We started the morning bright and early with a delicious breakfast prepared by a woman who worked at the Highlander Institute for over 30 years. After breakfast, we watched a short informational video that talked about the Highlander Institute’s involvement in raising awareness and training advocates of civil rights. It was interesting to see the progression of the institute from dealing with specifically civil rights to a wider range of issues including protection of the environment, youth leadership, and others. After our time spent at the Highlander, we drove four and a half hours to Birmingham. Upon arrival in Birmingham, we stopped at the 16th Baptist Church, which was the site of a racially-motivated bombing by the Klu Klux Klan that resulted in the deaths of four young girls. Walking into the church was overwhelming because when I think of a church, I envision a place of security and hope, but in these times black people were not safe in their churches or even their homes. Realizing that they went to sleep at night with no sense of security really brought a flood of emotion. After visiting the church, we crossed the street and visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The museum was more thought-provoking and eye-opening than I could have imagined. I really was able to emotionally connect with the situations and tried to put myself into the events and imagine what both white and black people were thinking and feeling as these events played out. One event that really affected me was pictures of boycotts that took place in what is now Kelly Ingram Park. The Birmingham police confronted demonstrators with firehoses, dogs, and mass arrests. Many of those arrested were children. There were a few pictures of children being attacked by dogs and knocked to the ground with powerful firehoses. This really affected me when I imagined the fear I would have felt five or six years ago in the situation as a kid. The fact that innocent children (and adults) were subject to arrest and violence because of their skin color is just so hard to comprehend. The courage children had to participate in boycotts and attend school despite constant danger amazed me. Even as an adult, I would have been fearful at all times as I am sure many adults were then but the fact that children had to endure these atrocities just affected me in a way I cannot fully explain. Something that really stirred me was a display of a cross that was picked up as evidence from a cross burning that took place in front of the house of an interracial couple during the 1990s. The fact that racism still results in violence measures in recent times bothered me. I often forget that civil rights is not an issue of a past but an issue that still exists today. The museum made me thankful for all the progress that has been made but it also made me aware of how much there is left to be done. This experience has motivated me to want to make a difference in some way. Although I am not sure exactly how to use these experiences to make changes, I want to begin by sharing my experiences with other people and by being more conscious of civil rights issues by reading about current events and initiatives. After a quick walk through Kelly Ingram Park, we headed back to our hotel, cooked dinner, and had reflections. The reflection was really thought-provoking and brought up issues including education systems, socioeconomic status, and race, and how different circumstances interplay to give certain people more opportunity and privilege than others. The day definitely educated us and gave us some answers, but it also brought up many more questions with no simple answers.


1 Comment

  1. This email is for Christina-

    I work for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and saw your comments on your college blog about your visit here. Would you mind giving us permission to use some of your quote? We are just so thrilled with your eloquent verbiage and think your comments would give more people an idea of what they can learn from our Institute.

    Just let me know when you have a chance.

    Melissa Snow-Clark

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