Civil Rights tour – Day 8 – End of a Journey

June 18th, 2012

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope”
Robert Kennedy – Cape Town, South Africa 1966
The modern Civil Rights movement began in 1954 with the Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas and ended in 1968 with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. After learning and hearing the Civil Rights activists speaking about the turbulent years and horrific experiences, I have decided that I have to find a way to make a difference every day. The principles that governed their movement and their daily lives are so appropriate for the current climate. The rhetoric of equality, forgiveness, hope, peace, justice, and non-violence are all things that go into the formula for making this world a better place. All of these things bound together by a close relationship with the church make a strong road upon which to build your own journey. I am thankful that our country has come so far but we still have so far to go in this country and the world.

Peace and Blessings.

Counting the cost

June 17th, 2012

“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The benefit cost ratio takes into account the amount of gain realized by performing a project versus what it costs to execute a project. Costs for those involved in the Civil Rights movement certainly varied. Some paid with their lives. For some the cost of physical abuse left lingering physical injuries. But there were also unseen costs. The abuse left deep emotional scars for many. Many families never or hardly ever spoke of it. There was no counseling services, no recognition of PTSD. Many struggled with alcohol and drug abuse. Listening to the veteran’s of civil rights, it is obvious that they were aware of the possible physical costs. They speak of signing their last wills prior to the Freedom Rides, living with the bombings of their homes and churches, but it is evident that few could realize the emotional cost. Yet with all of it, it is apparent listening to them speak that the cost of living under segregation, living as less than human was greater still.

As we wind down the trip, I am faced with the realization that there is still a long way to go. In many instances it seems like we are fighting the same battles (voting rights, educational opportunities, etc). I spoke in a previous blog about trying to come up with ideas about where I should go from here, well I’ve got my first “to do” list for when I get back. I know it’s merely a starting point. As I contructed the list I had momentary flashes of thought that “I’m only one person”, but in the end, I am the only one for whom I am accountable.

Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my (Jesus’) sake will find it”

June 16

June 17th, 2012

Our bus has been a community–different races, varying beliefs, different roles within our respective vocations, and yet there is a common thread that binds us. This thread is the fact that social justice is an ongoing struggle, that remains unresolved, and our many different duties will include it to be necessary to recall what we have learned and put it into practice.

We saw from first hand accounts how inaction can, and does, oppress. Our lack of intervening when necessary aids in condoning the unacceptable behavior. Christ called out unacceptable behavior–will we?

From those who stood stood with one another, watched their friends die, be beaten physically and mentally, there has been a great cost that cannot be minimized.  Education must include our collective history, not sanitized and made more palatable, but be accurate, so that we do not find ourselves at the same crossroads.

Civil Rights Tour 2012 – Day 6 – Nashville

June 17th, 2012

The violence is over but the images endure. How can you ever forget them? I know the people who participated in the Civil Rights movement cannot forget. Their hearts have been seared with all of it and forever changed. I get the sense that the Civil Rights leaders and “foot soldiers” of the 50’s and 60’s are worried about the future and are trying desperately to make the young people understand the importance of continuing the work they started and worked so hard to achieve. They literally gave their lives for the cause of justice and freedom. There is no higher calling. I only hope that I will be able to find a way to pass forward the knowledge and insights I gained on this trip and have the courage during difficult times to be full of grace.
Peace and Blessings.

Civil Rights Blog – Little Rock, Ark. – Day 5

June 17th, 2012

The visuals of Little Rock, Ark. and the 9 sweet innocent black children who integrated the Central High School are imbedded in my being. Clubbing and beating the children trying to intimidate and humiliate them and make them go home, the local police continued their assault until Federal Troops from the 101st Airborne had to be ordered to protect them. Some of the individuals still have scars on their legs from white students tripping them, pushing shoving, and hitting them. How can you not learn something from that lesson? The disparity portrayed
After learning about all of the turbulence and horrific treatment of fellow human beings in this country, the biggest issue that resonates with me is the imperativeness of going home and moving forward with my passions. It is now more important than ever to address environmental concerns and dedicate more time to teaching people about the importance of saving our beautiful earth. It is critical to help bring out the vote for this next election by helping Senior Citizens and others to register.

That is all for now.

A Full Heart

June 16th, 2012

“Dare to object to prejudice and injustice”  Gloria Ray Karlmark, a member of the Little Rock Nine

We have been exposed to a wealth of incredible images, stories and people. I feel as though my heart is full. I do not consider myself an emotional person. I tend to process things through a logical lens with limited emotional tint. But when I called home today to provide an update, the flood gates opened. I had hoped to disscuss some plans I had for after I returned home. Plans to become actively involved. Plans to intentionally put myself in places and circumstances where I will interact with people from other cultures, backgrounds, etc. Since yesterday’s blog I had been brainstorming about these things. Very logically. So the welling up of my emotions suprised me as the words came out of my mouth. I have been deeply impacted by this trip. In one way it will be difficult for it to end. In another I can’t wait to get home to get started.

Micah 6:8 Love justice, DO mercy, walk humbly.

Civil Rights Tour 2012 – 16th Street Church Bombing – Day 4 – 2nd submission

June 16th, 2012

Hi all!
Beautiful well-spoken Carolyn McKinstry was our speaker this evening during dinner. She was so full of love and reconciliation even after witnessing all of the horror of the bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham where 4 little girls were killed wearing their Sunday dresses and talking about the fun event they were going to have in the afternoon for the youth. She was such a voice of reason and has such a beautiful spirit even after suffering and experiencing so much pain and terror in her life. I marvel at the lack of bitterness. She travels all over the world to explain the events of that day and how the world can grow from that experience. Wow, I feel blessed to have met someone who is a living example of forgiveness and grace.


Memphis & Little Rock

June 15th, 2012

The Civil Rights journey has continued. Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the Loraine Motel, which is the site of Dr. King’s assassination. That was mind blowing to be able to view the room and the site of Dr. King’s final moments. It is so sad to think that a man who wanted equality for all and demonstrated it in a peaceful way would be murdered. He wanted both blacks, whites and everyone to get along but so many whites were angered with this. Why? What did he do that was wrong? I am so thankful for what he did for me and mankind. I only think what the world would be like if he had not been killed. I do think we would be further along with racial equality.  I saw a shirt that had an amazing quote. It said, ‘You can kill the dreamer but you can’t kill the dream.’. That is amazing because the dream is still alive but it’s up to all of us to continue to fight for the dream.

Last night we went to Downtown Memphis and that was a really fun time.  We had 3 hours to eat and hang out downtown.  Most of us split up into small groups and went our separate ways. I went with an African American colleague from Geneva and 3 white Geneva college students. We went to eat BBQ at an amazing Memohis BBQ place. However, we had a great conversation about our experiences, race and racism. It was interesting because the 3 students had very different experiences with race. One had quite a bit of experience with diversity, another had little but some experience and the other had no experience with diversity. We were able to be open & honest with each other. I shared about my TJ Rockwells experience and had felt good in doing so.  All of a sudden someone asked me why didn’t I speak to the media, who wanted to talk to me, and go on the cameras and I shared with them because I was scared! I was afraid for my safety as I didn’t know if retaliation would occur. I began to sob because I was thinking about the many people we had heard from and how they risked their lives, and many were injured and killed for my rights. It was very emotional but they made me feel comfortable to be vulnerable. We than walked downtown in the bright list and just enjoyed the sites.

Yesterday we also heard from Rev. Billy Kyles, who was a dear friend of Dr. King. He also was standing next to Dr. King when he was assassinated. He didn’t speak much about that day but I have seen him in videos and know the affects that day had on him. I also thought to myself, that this trip and experience gave me opportunities that most people will never have. I spoke to, touched and took a picture with the man who was 5 steps from Dr. King when he was murdered! People don’t have this opportunity in a group of 30! I’m so Blessed.

Today we went to Little Rock, Ark and to Central High School. This is the site where Arkansas was integrated with the Little Rock 9. The school is still open and we walked the halls, we walked the steps where these students fought to desegregate schools. I always went to school with whites and had the best education. I have to think those 9 for the risk they took. Please people I ask you to google, ‘The Little Rock 9’ and learn more about this group. We also heard from one of the Little Rock 9s sister and daughter. In fact her daughter ate lunch at my table along with 5 others. I’m rubbing elbows with history!

On to Nashville we go…

God Bless

Witness 6/14

June 15th, 2012

Today in Memphis we were able to enjoy some soul Music (Stax Museum of American Soul Music), eat on Beale Street, and visit the National Civil Rights Museum which is located on the sight of the Lorraine motel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. There we also were blessed to hear from Reverend Samual “Billie” Kyles. Reverend Kyles was there in the events leading up to and including the assassination. He spoke of how he has spoken to people from every walk of life about those events, on the spot where it occurred. People like Sandra Day O’Conner, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.  When someone in our group asked him if he had suffered from lingering effects after the assassination he told us he had for about 10 years. What pulled him out of it he said was the realization that crucifixions have to have witnesses. A lieing witness is dangerous and a witness who won’t share is of no consequence.  So he has found solace in serving as a witness to those events and times. (He made a video account called “Witness”). It made me think of Hebrews Chapter 12 which starts: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We trully have been blessed to hear directly and very personally from a “great cloud of witnesses” to these events this week. There stories have bore witness not only to the facts of the events, but the human emotions, the struggles and the costs.  I feel that this day has placed my mind on a path of transition. How do I take these lessons, these testimonies, and turn them into real tangible actions? How to I act as a witness to the things I have seen and heard?

What a priviledge to hear from Reverend Kyles

The Lorraine Hotel. Site of the assassination of Dr King.

Waters 6/13

June 15th, 2012
Wall at Civil Rights Memorial

Quote from Martin Luther King, Jr

This day was filled with images of water from the gentle fountains in Montgomery to the water canons in Birmingham. While the travel schedule is somewhat physically tiring, it is emotionally very tiring. I feel buffeted by waves of emotions. We are only about half way through the trip by my emotions have run the full gammitt. Shock at the violence used against peaceful protestors. Admiration for the courage of Rosa Parks and others. Anger at those who use the name of Christ to justify their hatred. Resolve. Sorrow. Appreciation. Hope.

After seeing the quote from Amos that Dr King referred to in his I have a dream speech I went back and read  Amos Chapter 5. Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ” The parallels between Israel at the time of Amos and the US must have been evident to him. Irael was prospering in many ways, but according to the prophet, neglecting and oppressing the poor. I can’t help thinking we are fighting some of these battles still…