by Kristin Morrow, Grade 8
On March 9, In the Footsteps Toward Freedom: A Civil Rights Pilgrimage began, which 20 students and teachers, including myself, participated in. We started in Atlanta, Georgia, and drove through Mississippi, Alabama, ending the trip in Memphis, Tennessee.
We got to see so many of the places that history books talk about. We also visited Coretta Scott King’s home, which was surprisingly run down and looked abandoned. We visited many other incredible destinations, including the King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King’s birthplace, Bethel Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Brown Chapel, the City of St, Jude, Edmund Pettus Bridge, the Dexter Ave Baptist Church, the King Parsonage, the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, the Equal Justice Initiative Memorial for Peace & Justice, the Medgar Evers home, and the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated.
All of these places connected us to the many events that happened during the Civil Rights era and allowed us to put images to the events that are discussed when this era is taught. We also got to meet many amazing people, such as Reena Evers-Everette, the daughter of Medgar Evers, Angela Lewis, the daughter of James Chaney, Joann Bland, and Hollis Watkins. It was such an inspiring experience to meet these people, who showed us what it looks like to be empowered.
During the trip, we all wrote nightly reflections about the day we’d had. Some excerpts from these reflections follow. They are posted in full on the Sacred Heart Greenwich website.
Sarah Mickley ‘21
The spirit of the entire congregation was something that I had never felt so strongly before. As we traveled to the church we went through a neighborhood which contained houses that were both boarded up and broken down. The members of the congregation, however, posed a sharp contrast to the brokenness of the homes with spirits that were vibrant and joyful. The entire church welcomed us and truly embodied Dr. King’s vision of a Blessed Community. These congregation members shared a common history and along with that, their struggles from the past to the present. We had the pleasure of hearing a firsthand account from Mrs. Marian Daniel who survived a bombing at the Bethel Baptist Church when she was a young girl. Mrs. Daniel had many wise words to share with us, but one quote that stuck with me the most was when she said something along the lines of “learn from the past, live in the moment, but prepare for the future each day.”
Ludnie Rene’ 18 and Zada Brown ’19
The fourth day of our Civil Rights Pilgrimage was reflective, meaningful, and, as always, extremely educational. Our first stop for the morning was to visit Jimmie Lee Jackson’s grave. We learned that Jimmie Lee Jackson was murdered trying to protect his mother. As we stood in front of his grave in silence, we reflected on the injustice that cut his life so short. Earlier on the bus ride, we discussed Dr. Martin Luther King’s fourth principle of nonviolence that would set the tone for this fourth day: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. We certainly recognized that although Jackson’s life was savagely taken from him, his death paved the way for the transformation of the country and the inspiration of millions of students and educators. Indeed, learning from the past, especially about the many ways that federal officials suppressed and terrorized black voters, inspired all of us to use our voices and our votes in a meaningful way.
We are the change that we want to see in the world, and we cannot stop dreaming. Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb and thousands of other brave Americans did not march, shout, sit, stand and fight for the inherent dignity and rights of all human beings for us not to learn from their legacy. Today, and every day, we have to dream bigger and seek the long-sought-after freedom that so many died to achieve. On this fourth day of our journey, we saw the painful history of a people who transformed their suffering into courage, bravery, strength, and unity. They were the true beloved community that Dr. King so passionately dreamed of and we seek to bring this dream to life in our school, our community, and the world.