PLSC Civil Rights Pilgrimage Day 5

So many things happened today, and I am a little overwhelmed.
My favorite part of going to Alabama State University was learning how interconnected
the Movements was with the university. It seemed like everybody who was anybody during the
Civil Rights era was connected to ASU in some way. From the bus boycotts, freedom rides
Browder v Gayle, and the Women’s Political Council, the University seemed like the mecca of
the struggle for civil rights. I thought it was interesting how the women of the Movement were
treated. It seemed like even though men and women were fighting for the same rights, the
women still were treated as subservient to men. Dianne Nash’s demands to be recognized as
equal and the organization of the Women’s Political Council demonstrate this. In addition,
hearing about the origins of the Black Panther Party was also very interesting. I did not know
about its origins before today. Growing up, the Black Panthers were synonymous with how not
to organize a movement. They were often portrayed as violent and unreasonable. It felt good to
hear something that contradicted that. I want to learn more about the Party.
The tour of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was uplifting. I enjoyed my time with our
guide, and she is probably my second favorite guide on the trip. The church felt like stepping
back into the time of Dr. King. She would have been my favorite guide of the trip if it wasn’t for
Dr. Shirley Cherry. Her tour was a rollercoaster of emotions. She taught me just as much about
love, character, and kindness as she did about Dr. King and his life in the Dexter Parsonage. She
reminded me that Dr. King and Coretta Scott King were ordinary people who did extraordinary
things. But she also taught me that we have to be able to define the things you want in life. You
cannot ask for something if you do not know what you are asking for. The thing that almost
made me cry was when she said, “Dr. King personal taught me how to be free.” And then she
empowered me when she said, “Vernon Johns said, ‘If you see a good fit get in it.’ ” Dr. Cherry
deserves the 5/5 rating she asked for on TripAdvisor.
Speaking with and listening to Robert & Jean Graetz and Valda Harris Montgomery, four
things stood out to me. The first is a joke, “Do you know Harriet Tubman?” I think shows how
carelessly America remembers its Civil Rights and Slavery heritage. We have distilled abolition
and the Civil Rights movement down to their bare bones. The are footnotes in the annals of
American history. We need to do more to teach the longevity of these movements. The second is
need to create beloved communities. We need to be doing more to finish the work Dr. King
envisioned; the march continues. The third is what Robert Graetz said about current struggles for
equity and equality. “The problem is the same–the methodology is what has to change” to fix
these problems. Lastly, we must remember that “passion drives you to go somewhere, anger does
not.” 

Song: Strange Fruit — Billie Holiday