June 9th, 2014

Day 1: June 7th Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights Tour

A Day of films and two stops in North Carolina

As I boarded the bus this morning I was unsure what I might find. I found many different people from various ethnicities. I reluctantly sat in the back of the bus.
While on the bus on our way to Greensboro, NC in the film we were watching a documentary and when the President Lyndon Johnson convened a evening meeting of the congress and said, “we will overcome.” The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave Blacks the right to vote without disfranchisement. It struck a cord in me as the film then took us back to the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma where they were able to cross the bridge where they were once gassed and beaten. My eyes began to well up with tears. That walk was for me and many other generations. There was a 14 year old girl on the march with her 9 year old sister. The first time across the bridge the 14 year old was beat with a billy club and gassed. The second march she had 7 stitches over her eye and 20 plus stitches in the back of her head. She desired to walk to show what they had done to her during the first march.
The film was full of freedom songs and gave me a deeper understanding for the songs I sang in the church as a child and young adult. I connect with music and I am very thankful for how it focused and united people through this battle for Civil Rights.
The documentary film, We Shall not be moved:
I found myself, upset and disgusted by some of the practices that were being done to disenfranchise African Americans from voting.There was a test for blacks in order for blacks to register to vote there were many outrageous and down right ridiculous things that were asked on this test. One of them was to guess the number of Jelly beans in a jar in order to vote in Selma. I have done many things like this during youth group events for those attending to win prizes. Maybe you have too – could you imagine this being part of an application for a right that should already be yours? To then realize no matter how close you were you would still be denied the right to vote. Leaving to voting post to return to see all the signs that separated you from so many other rights that were told to you as separate but equal. There was also a need to recite part of the Congressional statements. Things that would not be known to a community. There was even a poll tax. What is a poll tax? I am glad you asked, many Southern states enacted poll tax laws as a means of restricting eligible voters; such laws often included a grandfather clause, which allowed any adult male whose father or grandfather had voted in a specific year prior to the abolition of slavery to vote without paying the tax. This excluded African Americans (Blacks), Native Americans and some poor whites.
The second march included people from all over the nation and country. The night that the events happening in Selma there was a movie on the TV  showing Normenberg and in the middle of it they showed what first happened on the Edmund Pettis bridge. This is significant because many people would have been watching their television and it gave the movement a larger audience that could not turn their face from the ruthless acts of violence done on that day of the first march known as “Bloody Sunday”. This television coverage brought others to Selma with a desire to march because of what they saw. Today does what you see on television move you to action? Does what you see place a since of responsibility for you to bring change to the world? Have we become desensitized to the injustices in our country? Is the news showing both sides of issues? I question what is considered news today and the interesting ways issues are portrayed.
Third film
Four A&T graduates changed the world through an effort to seek manhood and be seen as men. They did not seek it with guns or violence but with a sit in at Woolworth’s lunch counter. This led to several other places doing sit ins too. One of the men David Blair stayed in the area after college and was unable to get a good job because of the sit in. Yet, he stayed to take care of his parents. He was wiling to endure the heat of his choice and be proud that he stood for what was right and live with the consequences of his choice. Today what are you willing to stand for regardless of the consequences?
” If we stand for nothing we will fall for anything.” ( origin of quote debated)
NC A&T University
The four young men who sat in at Woolworth’s on February 1st, 1960 now have a memorial at North Carolina A & T that was erected in 2010.  We stopped to see the memorial before heading to the location where the old Woolworth store stood. At the location now sits the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. When Woolworth’s went out of business in 1994 the city was going to tare down the store.  I had a hard time believing that a city would tare down this building when it should be deemed a historical site. Then I began to think why is it historical? In some peoples minds because of the nature of what made it historical might not deem it as a building they want to stand. Nonetheless, today I am thankful for those who stood against demolishing the building  to preserve the history of what happened threw four young men engaging their hearts and minds in what was happening around them. Their desire to see change for themselves began to effect a state and then spread to other southern states. To think the sit-ins started with four young men who were freshmen or first year students at North Carolina A & T is inspiring and thought provoking. This was an effort that grew from things they lived and were taught in their homes and classrooms alike. Students also dialogued about these issues often. Today what are students dialoging about? How are we encouraging this generation of college students to stand against personal injustices and issues that face our communities? Are we just teaching disciplines or are we allowing the reality of life to interface with the lives of students to produce true education and learning?
A call to go!
If you are ever in North Carolina or planning a trip I encourage you to go to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. It cost 10.00 dollars for adults, but it is well worth the ticket cost. To look into the opportunity go to www.sitinmovement.org. Our tour guide was dynamic and really made the tour an experience. She herself went to the Wolworth’s store as a child and it made the tour very rich and vibrant. It made the experience come to life. She even shared the things her mom would tell them prior to going into the store. This tour helped me to get a deeper understanding of what life truly was like before the signs were removed from stores and other establishments. Although at times I still see in the eyes of those who watch me in their stores still place a sign on me that are not fitting with the content of my character because of the color of my skin. Have you ever been followed in a store? Have you ever been overlooked in a store for another patron with a more fair complexion? As I see it -there may no longer be a sign but there are still issues and old thoughts guiding some practices.  Please, educate yourself so the past is not repeated.

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