…at Middlebury! We got dropped off at Adirondack Circle today around 8am in the morning. We have put up more pictures under the “PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP” tab. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday in Wilson Hall and sharing our experiences with you.
Here is coverage of the March we attended on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol:
On Sunday night, we had the opportunity to meet religious leaders from the community at the First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL. Four of the five people we met had interacted with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was incredible to be in the presence of people who have lived through the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement. Here are their names:
- Doctor Milton Davis
- Doctor Betty Davis
- Reverend Jackie Slaughter
- Reverend John Brooks
- Reverend Farrell Duncombe
On Monday, we visited the Selma Interpretation Center in Selma, AL. As we were talking to one of the interpreters, we found ourselves in the presence of Joanne Bland, a foot soldier in the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March. She was marching with some young people across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and asked us to join. As we were lining up to walk across the bridge, she said, “Think of social movements as a jigsaw puzzle. If a piece is missing, is the puzzle complete? No! You are the most important piece. All of us are equally important.” Afterwards, we visited The Lowndes Interpretive Center and we saw Joanne in the museum video. Joanne continues her work through her program, “Journeys For The Soul,” which entails giving groups a four hour Civil Rights tour in Selma. You can check out more of her work at this website: “Joanne Bland – civil and human rights activist.”
More blogposts and pictures to come…Please feel free to comment on our posts!
This post is from Anna Iglitzin on the Montgomery Spring Break trip, a sophomore feb at Middlebury College.
I want to start by saying that I am disastrously bad with names. When I meet new people, as I have been on this trip, I make it a point to tell people how bad I am at remembering names, so that they won’t feel offended when I inevitably avoid referring to them by name. As much as I pass off my forgetfulness in a joking manner, it actually deeply upsets me that I can care so much about my relationships with people but so easily forget the first thing that they say to me.
Sure, people’s names in no way encompass the true complexity of individuals, but in the absence of other information about someone, his/her name is a necessary component of connecting with them. Names are often deeply tied to people’s identity: they reflect roots, family, and often personal stories. Most importantly, names are what make us human.
Imagine if we were all known by social security numbers. In referring to one another, we would harken back not to personal stories about our grandmothers or a favorite literary character of our parents’, but to the order in which we were registered into a system.
This is what happened to inmates of concentration camps during the Holocaust. As part of the process of dehumanization, the Nazis referred to inmates by numbers in place of names. Although this may seem to be one of the less viscerally abhorrent ways that Nazis treated Jews and other minorities, assigning numbers to people in lieu of names deliberately took away an element of the inmates’ humanity.
Walking through the Civil Rights Memorial Center this morning, I was re-reminded about the power of names as I reflected on the similarities between the memorial and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. Both memorials seek to commemorate individuals who lost their lives and are very focused on the power of names and faces in allowing people to engage tangibly with history.
The Hall of Names, which is the final room at Yad Vashem, displays what the museum has collected about the individuals who perished during the Holocaust, including parts of personal biographies as well as images. This is not at all unlike the first room of the Civil Rights Memorial Center where images and plaques describe victims of racism and bigotry. There are spaces on the walls in the Hall of Names that are still blank, leaving room for more personal stories to be revealed, which I see as a very similar style to the space Maya Lin left between the dates on the memorial she erected outside the center.
What most significantly unifies these two memorials in my mind is all the names that I can’t remember, even as they are clearly the most important, and heart-wrenching element of both memorials. When all other records of a person are gone, a name can serve as the entryway into discovering more. Knowing a name signifies one’s intention to know a story. So if I don’t remember any of the names of the martyrs that the Civil Rights Memorial Center chose to commemorate, how can I engage with those individual stories?
But maybe it’s not always about engaging with individual stories. I prefaced my reflections by mentioning that I am particularly bad with names, but I have never been accused of not feeling things deeply enough. So yes, I do not remember most names of people who died during the Holocaust or during the fight for civil rights. I did, however, walk out of both memorials with a feeling of the terrifying scale of atrocity. I feel sorrow, frustration, a deeper understanding of what so many people in this country fought for fifty years ago and continue to fight for today, and, most importantly, the drive to continue learning.
Even as there is a power in names, there is also just as important a power in a continued persistence in learning. As long as I keep asking people for their names, no matter how many times I ask and how embarrassed I am, I am continuing to engage, to think, and to process, in the same way that I was empowered to begin thinking today by the Civil Rights Memorial Center, in a way that I will hopefully exercise for the rest of this trip and beyond.
While we will be posting some pictures here on the main page, it would be best to see all the pictures from the trip by hovering your mouse on the “PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP” tab and then clicking on the day. We have put up some pictures from Saturday and Sunday! More to come…
We have been on the bus now for almost 24 hours and are arriving soon–ahead of schedule–in Montgomery. After a stop for breakfast, we will make our way to “downtown.” We are adding a visit to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church for the Sunday morning service.
We can tell it is morning, though the skies are cloudy and a gentle mist is falling. Good spirit in the group, conversations starting, excitement building.
I am going into the restaurant now for grits, eggs, and biscuits!
Stay updated on the experiences of students, faculty, and staff through this blog as they participate in an Alternative Spring Break trip to Montgomery, Alabama, March 21-29, 2015.
The trip will mark the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery which played an important role in confronting the injustices facing African Americans, especially in the South. It occurred between the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 20 Middlebury College students participated in that march, and this trip honors their activism.
The trip will include:
- Hands-on community service work with Habitat for Humanity;
- Visits to local historic sites, civil rights organizations and religious institutions, all of which played significant roles in the Civil Rights movement;
- Conversations with guest speakers and among ourselves to deepen our understanding of this important time in American Civil Rights history;
- Exploring today’s civil rights challenges and planning our own activist responses to them.
Please contact Ira Schiffer (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions.