By Sara Frankel
Today, we started out our morning by driving from Birmingham, Alabama to Selma, Alabama. We got to speak with JoAnne Bland, a civil rights activist, who shared with us her experience crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the three Selma-Montgomery Marches (which occurred from Mar 7, 1965 – Mar 21, 1965). During one of the marches, Police attacked protesters who attempted to cross the bridge. Mrs. Bland was only eleven when she crossed the bridge on “Bloody Sunday” and she courageously recounted her experience to us. Her ability to be so open was remarkable and an amazing way to learn about these important events in our history. With such a powerful voice, Mrs. Bland taught us a lot about people like Jimmy Lee Jackson, who lost his life protecting his grandfather from police, and how to become activists and change makers ourselves. Prior to our own trip across the bridge, Mrs. Bland got on the bus with us and took us on a tour of Selma, showing us where she grew up in the George Washington Homes and the National Voting Rights Museum. We then crossed the bridge ourselves. After learning so much about the history, walking across the bridge and standing in the footsteps of activists that came before us was a truly moving experience. At the bottom of the bridge, there was the Civil Rights Memorial Park which held memorials and murals for activists including Revered Hosea Williams Sr. and Congressman John Lewis.
We then traveled to Montgomery by bus and enjoyed lunch at Martha’s Place. Martha was kind enough to share her food and inspiring story with us. She encouraged us all to follow our dreams and to “spend some time with ourselves.” Hearing about how she was able to pick herself up and achieve her dream of owning a restaurant was uplifting and showed us that anything is possible.
After we all got hugs and words of advice from Martha, we got on the bus and headed to the Rosa Parks Museum. The museum was incredibly educational as we saw many photos, framed documents, and saw a projected re-enactment of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. We learned so much about the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and many of the influential people within the Civil Rights Movement. Our Etgar 36 staff led us through the museum and provided us with additional information to give us more knowledge. We even got to visit the gift shop!
Upon leaving the museum, we headed to a public park to have an insightful debate and opening group discussion about abortion to prepare us for when we meet with Pro-Life Dallas in Texas. It was eye opening to hear everyone’s opinions and get to talk productivity about a prominent topic today in America. I’m looking forward to more discussions as it was an amazing way to both learn about each other’s views and become more educated on this topic.
Next, we headed to the downtown area in Montgomery for dinner and were allowed to pick from a few restaurants. We got to hang out and get to know each other so much more! Being so close to the Montgomery Biscuits baseball stadium, we had the opportunity to stop by for souvenirs.
After some free time at the hotel, we all gathered downstairs to listen to Billy tell us the history of Rock & Roll as he played music to show how sound changed over the decades. It was so cool to see how music evolved to the taste of the many different generations and how music is able to get everyone within a given time period to connect with each other.
Overall, it was an amazing day of learning, engaging discussion, and sightseeing. Through the many people who we had the privilege of meeting with today, we got to learn about the history of our country where it happened and by people who were alive to experience it.