May 21st, 2011…
It marks a day where I was able to experience feelings like no other. Eleven of my classmates, Tanya G., and I all traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to partake in the city’s Civil Rights tour. I must admit, most of my knowledge about the historical rights of African-Americans is limited to information that was BRIEFLY taught during the black history month presentations held at my elementary and high school in addition to knowing notable figures and movements such as Malcolm X and the Underground Railroad. It was clear once I left the Civil Rights Memorial Center that I had A LOT to learn about this significant history… And I say this not because I am woman of color, but simply because as a human being, who should be entitled to ALL civil rights regardless of my gender, the color of my skin, or even my beliefs. At the memorial center I was welcomed with metal detectors at the front entrance. Initially I was a little taken back by that until I noticed a large melted clock sitting on display at the front door with a written message underneath it. The message wanted to make visitors aware that in 1983 the building was bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan (a popular hate group); one of many attempts to destroy the building. Already the center provided a source that caused me to develop many interesting thoughts and questions. For example, I was pretty surprised to learn that such a profound racist act occurred so recently. I then wondered how different my life would have been if I was born just one generation earlier which was the peak of the civil rights movement. I feared that because I was a black female, I too would be victim of such horrible attacks and racialization.
The center was filled with numerous memories that highlighted individuals who triggered the civil rights movement such as Mr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Herbert Lee, and Ms. Rosa Parks. Most significantly, a beautiful memorial water fountain was built outside the center to pay tribute. I could not stop the tears from running down my face as my spirit embodied the powerful energy that was around me. This moving experience was completed by a walk over the historical Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. This is where everyday citizens heroically walked from this point across 55 miles to the state capital to DEMAND the right for African-Americans to vote. My classmates and I actually drove the 55 miles and let me tell you it was QUITE THE DISTANCE! I still have not been able to imagine the people WALKING this same distance. Nonetheless, I felt so empowered by this movement… and since I am sure many don’t know about it, I’m making it my duty to spread the knowledge. I strongly believe that the information would certainly have an effect on the poor voter turnout found about our Canadian youth.
I came to Montgomery, Alabama expecting to gain a better understanding about black history. Instead, I was filled more than that! I cannot put into words how I felt or the magnitude of emotion that took over my body while being in the places as everyday people who I consider heroes. Heroes, that through their strength, perseverance, and determination has made life better for not only me, but for my entire generation, my children’s generation, their children’s generation and so forth.
I will complete this blog with a couple quotes that I feel are quite fitting for my discussion… till next time…
-Dance and Dingolay (a.k.a Shakera)
“We must take sides: Neutrality helps the oppressor! NEVER the victim” – Elie Wiesel“
Justice delayed is justice denied” – William Ewart Gladstone
“If there is no struggle then there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass