Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Montgomery and Selma-Unforgettable.
Today was an overwhelming day to say the least. Due to being stuck in Birmingham yesterday, our original plan was cancelled. So today we combined Montgomery and Selma's events in one.
Driving into Montgomery this morning I was really surprised by the city itself. Located on the river, the architecture of the city was amazing! I was amazed at the huge roman looking political buildings, due to Montgomery being the capital of Alabama....I was really surprised by its beauty. In Montgomery, we started out at the Southern Poverty Law Institute's civil rights memorial. Walking into the memorial, we had to go through pretty strict security. This was the first security we've had to go through in any museum. Our tour guide let us know why though, almost everyday the SPLI get's threat's from hate groups, and have had numerous amounts of bombing attempts. It was a reality check for us all to realize that these hateful threats still exist today. The memorial was amazing, we were all touched extremely. Also, we all signed our name on a digital wall, called the Wall of Tolerance. By signing the wall we all took a pledge to some way in our lives fight for a social justice cause, and stand up for those who may not be able to speak for themselves at the time.
After the SPLI memorial, we went to the Alabama State Capital. It was more than alarming to see that the only mention of slavery or civil rights in the state capital was a painting of "happy slaves". Our tour guide was less than enthusiastic to speak about the movement, to say the least. Next we went across the street to the White House of the Confederacy. Let me tell you, I got the creepiest vibes while walking around the home of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. The memorials to him, and the current active, daughters of the confederacy was too much for me to stomach. Also the souviener's that were available for purchase were disturbing. T-shirts, hats, mugs, shot glasses, etc. of the confederate flag and "the spirit" of confederacy printed on them was hard to see. After going to the SPLI and then the Confederacy White House couldn't have been more opposite. Also in Montgomery, we went past the old slave market and slave holding pen, it is disturbing to think about where this country used to be.
We also visited the Dexter Memorial King Baptist Church. This church, located one block from the Alabama State Capital, was the only parish in which Martin Luther King Jr. served as the Senior Pastor. We got the chance to walk through the office and see the desk at which Dr. King wrote his sermons, dissertations, and speeches at. To think about the ideas that were written on that desk, stretches my mind out of my skull.
After Montgomery, we loaded the bus and headed to Selma, Alabama. Not many people have heard of Selma or know of its importance during the movement. It upsets me that I didn't know about it before this trip. But Selma Alabama is where the day known as "Bloody Sunday" occurred. In Selma, we got the privilege of spending the afternoon getting a tour of the city with Joanne Bland. Ms. Bland was only 11 years old on Bloody Sunday, but that did not spare her the pain of being a part of it. To demonstrate their anger with not being allowed to vote, the black citizens of Selma planned a march from Selma to Montgomery. Yet on the day they planned, they were stopped by policemen, ordered by Gov. Wallace, to keep them from marching. And instead of having them turn around and return home, the police used tear gas and their bats to beat the citizens of Selma, into the evening. Hearing Ms. Bland speak about this day did not leave a dry eye in the room. Her ability to forgive and move on and accept what happened, and use it to create change is incredible. She is the one of the most inspiring people I have ever come across, and her story and attitude has forever changed me.
For tonight's blog we were asked to discuss what WE can do in our lives to continue to change ourselves and society for the better. For me, I think my career goals are shifting into an area where I am more passionate about making a career out of helping people than making money. I have always planned on going to law school, and this experience is exposing to me to how much the legal system changed this movement, and helped SO many people. Social justice law is something I feel I have a calling for, and I thank God that I am having this experience and realizing it now.