Finding the Dream
I think an important part of completing any significant experience is reflection. And we all know I'm a writer... it's how I figure life out. And let me tell you... this experience warrants some review. I stood in the area MLK was asassinated, where slaves hid from persecution, where the Confederacy planned their next move, and where thousands of people marched for their fundamental rights. Historically sacred places. This will serve as an overview of some key points I'd like to share. If you want details, I could talk for hours, so feel free to ask.
Joanne Bland, one of those to march from Selma on Bloody Sunday, alluded to the fact that each individual event was a piece of a larger picture... a picture not just of civil rights, but of human rights. Of fundamental liberties and equality. Her words resonate with me, perhaps most prominent among them that ordinary people can do extraordinary things - I have a stone from the site of the march that I have kept to remind me of this. We are all called to serve, and each of us holds a piece of that larger puzzle.
Feeling the Movement
10 days. 10 days to impact a life and alter a perspective. While much of the trip was important in one way or another, a few things really struck home.
The most powerful portion of the trip for me was in Birmingham, Alabama. This is also where I first experienced what I had hoped for out of the trip - awe, anger, and hope. The city has seen much hate, but also much hope and justice. The exhibits combined, especially the KKK robes and burned cross, strongly moved me. I am not ashamed to say so. Our bus driver, who would later be so moved as to make it his mission to raise $100,000 for a poor school in Selma, put it well. "It's powerful stuff. Everyone has their own internal experience."
The SPLC Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery was also very powerful to me. The fact that the memorial sculpture outside had a spot left open on its list of names is a testament that the war against injustice is far from over. The wall of Tolerance inside was a pledge, not to be taken lightly, of standing up against intolerance, hate and injustice. It, along with Joanne's speech, was a call to action. One that I intend to do my best to answer, at the very least in every day life.
The cohorts and strange bedfellows
Camraderie was to be expected. I met some amazing people, even a brother, whom I will be friends with for a great while to come, while strengthening the bonds with those existing. I grew because of the company I kept, and am grateful for their contributions, both knowingly and not. Sharing in new experiences and perspectives, they made the trip what it was: epic.
An unexpected portion of this trip for me was personal discovery. As we learned about each other, I learned about myself. I'm more aware of my actions, my speech, how I lead and follow, and even how I think. Since it is personal growth, these things will remain personal to me.
An interesting after thought
Great strides have been made in the past 50 years... but much is still to be done. In all the museums we toured there was a key part missing - the recent history. There was little to be had of women, gay and immigrant rights within the halls. I hope that in the future such things will be given the documentation they too deserve.
It is not only the past. It is continuous. It is not a movement of him, her, or them. It is a movement of us.
And we still have a dream.