See a message from Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston about the Northfield to Selma trip.

Thursday, March 23: Day Eight

Friday, March 24, 2017

by Emerson Herrera

Today, Thursday, March 23rd, we finally had one of the sunniest days during our wondrous trip in Birmingham, Alabama. It was finally refreshing to be greeted by the sun after a long and treacherous winter in Minnesota. As I woke up in the morning, I realized today was going to be an emotionally exhausting day like many on this trip. With this, allow me to take you on a journey through The Magic City.

As is usual, I was running late and had to quickly run down and get breakfast. The ride from our hotel to our first historical stop was breathtaking. The scenery was green and beautiful, with the sun creating shadows on trees and grass as we swiftly passed by. The bus abruptly stopped in front of a historical and well-known church of the Civil Rights Movement: the 16th Street Baptist Church. Here, we were going to learn about four little girls who died in a bombing inside the Church due to a group of white men’s deep rooted hate towards African-Americans. While inside, as I looked around, I could imagine the Church full of children cheering and singing with joy as they congregated to fight segregation and fight the injustice thrust upon them on a country that was built on “freedom”. As I looked at where I believed the pastor would stand, I could hear the hymnals of equality and liberty; of justice and love; and of faith and hope.

Our visit to the 16th Street Baptist Church was a transformative experience. Through its preservation, I could tangibly feel the hatred of the white man towards the black man. I could see the oppression. I could hear the calls for justice. I could taste the fruit from the tree of freedom. The Church is a reminder of the capabilities of human beings in seeking what they want, but I hope that from now on, as we pursue a better future for our children, we use that motivation for good. This is one of many lessons I will take from my short visit to the Church that marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

After lunch at a Café, we went to the Civil Rights Institute where we were able to acquire more knowledge on the Movement in a more Birmingham-centered way. The Institute was full of facts and stories set in Birmingham, as well as overall history on the South. There, I was able to enjoy a different type of exhibition that was more interactive than most. At the Institute, I was able to sit in a replica of a church and segregated bus, and a display comparing two white and African-American classrooms.

There was a particular part of the Institute that caught my eye: the video of the I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King Jr. As someone who has had experience in public speaking and aspires to be a great orator like Dr. King, this speech is one of the most inspiring and emotional producing orations. I stood there awed at how the audience clung to every word he said, how smoothly the words rolled out of his mouth, and how his face related the emotions he was trying to convey in his speech. Once the peroration finally came, I was moved to tears. His words show me that we have much to go in regard to civil rights for African-Americans and many others who are oppressed in the America of today. I hope that as I leave you with the last parting words of his speech, you too may reflect on how you can make a difference to one day realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream:

“When we allow freedom to ring-when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God Almighty, We are free at last.’”

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