– Simon Fisher
We started our day by hopping on the bus and going from Birmingham to Selma. Billy had told us about the poverty in Selma, but nothing could prepare me for what it was like. As soon as we entered the main city, I whispered to Simon Gaines, who was sitting next to me, “this looks like a town out of the wild west”. Not only was it the hot southern wind but also the town itself. It seemed deserted. No one was out in the street, and all the shops seemed boarded up. That desertion truly put into perspective the impact of Bloody Sunday. We talked to Joanne Bland, a survivor of the Selma march, who told us her story. She told us about her first time going to jail when she was 8 years old and still not being the youngest person in the cell. She told us about her sister, who was the youngest person to do the entire Selma to Montgomery march. Then she got into detail about her experience on Bloody Sunday. Because she was in the back, she couldn’t see anything happening, but she heard the sounds of tear gas being thrown into the crowd. She said she would never forget the sound of a woman’s head hitting the pavement. After her terrifying and moving story, she started talking to us about what we can do now and how important the next generation is to fight against discrimination today. She told us, “we are the missing puzzle piece” as individuals and as a community to fight hate.
We then walked to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Bloody Sunday took place. After hearing Ms. Brand’s story, walking across the bridge was even more powerful. Understanding that real people had to go through so much hate and discrimination has changed my perspective on the civil rights movement as a whole. These weren’t just historical moments. They were actual events that happened to real people. It only made what we learned all the more horrible. A large part of the trip has been hearing stories. Stories are how history is passed down, and being a part of that is moving to me and to the other kids on the trip, I’m sure.
We then went down to Montgomery and ate lunch at Martha’s place. As delicious as the food was (and it was delicious), my highlight of lunch was hearing Martha’s story. She overcame so much as she went from struggling to put food on her own table to have an award-winning restaurant. We learned about her struggles with depression, feelings of a lack of self-worth, and how she found to love herself through faith.
After lunch, we went to the Rosa Parks Museum where we learned about how Rosa Parks’ actions had a ripple among the Civil Rights Movement. It inspired me that such a small thing was able to have such a large impact and reminded me that change doesn’t always require large spectacles, but can occur one small step at a time. After the museum, we went to the hotel where we had free time for a little bit. A few friends and I decided to explore the area a little. It was pretty deserted and put into perspective that I wasn’t in Brooklyn anymore. Then we had a group discussion about abortion to prepare ourselves for our conversations with Pro-Life Texas. Although we all had similar ideas surrounding abortion, we were able to share new ideas and facts that I hadn’t heard before. I’m excited for our conversations in Texas as it will be our first real conversation with someone who disagrees with most of us.
We went off to dinner at a strip mall where there were a lot of different options to eat. I ate good Mexican food with some friends, and the further south we go, the better the food gets. After dinner we regrouped and discussed how important music was and still is to culture, and how generations act on their time on earth. Billy gave an enlightening speech on the power of music while also letting us into his music life. Going to Memphis will be fun and will show us firsthand how powerful music can be. Overall, today was a really great day and although it felt pretty long, at least it means I’ll sleep even better.