Day 1-North Carolina

June 11th, 2017

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Last night I was asked what I was most excited for when coming on this trip, and my answer was to know more names. I had no idea where that came from, but when thinking about my education as a young biracial child, I knew three names of black people who changed the world for the better, and I knew the names of an innumerable amount of white people. I think this made it easy for me to associate white with good, and black with bad but this is far from the truth. My youth pastor always says, “Every name has a story, and every story matters to God.” If that is true, which I do believe it is, why are we not hearing the names and stories of all of these black and brown people who literally gave up their lives for me to have a better life? This is something that is troubling to me, and I hope to be a part in remedying it. These names are important. These stories have value. They deserve to be heard. This does not discredit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, but I think they would say the same thing. I am excited to be on this trip with white people because these stories will help them to be a better ally and share the stories of others because their voice is often more readily heard. I know this trip will make me feel every emotion that exists, but I pray that I am able to adequately articulate them so that others may get a glimpse of what I experienced. This is such an amazing experience, and I am blessed to have been given it. Today we are driving to North Carolina, and then going to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum and North Carolina A&T. To stand where the Greensboro Four stood is amazing and inspiring, and I am ready to feel all the feels. I feel entirely out of my league here, where the rest of the students are far more well versed on these topics, but I hope this will help me to get there.

We watched a documentary called “Soundtrack of the Revolution”. There was a quote that said “the police can’t take away our songs,” and I was so moved by that because there was so much the police could and did do to the people fighting for their freedom, and to see them singing while being mistreated and arrested was completely moving. The hope that comes through song is empowering. Music created a sense of solidarity through all of the struggles that came their way. The documentary also talked about how the oral tradition has sustained black life and looking through history that is so unbelievably true. It talked about how going to jail became the thing to do, and I started thinking about how we are taught that people in jail are bad people, but for black and brown people that have never really been the case. So we are perpetuating this false narrative that people in jail are bad, and the police are good, but far more often than we want to believe that is not a complete truth.

When I got the monument for the Greensboro Four at North Carolina A & T, I was speechless. It’s easy to look at the statute of four men, shrug your shoulders, and move on, but I think it’s important to remember the amazing courageous that came with this protest. To think that men my age started to change and revolutionize America in difficult ways really is inspiring. While schools may be “integrated” there is still more to be done and these people inspired me to do something now. I think it’s important to reflect the lives that were put in danger for my rights. I would not be here without the Greensboro Four and those who followed after them.

There is no way to adequately express how this whole thing made me feel. I have cried 2-3 times, and it’s weird because we are traveling, but it’s not a happy trip per say. I know how I shouldn’t respond to these monuments and museums but is hard to know how to react. Some people took pictures with the monument of the Greensboro Four but I found my experience to be too somber for that. I recognize that as I advocate for other people, I am only able to do it with relative confidence of my safety because these people risked theirs first and I think that is moving, and disheartening.

The Museum was cool because I was able to stand where the Greensboro Four sat and the rest of the protestors at that time. That, to me, was really inspiring and just an opportunity I feel blessed that I had. The parts that moved me most was when we went to the “Hall of Shame”. The Hall of Shame is where there were pictures of morbid events that happened throughout the years, and they haven’t stopped, and they are not restricted to the South. I cried looking at the mutilated faces and bodies of men, women, and children that lost their lives for no justifiable reason. Emmitt Till was pictured, and it brought me back to the grace that Mamie granted the murderers of her son and the Spirit of God so present within her. That gave me a glimmer of hope, in such a horror filled area. The museum also talked about how the fabric of this country is not as perfect as we often portray it, and throughout the formation of this country, people have not been treated fairly. This is important to remember because this history does play a role in the current state of our nation. There is so much hurt, but we have come so far and seeing the Greensboro Four, and knowing they were victorious is a beacon of hope in a rather depressing time. This one restaurant’s integration is not enough for me to be satisfied, and the fact that they were beaten and tortured simply to be served a meal breaks my heart. In the museum, as the tour guide broke down different pieces of the oppression the black people faced in the 60’s, the intentionality of the white people to degrade the black folk and make sure that mentally they knew they were less than disgusts me, and that mindset permeates our media and other modes of knowledge even today.

As I was looking at their monument, which stands at the college at which they were college freshmen, I began to look into myself and think about how I had done nothing nearly as impactful as that. While I was thinking that, Kelly said, “This is the challenge in making people into big figures to look up to, we forget how we are playing a role as well, no matter how small it is.” That is so true. Every conversation I have about race and equity is a part of the role I am playing. I can’t help but thank God that often I am able to speak up without fear of my life, but many still can’t. Change is coming, but I want to be an agent of change. Yes, God will do it, but God uses people, and I want to be one of the people He uses.

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