by Anna Baker-Butler
This morning we watched a video preparing us for the EJI museum and learned about the slave trade. We went to the lynching memorial where counties that had lynching victims were listed along with the victims’ names. This was a very powerful memorial to me for a number of reasons. I saw counties listed that I had been to, such as Palm Beach County, and it was challenging to picture these horrific and gruesome acts committed there. In addition, there were dates not too far in the past when lynchings occurred, such as 1959, which was frightening and surprising.
After the lynching memorial, we traveled to the EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) Museum where we got to explore on our own for a while. The museum took me through the beginning of the slave trade into the Jim Crow Laws and into modern mass incarceration of African-Americans. One exhibit that was really interesting to me was where I listened to the personal stories of different formerly incarcerated African-Americans, many of whom were subject to death row without a fair trial, and despite the fact that they were innocent. In one man’s story he asked me, “What would you do if you were charged with a crime you didn’t commit, solely because of your skin color?” This question really stumped me because I have not the slightest clue what I would do in this situation. This exhibit really caused me to think about the systemic racism that is unfortunately still prevalent in American society today.
After the EJI museum we walked a block to the Montgomery Minor League Baseball Team (The Biscuits) gift shop/stadium. We had a Mediterranean lunch from Zoë’s Kitchen and got back on the bus to start our four hour journey to Memphis. On the way, we stopped at Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo where many people bought Elvis souvenirs.
We arrived in Memphis and walked down Beale Street to the Rum Boogie Cafe. We ate dinner and shortly after, tore up the dance floor! The band played hits like “Hey, Soul Sister”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”, while our Etgar group danced for hours. This experience was amazing and really showed me how music can bring people together. As we danced as a group, people we didn’t know danced with us as we laughed and cheered each other on. Then we headed back to the hotel and had free time. The contrast between the deep and serious topics of the morning, with the light and fun evening activities show that even in difficult scenarios it is important to enjoy life to the fullest.
Videos of us at the blues club: