By Jared Haime:
We started our second day by waking up in Atlanta. We visited the AIDS Quilt, where we learned about the fight for justice, awareness, and acceptance which were the founding principles of the theme of the day: civil rights. For AIDS to be fully understood, communities of people from all walks of life needed to form a personal connection with the epidemic. People related to each other and came together for a common and greater cause. Groups such as ACT UP spread awareness of AIDS, and politicians such as Harvey Milk made strides to normalize AIDS. Julie Rhoad, the Executive Director of the Names Project/AIDS Quilt, taught us the importance of togetherness and how we can better a nation.
After, we visited the King Center, a place that commemorates the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his everlasting impact on society. Learning about him at home was nothing compared to literally standing where he stood. Hearing a recording of his voice in his home church was very powerful, and standing across the street from MLK’s house helped Etgar get a glimpse of his life.
To even further understand the full impact civil rights movement, we met with Reverend Williams, a walking piece of history. I had the honor of shaking hands with someone who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. He took the first steps in deconstructing segregated America. Hearing his voice at 94 years old still carried the same strength and desire for a more perfect world. It was inspiring to listen to his account of the civil rights movement. I felt completely engaged when he spoke, like he was talking to all of us individually.
We traveled to Montgomery for yet another perspective on the struggle of minorities throughout history, specifically the issues of lynching. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice was created to make America face their dark past. The memorial was thought-provoking in its art and architecture. Victims of lynchings from all over the U.S. had their names engraved on metal blocks placed throughout the memorial. We walked around looking for our counties, and we were saddened to see that America still has to own up to its injustice. The metal blocks were in rows that grew higher as we walked. I interpret this to symbolize how lynching grew above us, leaving us helpless and unable to do anything about it.
Injustice is still prevalent today. This was made clear by The Legacy Museum, an eye-opening exhibit on the systematic oppression of people of color. It was incredibly disheartening to witness the holograms of innocent children locked up. Soil from lynchings was collected in jars and shelved on the wall. We read the letters from scared individuals forced into prisons for life. For me, and probably the rest of Etgar, this was a painful realization of the injustices that happen in our country.
We ended our day on a far lighter note at a Montgomery Biscuits game. They are a wholesome minor league baseball team that features a lovable emcee. During the game, Etgar was extremely spirited when cheering for our beloved Biscuits, especially Eden Rose, who screamed for the Biscuits until she couldn’t talk. Victor, the emcee, was great at his job and an even greater friend. We talked with him all night and even ate lunch with him the next day.
Today, we learned about the importance of togetherness, acceptance, tolerance, and friendship. The civil rights movement is an inspiration for everyone. We are lucky to have the ability to educate ourselves and have access to the resources to do so. We were born into this accessibility and privilege. It is our job to help those who weren’t as lucky as us, whether they be victims of disease or oppression.