– Jonah Reznick
We kicked off our journey on Etgar 36 with a visit to the King Center. The rich history and culture immediately struck me on our stroll down Auburn avenue. I could feel the powerful legacy of the great civil rights activists that walked before me on that very sidewalk.
After we went around the King Center, our group stopped to talk with a dear friend of Billy’s, Julie Rhodes, the former executive director of the Aids Quilt that we will later visit in San Francisco. At our meeting with Julie, we discussed the power of calling in, in place of cancellation. This was to set the stage for how our discussions and meeting would go this summer. I was taken aback by the level of discussion and maturity of my peers.
After our thought-provoking discussion, we went to lunch at a food hall in Atlanta and enjoyed a delicious meal.
Next, we embarked on our two-and-a-half-hour drive to Birmingham to meet with Bishop Calvin Woods. I took this time to connect with people and form new connections. Bishop Woods is a 90-year-old Bishop in Birmingham who was a major leader and activist in the civil rights movement. He worked closely with MLK and was even the last person from Alabama to speak with Doctor King before his unfortunate trip to Memphis, where he was killed. Bishop Woods talked with much wisdom. He spoke of stories from his past leading the civil rights movement in Birmingham. He talked through the lens of his faith. Faith is the primary driver of his life. I found this particularly interesting because, as a person from Portland, Oregon, I am not exposed to people with that level of faith. Something he said that resonated with me was that he continued to come back to his belief that “God is love.” He believes that love is what needs to be spread through the pores of our society to mend the divide between black and white folk in this nation. We sang songs of the movement bringing back the spirit that once inhabited the very park where we met with Bishop Woods.
After our powerful visit with Bishop Woods we got dinner at yet another food hall in Birmingham. Once we finished our meal, we headed to a local bowling alley. I really enjoyed this part of the day because I was able to really let loose and connect with my fellow travelers.
After bowling, we headed back to the hotel and concluded our day talking in small groups about our experience in the prior activities. It was very interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and learn more about one another.