Our first day in Atlanta was amazing! Our first stop was at the site of Leo Frank’s pencil factory, where we discussed whether or not Jews were involved in the Civil Rights movement. By telling the story of the murder of Mary Phagan and the trial and lynching of Leo Frank, we understood why many Southern Jews were scared to be involved in Civil Rights even 50 years later. We learned about anti-Semitism and its role in Leo Frank’s trial and eventual lynching. Before coming on this trip, I had never been to Atlanta before, or heard about Leo Frank, so it was extremely enlightening to learn some truths behind the controversies of the time and see how his death had a strong impact on Jews living in the South. We learned that Civil Rights affected not only African Americans, but other minorities, such as Jews, as well.
Next, we went to see the AIDS Quilt at the Names Project. We spoke with a man named Alan, who is living with AIDS and was particularly inspiring. Despite all of the hardships that he has been faced with, he was one of the most positive people I have ever met. No matter what difficulty came his way, he always looked at it with an optimistic outlook. He made me realize that everyone is connected and just because we might not be living with AIDS, every single one of us could relate to his story in some way. Julie Rhoad, the Executive Director of the Names Project, taught us about the history and story behind the AIDS Quilt.
We then had lunch at the Sweet Auburn market, which had many different vendors selling all types of food, and then visited the King Center. We got to see the neighborhood where Dr. King was born, grew up, preached, and is buried.
The most powerful part of the day, to me personally, was listening to Reverend Williams speak. He was a foot soldier in the Civil Rights movement and integrated restaurants and schools. His story about integration was extremely eye opening, but what really spoke to me was the way the Reverend looked at and spoke to his family. Whenever he talked about them, his face lit up with delight, despite the tragedies that they had to deal with in the past. The look of compassion never left his face when looking at his wife and daughter sitting in the audience, or while speaking of the time when he helped integrate his daughter’s school. Any person that even looked at the Williams family could tell that they love each other. I wrote down a quote from the end of Reverend Williams’ speech that I wanted to end this entry with. “Study hard, think deep, live long, and make a worldly contribution to your family, your community, and city.”
This first day was more than I could ever ask for, and I have already become so close with everyone. I feel like I met them a year ago, not yesterday. I am so excited to see what the rest of the trip has to bring!
Wish you could be on the Etgar 36 bus? Here is the next best thing!
Watch Rev. Williams, a foot soldier in the Civil Rights movement, tell his story to our group.
The first video is an emotional telling of how he integrated an elementary school using his daughter. http://youtu.be/
The second video is his telling of how they integrated a restaurant and disarmed people with their humor: http://youtu.be/