Thursday, March 13, 2014

The last day… back to Atlanta!

Louise Shaw talking to the group and a group from the
U. of Virginia at the CDC Museum.
We made the trip back to Atlanta from Montgomery this morning. Our first stop of the day was at Emory University to visit the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. We got a tour of the Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in America by curator Louise Shaw. She explained the challenges of achieving health equality in the United States and how race and place play just as important of a role in it than personal choices do.

We stayed on the Emory campus for lunch and then ventured to The World of Coca-Cola. Kelly and I dropped the group off and went to park the vans. Once again, they were too tall to comfortably fit in the parking garage so we had to drive around Atlanta a bit to find a surface lot to park in. By the time we found spots and walked the several blocks to the Coca-Cola, the rest of the group were almost done with the tour. So Kelly and I went through the tour while Prof. Young waited. Apparently taking the Coke tour for the umpteenth time wasn't appealing. I did enjoy tasting all of the different kinds of soft drinks that Coke produces throughout the world. I think Inca Kola from Peru was my favorite.

The view of the Atlanta skyline
from Atlantic Station.

After we met back up outside, we took a vote on what to do next and the result was a split right down the middle. So we split the group in two and Kelly took a group to Underground Atlanta while Prof. Young and I took a group to Atlantic Station for a shopping excursion.

Karina, Bri, Jennie and Brittley after
shopping victoriously at Atlantic Station.
We get up extra early tomorrow to catch our flight back to Pennsylvania. It has been a fun trip!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 5: Selma to Montgomery

We departed Selma early today and headed to Montgomery on State Route 80. We followed the same route that Martin Luther King, Jr. did as they marched for voting rights in March of 1965. Our first stop in Montgomery was at Common Ground Montgomery. We were met by Summer Williams who is the director of development. She explained to us that Common Ground is a Christian organization whose goal is to revitalize the Washington Park community of Montgomery by providing after school programs, tutoring, summer day camp and financial mentoring for parents. In addition to these, they have a program called Urban Seed Xchange which is a student-run t-shirt printing operation that teaches the older kids all of the elements of how to run a business. Another program they have is called House to House which purchases and renovates abandoned homes in the community using volunteer labor, especially that of the future owners of the homes. They were very happy to have us there because they have a very small staff and they put us to work doing things that they don't always have time to do like cleaning the kitchen, organizing the classrooms and cleaning the vans. While we were there for only two hours and it didn't seem like a big deal to us, I believe it made an impact for them. Kelly and Nikki said it best that there was 20 of us working for two hours and that is the equivalent of a person's 40 hour work week and I am sure that was a big help for them.

Christian attempting to repair the gasket
around the door of one of Common Ground's
vans while Chanda and Quinn clean.
Will and Brandon scrub out one
Common Ground's chest freezers.

The group cleaning one of Common Ground's vans.

After leaving Common Ground, we went to Martha's Place for lunch. We got to experience some more Southern cooking and hospitality because Martha herself came out to say hi. The banana pudding was a particular hit at my table.

The group looking at the Civil Rights Memorial.
We then moved on to the Civil Rights Memorial Center at the Southern Poverty Law Center. It memorializes the martyrs for the Civil Rights Movement. We watched a movie that told us the stories of these individuals and then signed the Wall of Tolerance.

Shaneka and Christian at the Civil Rights Memorial.
Ben, Kelly and Chanda at the Civil Rights Memorial.
Ajan learning about the martyrs of the
Civil Rights Movement at the
Southern Poverty Law Center.

Christian, Prof. Young, Chanda and other reading the plaques
memorializing the Civil Rights Movement martyrs.

The group took a short walk down to Troy University's Rosa Parks Museum. We learned all about Rosa Parks' life, the circumstances leading up to the evening that she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger and the the Montgomery Bus Boycott that resulted. Our tour guide was a big hit with the students and I think we got a deeper understanding of the significance of a single occurrence that spurred the Civil Rights Movement.

The group outside the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery.
After dinner (by the way, I am in love with fried green tomatoes), we had reflection time. We sit in a circle and go around one at a time and talk about things from the trip that have had the most impact on us. These students have made the most impact on me. The insights that they have gained from this trip are incredibly deep. I don't remember being this thoughtful, emotional and reflective when I was their age. And it's not just during the time set aside for reflection, it's any time that something strikes them, whether it is in the van, at dinner or just hanging out. It's really refreshing to overhear the serious conversations they have with each other. Of course there's a heck of a lot of silliness, too. But that makes it a lot of fun!
Brittley, Quinn, Brianna, Martha and Jennie
during reflection time.

Erik, Ben, Kelly, Ajan and Rajasri
during reflection time.

Tomorrow it is back to Atlanta for a fun last day of our trip! On the agenda… the CDC Museum, Coca-Cola and Underground Atlanta.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 4: Birmingham and Selma

Day 4 of our Civil Rights Spring Break Trip began back at the Kelly Ingram Park area of Birmingham.

Prof. Young, Shaneka, Martha and Brandon
reflecting on what they had just experienced
in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
We visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Our tour guide explained that one publication had named the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as one of the top ten history museums in the nation. I would agree that it is one of the best that I have been to. The museum was laid out so that you followed a timeline of the civil rights events that were happening in Birmingham. It was done very well and had much more that we could have seen in the two hours that we were there. However, we had to head to Selma, Alabama to make it in time for our guided tour of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute.
Jennie and Quinn getting ice cream in front of
the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

We thought that we were just going to see the museum and Edmund Pettus Bridge. We were very wrong. As we were waiting for the second van to arrive because we got separated, our tour guide took Prof. Nikki and I aside and said that he was taking us to the Slavery and Civil War Museum on the other side of the river and that he was going to give us the experience of what it was like to be slaves. He wanted to warn us that he was going to be a little rough and use some uncomfortable language, but to not tell the students. I felt kind of bad for Kelly because she didn't get the warning and she looked a little blind-sided when he got us out of the vans and immediately started yelling at us and telling us we not to ever look him in the eyes and if we dared to speak to him at all we were to call him master. It was a very powerful experience. When we left and got back into the vans to go to the Voting Rights Museum, one of the students said "Gee, you could have warned us!".

Christian, Prof. Young, Martha and Leo looking at the shocking
display of lynching photos at the Slavery and Civil War Museum.

Martha, Shaneka, Quinn and Jennie chatting with a
Bucknell class of 1992 alum in the National Voting
Rights Museum.
Back at the Voting Rights Museum, our tour guide Sam explained about the importance of Selma. He had such a strong Southern accent that it was difficult for us Northerners to understand him! There were several groups there from other schools and we happened to run into a Bucknell class of 1992 alum that was leading a group from Duke! The student enjoyed chatting with her and found it amusing when she said she was one of the first students to live in Smith Hall.

Next, we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was a very moving thing to experience knowing what had happened there almost exactly 49 years to the day. It was especially poignant for me as I came up over the crest of the bridge and imagined what Melissa's father Ron was thinking as he was walking in the same exact spot in 1965. I could imagine the line of Alabama State Troopers barricading the road in helmets and carrying clubs and the fear that must have been overwhelming him.
Leo walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Martha and Quinn walking across the
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Martha and Leo reading a monument outside
Brown Chapel
On our way to the hotel, we stopped at Brown Chapel where the march to Montgomery began. When we pulled up in front of the church, Prof. Young said to me, "Hey, that's the church from your photos." That's when it hit me that I was really in Selma and I felt such a connection to that place.
The group at Brown Chapel in Selma.

Dinner was at Golden Ranch Steakhouse where we able to reflect on what we had experienced today. I shared some more stories that were told to me about Selma by Ron's family and Kelly shared some of the things that she learned about Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis from previous Civil Rights Spring Break Trips.

Everybody seemed to enjoy a Southern
specialty, fried pickles.
Chanda listening to Kelly talk about her
experiences leading previous Civil Rights
Spring Break Trips.

Tomorrow we head to Montgomery along the same highway that Martin Luther King Jr. marched in 1965. We will be volunteering at Common Ground Montgomery, an inner-city youth program. Then we visit the Southern Poverty Law Center before trekking back to Atlanta.

Monday, March 10, 2014

We've arrived in Birmingham!

Martha trying to decide what to get at Krispy Kreme.
We packed up our stuff and headed out to Birmingham, Alabama this morning. But first we had to stop for breakfast. Luckily, there was a Krispy Kreme located a few blocks from our hotel and it's one of those that never shuts off the Hot Donuts sign!

Dean Alexander explaining what our
lunch options are.

We arrived in Birmingham and, as we were checking into our hotel, we got a surprise visit from Associate Dean of Students for Diversity Thomas Alexander. He is from Birmingham and he decided to meet us and take us to Five Points South for lunch. It's a great little shopping district located near University of Alabama-Birmingham.

After lunch, we volunteered at the Food Bank of Central Alabama. We set up four assembly lines and created what they called backpack meals. The food bank gives out these packages on Fridays to school kids that might not have anything to eat during the weekends when they aren't getting their school lunches. They said that they issue approximately 5,000 of these care packages every month. In the time that we were there, we were able to put together over 900 meals.
The group working in the Food Bank of Central Alabama.
Martha, Karina and Brandon putting together
bags of food.
We then traveled to Kelly Ingram Park. We were able to take some time to enjoy the fantastic weather and follow along some of the Civil Rights Birmingham March Trails that they have set up through the several blocks surrounding the park. We also took this time to sit down and reflect on what we have experienced so far this week, what we have learned and what has impacted us the most.
Will reading the plaque explaining the
Freedom  Riders.

Shaneka learning about the store boycotts in Birmingham.

Erik, Christian, Jennie, Chanda and Martha sharing their thoughts on the trip so far in Kelly Ingram Park.
Brandon, Karina, Brittley, Prof. Young, Brianna and Shaneka playing Rockin' Robin in Kelly Ingram Park.
Jennie and Shaneka enjoying dinner at Niki's West.

Dinner was at Niki's West Steak and Seafood where we got to experience some more Southern cooking. Dean Alexander dropped in on us at the restaurant to find out how our first day in Birmingham was.

There were a couple other important things that were learned today. Southerners call shopping carts "buggies" and somebody decided Piggly Wiggly was a good name for a supermarket. Also, pork rinds come in a bunch of different flavors!

Tomorrow we head back to Kelly Ingram Park, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church before traveling to Selma.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Atlanta Day 2

Today started early again. Losing an hour of sleep certainly didn't help! We were at Ebenezer Baptist Church by 7:45 for the morning church service. Ebenezer Baptist Church is the church that Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr. were both senior pastors. I have never been to a Southern black Baptist church service before and WOW. Just WOW. It was amazing! First, the music was unbelievable. We were quite surprised when we found out that the guest choir was Essence of Joy from Penn State. They were incredible. Rev. Warnock gave a fantastic sermon about not letting your over-extended lives hold you down and how you need to not take yourselves too seriously. It seemed like a very appropriate message for the college students in attendance. We weren't the only college group there this morning. Marquette's Civil Rights Spring Break group was also there and we chatted with them for a few minutes afterward. They are traveling in the same direction that we are so, who knows, we may run into them again in Alabama.

After the service, we spent two hours at the King National Historic Site. We had a tour of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s childhood home. It was fascinating to hear the stories of MLK as a child. Apparently, the philosophy of non-violence is a process because the ranger told a story of how MLK hit his brother over the head with a telephone.

Leo reading about Dr. King at King NHS.

Jennie, Lydia and Brittley learning about the marches
at King NHS.

Erik, Lydia and Rajasri learning about
segregation at King NHS.
After stopping at a Tunisian restaurant for lunch, I now know what to do with that jar of harissa in my refrigerator! We spent the afternoon at the Atlanta History Center. They had a great museum with rooms devoted to the 1996 Olympics, the Civil War, Southern arts and crafts and even one on golfer Bobby Jones. However, the excitement seemed to come when our students found out that the Swan House, which is a mansion that is part of the museum grounds, was used as a location for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was the president's mansion in the film and Martha was especially excited. We easily could have spent at least another hour touring the gardens and farm, but they closed at 5pm.

Erik, Lydia and Chanda watching Rajasri trying
out the dollhouse at the Atlanta History Museum.
Christian, Leo, Quinn and Martha walking down
the staircase of the Swan House.

Leo, Quinn and Christian lounging in front of the Swan House.
Before going to dinner, we made a quick stop at The King Center so we could take some pictures at Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King's tomb.

The group at the King Center reflecting pool.

Leo at MLK's tomb.

Tomorrow we get up and head off to Birmingham!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day One in Atlanta

We arrived in Atlanta safely! We left the Bucknell campus at 3:45 and arrived at our gate just in time to be the last passengers boarding our plane. It was cutting it a little close.

We were greeted in Atlanta by warm temperatures and the trees starting to flower! We made it to the Hotel Indigo where we are staying for two nights. It's a nice hotel on Peachtree Street, one of the main streets through Atlanta. It is also directly across the street from the famous Fox Theater.

The famous Fox Theater on Peachtree Street.
The sign as we walked in the door.
Once we figured out how to park the vans that wouldn't fit in the hotel's parking garage, we walked to Mary Mac's Tea Room for lunch. By this point, most of us hadn't eaten since Friday night. I got a bunch of sides including fried green tomatoes and okra. It was delicious and everybody seemed to enjoy their meals.
Brittley, Brandon, Christian and Brianna
waiting for their food at Mary Mac's.
Fried green tomatoes, okra, mac and cheese
and potato salad. Good Southern food!

We met up with Prof. Young's colleague Letitia Campbell at Mary Mac's. Letitia, who teaches at Emory, created a self-guided walking tour of the Sweet Auburn area of Atlanta. After a brief rest at the hotel, we did the walking tour and learned a great deal about the race relations of the city throughout its history.
Rajasri, Christian, Lydia, Ajan and Erik reading
about John Wesley Dobbs while sitting around
his statue.
Erik, Lydia and Jennie listen as Rajasri reads from the
self-guided tour.

Quinn reading to the group from the steps of the
Wheat Street Baptist Church.

Brittley reading near Woodruff Park while
Will and Karina listen.

After a light dinner at the pita place near our hotel, we called it a night despite being on one of the busiest streets in Atlanta with tons of fun things to do. Exhaustion has caught up with us and we have a big day tomorrow. We are going to church service at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King was minister and then spend the rest of the day at the King Center and National Historic Site and the Atlanta History Center.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Civil Rights Spring Break Eve!

We are gearing up for the Bucknell Civil Rights Spring Break trip! Here's how I got involved:

Last year during Spring Break Melissa asked me to drive her and a group of students from Fran's House to the GLAAD Awards in NYC. One of the students that went with us talked non-stop about the Civil Rights Spring Break trip that she went on the previous year. It sounded like a great time. She mentioned that they drove to Memphis and she felt bad for the chaperones because they had to do a lot of driving and it was really hard on them. So I happened to see Vincent Stephens, the director of Multicultural Student Services, and I told him if they ever needed somebody else to drive, I would be willing to do it. Once you tell something to Vincent, he does not forget it. Several months later, he sends me an email asking if I was still interested because they have around 20 students interested in going. I said sure, especially since they decided to change things up and go to Atlanta, Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery. The previous nine years they had gone to Little Rock and Memphis.

Some of the D.C. contingent as they arrived in Montgomery.
Ron is farthest on the right.
I was especially interested in going to Selma, Alabama because of Melissa's father Ron. In 1965, while at Wesley Seminary, Ron responded to a call from Dr. Martin Luther King to attempt a march from Selma to Montgomery to petition Governor Wallace for voting rights. Below are a few of the pictures that Ron took on March 9, 1965.

I am really looking forward to visiting the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the group knelt in prayer before returning back to Brown Chapel.

Dr. King in Brown Chapel

Fred Shuttleworth, Bishop Lord, Ralph Abernathy
and Dr. King at the beginning of the march.

We had a pizza party and final logistical meeting tonight. Everybody is very excited. Our bus leaves for the Philadelphia Airport at 3:15am and since it didn't seem like any of the students had packed yet, I bet there will be some very groggy students. Luckily, I am staying on campus for the night and only have to walk about 100 feet to get to the bus. 

I will try to post every night with pictures for those of you that want to follow along.