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.

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