and overtaking. The moment that I experienced is honestly a very lucky one, and one that I will remind myself over and over not to forget. Not to forget that we are the most powerful force in our sacred world. -Alex
Day 3 – Friday
Joe Minter –“Africa in America”
Gip’s Place – Henry Gipson 3101 Ave C Bessemer (last juke joint in Alabama)
LaQuita and students at Wilkerson Middle School
On to Selma
Dinner with our hosts – Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation at
Healing Waters Retreat Center
[Going to see Joe Minter] felt like a tributary timeline to all of the people who fought for their rights mixed within landmarks of the world’s history. His connection to God could be seen in each piece of art in the yard and the relationship between his works and religion as so clear. -Lucy F.
Through the Blues he spoke, and through our hearts we listened. -Mason
“No black, no white, just the blues.” Henry Gipson’s catch phrase resonates in my ears, uttered by a bellowing, spirited voice, a voice to match the unstoppable soul of the ninety-seven year-old musician. Reading the phrase my mind has the touch of a little instrumental at the end, a twang of foot-tapping, head-bobbing, musical chaos. A twinkle in the eyes of a weathered man sparks a smile on the faces of twenty-five kids. -Magda
My favorite part of the day was talking to the kids from the other school… It made me think about these kids growing up black, knowing their history, and knowing what they wanted. One thing I remember that Jordan said was, “We hold the key to our future.” -Zoe
I’m excited and nervous to meet with Joanne Bland tomorrow. Talking with the kids today I thought a lot about it, and realized that we were learning about our history so that we can move forward, and except what people did in the past and think about that when trying to make progress in the future.
Day 2 – Thursday
7:30 breakfast at Hargis (40 minutes to)
10:00 visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
11:30 Lunch – Zoes Kitchen
1:00 16th Street Baptist Church – Mrs. Lee
2:30 Children’s March participants Janice Kelsey and her brother Alvin Wesley in the lecture room at BCRI
3:30 Performance/Poetry with LaQuita Middleton-Holmes
Dinner at Dreamland
Home to Hargis
Today was all new. I feel that there was nothing that we as a class did today that wasn’t new and it was amazing. It was a giant adventure and I loved it. It was so cool to meet people that were actually a part of the struggle for civil rights and are still working at it today. To read about marches is one thing, but to listen to someone talk to you in person about their experiences with such things was amazing. -Sam
We hung out on the lush lawn of Kelly Ingram Park awestruck in the shadow of the children who had been there before us. -Julia
Janice and Alvin have lived through so much and they are living history. It is important to know the history from people that lived it right up front. It’s actually amazing. Each and every individual children’s march participant has a story and they deserve to be heard. -Leila
Just imagining the children stampeding out of the church only to be hosed down. It felt like everywhere we stood had a 100 different moments of significance. -Eliot
Sitting in the pews (at 16th Street Baptist Church) that so many had sat in before me, I could picture the church overflowing with people and songs of freedom filling the hearts and minds of everyone… This is where 4 innocent girls died. This is where the nation looked at and finally realized it was time for a change. This is where humanity was thrown out the window. -Lucy F.
Day 1 – Wednesday
What a day. After a swift and jubilant flight to Chicago we found ourselves with a 4 hour delay. We did a little terminal surfing, Starbucks slurping, card playing, aeronautic cuisine tasting, and generally did basically everything terminals 1 and 2 had to offer at O’Hare International.
But we made it, got our beautiful vans, and drove to our Birmingham home, The Hargis Retreat Center. We sang, we dialogued about why we have come, and read from Eric Holder’s analysis of our countries racial challenges. Then we packed everyone off to bed…we hope…Spirits are high, generosity is aplenty. We are ready.
22 hours and counting till our departure. Spirits are running high as final Alabama or Bust presentations are given. Stay tuned…