Reflections


Jack Mageto, Hodan Jibrell

Jack Mageto is a sophomore majoring in biology with a minor in African and African American studies. “When we visited the Medgar Evers house, I saw the bullet hole from the high powered rifle. There was something about the killer using a weapon that could kill a rhino that really got to me. It’s even more shocking because Medgar Evers was a guy that was willing to give his life for his country during World War II, but when he came home he had to fight again for the right to vote, to drink water from a drinking fountain, and sit at a lunch counter.”

Hodan Jibrell is a sophomore majoring in biology with a minor in psychology. “A group of us had the opportunity to stay at a real-live home in Mississippi. I was honored to stay at Miss Zep’s house. Miss Zep is the daughter of Bernice and Eugene Montgomery,  who were Civil Rights leaders in Holmes County. As we drove up, the dogs were barking and the sun was shining and it really felt like the South. She made amazing home-cooked food; her house was beautiful; and she made us feel at home.”

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Chaltu Hassan,  Niat Tesfai

Chaltu Hassan is a senior majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. “This trip has given me a first hand look at what went down in the south. The Selma march was very interesting when we compared our peaceful crossing of the bridge versus the crossing fifty years ago when they had to endure violence. It shows how far we have come and how far we have left to travel.”

Niat Tesfai is a senior majoring in management information systems and minoring in communication and marketing. “I was honored to learn about the history of Civil Rights movement. One quote that stood out to me during our tour was, ‘If not us, then who; if not now, then when?’ by John Lewis. The words were written over the doorway in the Nashville Library history archive room.”

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Fardowsa Abdinoor, David Swor

Fardowsa Abdinoor is a senior who is majoring in civil engineering. “When I first heard about the Civil Rights trip, I was very excited to go on this journey, to re-live the struggles of the people in the south. Words I have been using throughout this trip are ‘feeling inspired.’ When we went to Fisk University, Professor Wynn asked, ‘What are you going to do to keep moving forward?’ The fact is that we have a lot of work to do as the new generation of activists, and we have to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight.”

David Swor is retired and has degrees in business and psychology. He’s currently a student at UMD, auditing a philosophy class. “I’m impressed with how steadfast and organized the movement was. The work for the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins began with months of training in how to conduct non-violent protest. Also, that the work isn’t done yet. We need to fight for the rights and dignity of all humanity.”


  
Michelle Stronach, Shikha Kambil

Michelle Stronach is a college counselor in UMD health services. “The Fisk University faculty were outstanding. They asked the question, ‘How will we carry on the legacy for the future of civil rights and human rights?’ I was a call to action for all of us.”

Shikha Kambil is a junior industrial engineering major. “Everything we learned on the trip tied together at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Seeing the actual hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, was surreal. I felt like I had gone back in time. I learned about segregation, prejudice, and discrimination affecting even the smallest child.  The “Doll Test,” exhibit showed how African American children would choose a white doll instead of a black doll. It was a harsh reality of the time. Society has come far, but societal views still have far to go.”

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Lensa Hassan, Susana Pelayo Woodward

Lensa Hassan is a sophomore majoring in public health. “This trip has been so inspiring, educational, and emotional. Learning about African American history has made me realize that I could have been treated like them if I was born in their generation. I am grateful for all the hard work the Civil Rights activists have done while putting their lives on the line.”

Susana Pelayo Woodward works in the office of diversity and inclusion at UMD. “When we visited the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis, we learned about Mr. Jacob Burkle and his family who helped African slaves to make their way to the North and freedom.  We saw beautiful quilts that were not for decoration but to give instructions. In was inspiring to learn about the underground railroad code of communications, such as the sound of drums and songs. The patterns in a quilt had several meanings. The North Star pattern told the African slave to follow this star as it led them to Canada and freedom. I will never look at this star just as a bright star again. Instead it will remind me of the hundreds of people who followed it to the north.”

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Alberta Nkrumah, Gail Schoenfelder

Alberta Nkrumah is a senior majoring in cellular and molecular biology. “Marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with great leaders such as Jesse Jackson was AMAZING! We watched the movie Selma on the bus the previous day and it added so much meaning to the experience. I was touched by being led by BLACK Police officers while people cried, sang songs, danced, and rejoiced. We know that during the 1960s the Foot Soldiers were beaten, tear gassed, and  brutally assaulted by white police officers just for trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was a very emotional experience for me especially, because I know I would not be here in the United States enjoying the rights fought for us by previous generations.”

Gail Schoenfelder is a retired speech/language pathologist and community member. “Visiting the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery was an incredibly moving experience. As I added my name to the wall of thousands who have taken a pledge to work for justice, I realized that I am not alone in this work, and that there is hope that the small things we do will add up to big things over time.”

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Nemuel Nyangaresi, Gay Trachsel

Nemuel Nyangaresi is a sophomore studying political science and management information systems. “The Civil Rights Memorial Center had a gallery for individuals that have been killed because of a hate crimes around the world.  They listed a child from Rwanda who was remembered because of the 1994 genocide. It put many things into perspective. Violations of human rights occur in so many places. I definitely want to be more vocal about standing for what is right and that starts with not being neutral on issues. Indecisiveness is also a choice and it always benefits the people in power.”

Gay Trachsel is a retired medical technologist and peace and justice activist. “My sadness was overwhelming at the Southern Poverty Law Center when we saw displays about ongoing struggles worldwide. We knew our injustice. We know the injustice. We still have far to go.”

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Liz Wright, Betty Greene

Liz Wright is a professor in UMD’s writing studies program. “This trip has been full of moments I didn’t expect. I sat with an elderly woman in front of the Welcome to Selma sign after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She told me about crossing the bridge on Bloody Sunday and on the two following crossings with Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps the greatest surprise was realizing I was walking the halls of the school where Richard Wright attended and ended his formal education as valedictorian. As someone who has always wondered if I have some familial tie to him, I felt a connection there.”

Betty Greene is a staff member at UMD. “Experiencing the displays at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, I was struck by the importance of unity and perseverance in order to accomplish significant Civil Rights gains. I was impressed that the community kept the bus boycott going for thirteen months. Instead of riding buses, people walked to work, some as far as 14 miles. They organized carpools, a taxi service, and they persevered, even when the city kept changing the rules for taxis.”

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Mary Cameron, Lee Cygan

Mary L. Cameron is the associate director in the UMD Human Resources and Equal Opportunity Office. “When we toured the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, we saw a water wall displaying Dr. Martin Luther King’s words ‘Until Justice Rolls Down Like Water and Righteousness Like a Mighty Stream.’ Nearby on a circle water fountain, the names of lost souls were displayed and I focused on Emmett Till. He was a 14-year old African American boy from Chicago who was visiting family in Mississippi. He was brutally beaten, tortured, shot, and thrown in a river. His face unrecognizable by his mother. Emmett lost his life because a white women reported to her husband that he flirted with her. My thoughts and prayers went to his mother who decided to have an open casket so that the whole world could see what was done to her son. As a mother I thought about my two sons, and I wondered what I would have done if this happened to me.”

Lee Cygan is a freshman studying environmental and outdoor education as well as women, gender, and sexuality studies. “I was filled with emotion when we visited the  Voting Rights Museum. Not only were we given a great explanation of the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and the march from Selma to Montgomery, we were able to see artifacts from the Civil Rights era. I was full of dread seeing the Ku Klux Klan uniform, then filled with determination seeing the cast footprints of those who marched, and finally was given hope seeing photos of President Obama. These objects and photos reaffirmed my belief that this history is not just relevant to the past, but that it continues into the history being written today.”

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Farhan Ahmed, Kandi Geary

Farhan Ahmed is a sophomore majoring in management information systems. “When we listened to Miss Zelpha Montgomery speak about her parents working to help people register to vote in the 1960’s, it made think of the 2016 election when I went door to door in the dorm and off-campus apartments to remind people to register to vote. We must continue the movement started so long ago by Civil Rights leaders.”

Kandi Geary is a retired teacher and advocate for families experiencing homelessness. “The memorial at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery is simple in its tribute. The moving water across the black granite circle is much like an organism, keeping alive the words and the names of 40 people who were killed during the struggle. We were called to make a commitment to work against hate and justice of all kinds and to remember ‘the 40 names that have not been forgotten.’ ”

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Joel Makori, Jean Baribeau Thoennes

Joel Makori is a fourth-year student studying management information systems. “The most memorable part of the trip was meeting Hollis Watkins and hearing his story at Tougaloo College, a historic HBCU in Mississippi. It was heart-felt listening about his struggles, and the struggles of other Civil Rights workers across Mississippi, worked despite the threat of being jailed. I was very emotional hearing about how he and 13 other Civil Rights workers were stuffed into a 6 x 6 solitary cell in Jackson. They didn’t have space to move and were forced to defecate on themselves at certain points of the detention.”

Jean Baribeau Thoennes works in health services at UMD. “What impacted me the most were the lectures at Fisk University, specifically learning about how the young people in Nashville led the movement forward. When Dr. Wynn asked us all what we are going to do, the young adults I was traveling with took the call seriously. I commit to working beside them as the march continues.”

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Mike Kenyanya, Karachi Ugwu

Mike Kenyanya is a sophomore studying business.There is no big museum to visit, there are no plaques marking historical homes or historical highways, nor is there a grand march that attracted us here. It’s just ‘lil ole Lexington, MS in Holmes County. Fortunately, we were able to scratch that surface to learn about how this community fought for their constitutional right to vote and helped get the first African-American elected to the Mississippi Legislature. Miss Zep had us sing the song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” The lyrics of this song accurately capture the attitude of civil rights leaders in Holmes County. It helped remind me that you don’t need some extravagant story like the ones of MLK or Rosa Parks in order to have played a game-changing role in the movement.”

Karachi Ugwu is a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering. “At the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery we heard the story of a immigrant from Senegal who was shot at a Denver bus stop. The shooter asked, ‘Are you ready to die like a nigger,’ before he fired the gun. It was so sad because every one I know that has come to the U.S., came for a better life. This man was murdered just for the color of his skin. He thought he would have a better life but instead, racism took his life.”

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Ashe Dube, Mealat Worku

Ashe Dube is a sophomore majoring in accounting. “I knew about Malcolm X and MLK but I never knew about Bob Moses, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, and James Meredith until this trip. When Sam Walker, our tour guide at the Selma museum, told us about the Civil Rights effort in Selma, I was surprised to hear that whites only allowed blacks to register to vote on the first and third Monday of every month. When people arrived, the whites locked the doors. All these people who I had never heard about, were the foot soldiers who did so much to achieve the ultimate goal: voting rights for everyone.”

Mealat Worku is a freshman studying biology and animal science. “My favorite part of the trip was meeting Hollis Watkins, a Civil Rights leader who worked with Medgar Evers. When we drove up to the Medgar Evers house, my stomach flipped. This was the real house. It wasn’t a museum; it was a real home. We saw the bullet holes made when one of the bullets shot at Mr. Evers hit the fridge. After we were done touring, we lined up for a picture. We all huddled in to hear Hollis as he gave us life advice. He was gentle and peaceful and he softly sang a song about Medgar Evers to us. It was a powerful and serene at the same time.”

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Steve Coll, Kau Guannu

Steve Coll is a community member and artist. “Getting to know UMD students whose roots are in Africa, as well as my peers with stories of long struggles in our many American human rights movements, culminated on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the 52nd anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March. The younger folks helped me feel curiosity instead of regret and hope instead of resignation. My fellow elders reminded me that a ‘change is gonna’ come’ again.”

Kau Guannu is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in deaf studies. “As I embark on this second tour of Civil Rights history, exactly three years after the first, I am reminded of how mentally unprepared I was on the previous trip. It is only now that I have matured, that I am able to comprehend the complexity, intersectionality, and importance of this movement. My journey to this understanding is what I hope all in the United States will come to some day – for this movement has impacted all of us in some way or shape. Although we have so much more to do in this fight towards equity, I am hopeful because I believe our generation has the capability to be the torch bearers and galvanizers like the leaders of the past, to keep this movement moving forward.”

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Chad Jackson, Akosau Jah

Chad Jackson works for the Minnesota Twins team and is the son of Mary Cameron. “The best experience I had on this trip was to see young people making changes. When we were walking through Jackson State, on that long walk through the campus, we could feel their energy, We met James, Jenaye, and Henry, and they were doing impactful work. You could sense the passion in their hearts and minds and eyes and spirit. I have advice. At the end of the day, as long as you are moving the human race forward, as long as you are passionate about something, just do it. Have a heart of servitude.”

Akosau Jah is a sophomore studying marketing. “As the trip came to an end we visited the National Civil Rights Museum where we saw images of a jail cell crammed with students who were my age at the time. Their crime was marching for civil rights, rights everyone should have. Some were held for days, others for weeks. I want to carry on their legacy by fighting for change and facing today’s challenges, which seem too familiar to the past. I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘The time is always right to do what is right.’ ”

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Lyndsey Andersen, Cheryl Reitan

Lyndsey Andersen is a staff member in the study-abroad program at UMD. “At the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis, I physically felt a weight on my heart listening to our tour guide tell us about places that existed in the U.S. like “negro depot” and seeing the old advertisements for the selling and trading of slaves. This museum reminded me that the story for civil and human rights started for African and African American people in the U.S. long before the 1950s and it is a very important piece of this history.”

Cheryl Reitan is a staff member at UMD. “I’m so glad we were able to stop in Holmes County. We met several movement leaders and some children of leaders. Holmes County is sometimes forgotten in Mississippi Civil Rights history, but we learned first hand how in 1967 they were able to elect Robert G. Clark, the first black to the Mississippi legislature in the 20th Century. They did it by coalition building — bringing the NAACP, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the professionals, and the farmers together to vote with one voice. Their story is an inspiration for us today.”

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Sean Carpenter is a third year student studying accounting, entrepreneurship and LGBT studies. “I seek to learn of the identities and histories of those who are different from me. One thing that has stuck with me is the saying, ‘Black history is American history.’ Despite our differences, we are one people, one global family, and I want to honor that every day.”

 

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