From 2014 trip

June 15th, 2014

It’s Sheryl on day 8 (6/14/14). We are winding down this 9-day civil rights tour with just one more day to go. Like most trips people take, you look forward to getting home but also can’t believe that the time is already over and wish in some way that the days could continue. I’m ready to get home, though. I’ve loved the hotels that I’ve stayed in, enjoyed the food (and learned how to survive on less coffee, chocolate and ice cream than I thought possible), and have adapted to my 2 bus seats well, but all that said, there’s a household full of people ready for me to come home who I am ready to see.

As we start heading back north – via the west after a “quick” stop in Little Rock, AK yesterday, we visited Little Rock Central High School, where the historical Little Rock Nine group of black students integrated an all-white high school in 1957. Last January Messiah College was fortunate to host one of the Little Rock Nine students, Terrence Roberts. Because of his visit I was already somewhat aware of the story behind the Little Rock controversy and the daily struggles these 9 students and their families endured for desegregation.

Today, by way of Nashville, TN, we enjoyed a guided walking and bus tour of where the Freedom Riders formed and where violent historic lunch counter story incidents occurred (sit-ins). We also visited the campus of Fisk University. Pretty campus, full of black history with many alumnae that were involved in – and led – the civil rights movement.

I have to admit that I’m glad the tour is winding down. My brain can’t take any more history. I am on overload. I need time to process what I’ve already learned. I can handle one more day, though.

The Right to Vote

June 13th, 2014

Day 4 (June10th)Today we travel the roads that led to the right to vote from Selma to Mongomery. This ride was 54 miles. Could you imagine walking 54 miles? How would your feet feel? How would your body feel? Where would you stop to rest along the way?They marched 10 – 12 miles a day.We walked across the Edmund Petis Bridge today. Myself and a fellow individual on the trip lead the way. I happened to be wearing my superman shirt that day. I truly believe the men women and children who walked the bridge on “Bloody Sunday” and “Turn around Tuesday” were super heroes. They stood against injustice and fought a battle to show people everywhere we all deserve equal rights. Yet the right to vote was still being denied even though it was given  in 1870 to citizens. This March took place in 1965, almost 100 years after the right to vote was given. Our tour was given by a once little girl who walked on “Bloody Sunday” across the Edmund Petis bridge. This was a heavy day. My mind could not grasp all of the injustices and cruelties that took place in this city.

From 2014 trip

June 13th, 2014

It’s Sheryl (Day 6 – 6/12/14)… and today is the day on this tour that I have been waiting for (minus the migraine that has hit due to lack of caffeine intake. I’m going through serious withdraw).

We have made it to Memphis, TN, home to so much history (and what I will soon find out are some of the best BBQ ribs in the country on Beale St), but we visited the newly renovated National Civil Rights Museum which houses the Lorraine Motel, the site of MLK’s last night and ultimately his assassination.

We also visited the Mason Temple around the corner, the church where he preached his “Mountaintop” speech, which was also the last speech he would ever give.

This day moved me. I started this trip having more knowledge about MLK’s final days than I had knowledge of any of the civil rights movement history that I’ve learned, which means I’ve learned A LOT! Messiah College was fortunate to host Rev. Billy Kyles in 2012, who was on the balcony with MLK when he was shot. Having hosted Rev. Kyles, having spent time with him, hearing his story, the story of King’s final days and seeing pictures of the Lorraine motel made the history real to me. Today, history came to life. I feel forever changed.

When people ask if there is someone in the world – alive or dead – that you’d like to meet, I never knew who I would say. But without question now, for me, that person is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died too young. He died with work unfinished. But he was not afraid of death. As Rev. Kyles said after the assassination, “you can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.”

Sit Where?

June 13th, 2014
Day 3 (June 9th)
Back on the bus. Today I was offered a seat closer to the front of the bus. One of my colleagues asked if I wanted to switch seats. This is significant because as I reflect on the facts of the times before the movement I would not have been able to accept the offer. Why? Based on the place my colleague was sitting on a city bus I would have been on the wrong part of the bus. There would have been a signs that said white and colored. Even the seat colors and hand rails would help to reinforce the reality of my inability to choose. I am so very thankful that today the choice was mine. No sign dictated my section or the actions I was to take. I had freedom to chose and the ability to decide for myself. What a gift this is choice. At times I can be a little indecisive about some decisions this trip is helping me reflect on my need to be firm in my decision and continue to have an awareness of the reality that a true since of the word choice was not always an option. I am thankful that I have no cage on my mind but the ability to read, imagine, dream, and seek for what is right.
A privilege was granted to me today. I was able to meet a “Freedom Singer” Ms. Rutha Mae Harris. Not only did she speak with us but she sang the songs of the movement. I found myself closing my eyes, singing and imagining I was there in the church in a meeting as the songs were sang to gear up for another day. For me she made history come alive. She sang “Hold my hand” I imagined myself marching across the Edmund Pettis Bridge with thousands of others it brought tears to my eyes. I knew many of the songs and was able to catch on to the changes because they were songs we sang in church. The lyrics were changed for the occasion. Some may view this a sacraligious. I personally view it as a powerful artistic statement because it allows the words of familiar songs to be used as fuel for the movement. As we sang today I felt ready to take on the challenges of or present days. What gives you the energy and determination to keep going in the pursuit of change?

From 2014 trip

June 13th, 2014

The memorial for the girls who lost their lives at the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church.

Rough Day

June 13th, 2014

The cumulative effect of the various events of the week caught up with me on the bus Wednesday afternoon.  As we drove to Birmingham tears streamed down my face.  There had been other moments earlier in the week that had caused me to tear up…but it was the documentary “Four Little Girls” outlining the deaths due to the bombing of the 16th street Baptist Church in Birmingham that did me in.  I sat on the bus and cried for nearly an hour while this story unfolded.  Later in the day I then had the opportunity to meet the sister of one of these girls.

The Gift of Water

June 13th, 2014

Over the last couple of days we have seen many fountains – these beautiful symbols.  A short search of scripture (assisted by Dr. Richard Lee Patterson) shows many metaphors with water in scripture.  I’ll only mention a few.

Not surprising that many of us think of water as healing and soothing – calming.  Isaiah predicts that once the Israelites are  in their land God will “pour water on the parched ground and cause streams to flow on the dry land” (Isa. 44:3)

The Lord will “guide them; he will lead them to springs of water” (Isa. 49:10; cf. Isa. 41:18; Jer. 31:9)

Solomon states, “The words of a person’s mouth are like deep waters, and the fountain of wisdom is like a flowing brook” (Prov. 18:4).

At the far end of the fountains you can see the tombstones for Dr. Martin Luther King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

The fountain outside The Rosa Parks Museum

One corner of the fountain in the park where the water hoses were turned on the children who were “marching to be free.”  There were three other fountains like this creating the effect of a circle.

This one was at the Civil Rights Memorial Center and says it best:  Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  Amos 5:34

No wonder water is used so much in memorials – centering, calming, focused, peaceful.

From 2014 trip

June 12th, 2014

It’s Sheryl (day 5 – 6/11/14) and I think looking at the itinerary today is the last day of on/off/on/off of the bus to see a lot of monuments and photo opps at a lot of places. The next 3 days will be some long stretches of bus traveling to Memphis, Little Rock and Ohio.

In my first blog I mentioned that if I could be comfy, have my coffee and chocolate I’d stay a happy girl on this trip. I’m happy to report that I’ve stayed comfy. The bus and hotel and food accommodations have been terrific. But I’m taking a caffeine tumble with my lack of substantial coffee and chocolate. Might need to call in the reinforcements ASAP…. I just have to keep telling myself what MLK told the marchers of Alabama…”how long? Not long.”

After 5 days of this history lesson on wheels I have started hearing the stories repeatedly but as we visit museums or hear witnesses of the civil rights movement speak the stories are becoming impactful and human to me now. In Montgomery, AL we visited the Civil Rights Memorial & Visitors Center and if you wanted to, you had the opportunity to sign the Wall of Tolerance to pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance (see picture). I’m reminded on this trip that the civil rights movement is largely about blacks and Negros, but civil rights is about any human being that is being discriminated against, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, age or disability.

We had the opportunity to visit another church and learn of the story of 4 little black girls who were killed when a bomb went off – another random act of hatred and violence – and 4 little girls getting ready for Sunday school, were the victims for doing nothing other than living their lives. Later tonight we met and heard from one of the girls’ friends who survived the bomb that day, Mrs. Carolyn McKinstry and one of the little girl’s sisters, Lisa McNair. It’s been 50 years since this act of violence and these 2 women don’t live 1 day without some sort of daily reminder – even in this day – of the hatred and violence. When will it end?

Off to Memphis tomorrow.

From 2014 trip

June 11th, 2014

This church in Selma where the march to Montgomery began, “Bloody Sunday”

Dexter Ave. Baptist Church

June 11th, 2014

Dexter Ave. Church in Montgomery.  One of the churches MLK served and the one he was at during the Modern civil rights tour.