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Day 2 – Montgomery & Birmingham – By Ilana Berghash

Today we left Atlanta and set out for Alabama. As we crossed the state line, Billy started blaring “Sweet Home Alabama.” In my opinion, small gestures are what make the trip a step above the rest.

When we reached Montgomery, we stopped at the city’s minor league baseball store. The baseball team is called the biscuits, and many people donned the seemingly popular biscuit hat. It was legitimately a hat in the shape of a biscuit. After capturing the moment, we got back on the bus and headed towards the Rosa Parks museum.

At the museum, we heard the story of what occurred on December 1st, 1955. We learned about the actual dialogue of the day, and we were able to witness a recreation of what transpired that day. In addition, we reviewed the entirety of the bus boycott. Rosa Parks’ story is one of the best known in the country, and experiencing it firsthand was indescribable.

After the museum, we stopped at Martha’s Place for lunch. What seemed to be a normal lunch transformed into a story of hope and inspiration. After we ate, we were fortunate enough to sit down with the owner, Martha, and hear her story. She opened with telling us a very personal experience. She then explained that she found God, and her purpose as well. Her vision was to run her own restaurant, and she never gave up hope. She explained all the obstacles she had to overcome in order to achieve her dream. It was incredible to be sitting in a restaurant that served to be the embodiment of Martha’s dream. After sharing her story, she challenged us to be ourselves and to dream big. She assured us that it’s okay to dream and to hope. In a society where negativity is omnipresent, the assuagement that dreaming is within everyone’s grasp was worth much more than any monetary value. Her story is one of the most powerful I’ve heard. It echoed the fact that every human being on this Earth has a story, and we were lucky enough to hear Martha’s.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was very powerful as well. It was founded by  a civil rights attorney named Morris Dees in 1971, and is an organization dedicated to monitoring and combating hate groups. They try these hate groups in civil court in an attempt to get justice. The center has expanded to encompass all types of prejudice and racism, as well as bullying in a program termed, “Teaching Tolerance.” It was eye-opening to learn about the various hate crimes, some of which are generally unknown. Personally, I did not hear about many of them until today. I thoroughly enjoyed the center and our very knowledgable tour guide, Kory. An experience that was educational and unforgettable, I will carry the message of the Southern Poverty Law Center with me throughout my life.

We then headed to Birmingham to meet with Bishop Woods. He was very animated and put his heart and soul into everything he shared with us.  It was amazing to hear from someone who experienced the civil rights movement, and who personally confronted the evils of the time. He also taught us songs of the movement.

We finished up the day with a wrap-up session. We separated into smaller groups and discussed our day. It’s always nice to hear everyone’s opinions and thoughts on the day.

I cannot wait to learn more and have many more enriching experiences.

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