Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guteriano Neves

Our trip today is really awesome. Personally, I couldn’t even find any words to describe what I am feeling precisely. Today’s activities focus on the smaller community, Selma is the place where we went to. This name is totally new for me. I haven’t heard about it before, even its important status in the history of the civil rights movement. Thus, after listen to Joanne Blend, it enlightens me more about this small town status in history. It is not only about the civil rights movement, but moreover, it is also about the rights to vote as citizens’ rights, the history of slavery, education, and service learning.

We arrive at Selma around 9.00 o’clock in the morning. We were taken to tour by Joanne around the town. In this tour, she wanted to show us a history of slavery, and black movement from physical appearance of the buildings that are in the town. Then we took a walk to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This activity aimed to bring us to think back to 45 years ago, when the foot soldiers did the same thing to fight for their rights as citizens. Then we took a walk around Selma Voting Rights monument, and park, continued with community service in the small church.

By most of participants, today has been the best and the most fun day during civil rights trip so far. I cannot contend that. There are two important reflections that I want to highlight today. The first reflection is about the rights. After visiting several places, it drives me to ask a question about rights itself. What is actually a right? Is it granted by everyone since he or she was born or is it granted by the state? So far, most of the international conventions have agreed that it is granted since he or she was born. If so, then why, in the history of human kind, in many cases, in order to have those rights, they have to fight, even have to sacrifice lives to get those rights?

These questions come to my mind after visiting the Selma Voting Rights Monument. After looking at entire history, even though, the United States since early has claimed itself to be exceptional, its history itself has been full of discrimination based on race, gender, class, and sex. Consequently, the rights of marginalized groups like African American, and women to vote came late after long struggle that took many generations to be granted. Looking at global level, the same fights are still taking place around the world, even the very basic rights, which is the right to live. For example, many people in Africa are still fighting to live in peaceful environment due to bloody civil war in the area. Many people are still fighting to get their rights to express their idea freely, as in China, in Burma, in Zimbawe, just to mention few.

The second reflection is about education. The education comes after community service. This community service has been so amazing. After looking at what we have done, I sit and ask to myself, how can we do that? From this, I begin to believe that, like water that can form ocean, if each of us gives what we have, collectively, we can make a huge difference. But my whole questions do not end in that. Then I ask to myself, why can’t we do that? My answer to that rests on the mainstream education.

As far as my concern, mainstream education has pushed and pulls away students from their reality, context and community. We, as students are educated not to serve community, not to learn from, and to return to community, but we are educated to enforce existing injustice system. Because of this, then, we feel like we are powerless and incapable of doing something new to change our community, even family. Then, each of us cannot become an agent of change because we feel like powerless and incapable of doing that. But, if we think critically, and return to our consciousness, we can do that. And what we have done in our small community service today proves that we are able to do so, collectively.

As a person who lives in this era, I feel so guilty of my current condition. As Joanne told us, “our predecessors did not get education like we did. But they did prepare a better world for us to live in. We are getting better education and everything that we can, but we cannot do what our predecessors have done.” I am worried if in the future, our children, and grandchildren ask me, “what have you done to make this world better for us?"

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