There is a difference between reading about the Civil Rights Movement and experiencing the Civil Rights Movement.  I learned that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not the only heroes of the movement.  I learned that the racial tension between whites and blacks during the 1950s and 1960s is still present today through stories of first hand experience.  I was reminded that I was born with an invisible set of privileges as a white person, and even though this brings a sense of guilt to my conscious, I can take this guilt and work for equality.  I was reminded that every set of privileges is not a black and white issue.  There are privileges to being part of a specific social class, sex, ability, religion, or sexuality.  Everything I learned or was reminded on this trip is something I could not have realized anywhere else but New Market, Tennessee, Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia.

We’ve talked a lot about what we learned on this trip as a group, but I think the hardest conversations we had as a collective was applying what we learned to the future at Lafayette and to our own futures even past collage.  It is a hard conversation.  First, we had to admit that Lafayette is not as diverse and people, especially privileged students, like to think the campus is.  Lafayette is not diverse.  So how do we fix this?  Well, we talked a lot about what can be done.  For example, the single-sex dorms should be equal.  Kirby, Soles, and Marquis should be of equal standard structurally.  Also, more students from different races, socio-economic statuses, and ethnicities need to be recruited to come to Lafayette.  True, a lot of students would not feel comfortable on a campus that is predominantly white to come to Lafayette anyway.  However, the more students from different races, ethnicities, and social classes that are recruited through such methods as letters and visits from Lafayette admissions, the more diverse Lafayette will be.  And lastly, all buildings on campus need to be handicap accessible so students of different abilities can go to classes and their dorms without worrying how they are getting there.  These are just a few suggestions we as a group came up with.  One thing we stressed was that there is no reason to bring the privileged students down, but instead to bring the disadvantaged students up to the standard privileged students live at Lafayette.  I think this is the most important part of change that could be and should be something that guides changes both at Lafayette and in America – everyone, regardless of race, size, sex, ability, sexuality, religion, or any other identity, should be brought up to an equal step of privilege.

Chipped Beef with Extra Skin Please

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to give an update on the Civil Rights Tour for all those interested. Today, Thursday, I am in Atlanta on the last leg of my civil rights experience. Instead of just telling you about today I am going to talk about this experience and how it has affected me. I came on this trip uneducated. I was ready to talk to people, see historic places, do service, and learn. I feel like this has been accomplished, to a degree. I am much more educated about civil rights but I can only continue to strive for a deeper understanding and a complete perspective will never be accomplished. There are just somethings I can only be told about and will not experience in my life. These thoughts are in parallel with another realization that I had at the YWCA at Birmingham. From an article and a discussion I realized and was able to put into words how being born as a white male and into a middle class has provided me with an invisible backpack of privileges that I can access throughout my life. There can not be a feeling of guilt from this realization just an understanding that you have this invisible backpack allows you to more readily help others who do not have the same opportunities and privileges. The problem with people today is they do not make this realization or still believe everyone has an equal opportunity to success.

Civil Rights is not an issue of the past it is still a present issue in the North, South, East, West, and an issue on Lafayette Campus. Segregation is still present and visible everywhere. We have talked about hypotheticals for why it so prevalent but tonight we made a large step and started talking about how to change this segregation and truly be a diverse campus. It may not happen in my tenure at Lafayette but its a process that must start if Lafayette wants to be considered a diverse campus.

So we have been having something other than really good discussions we are having really good food. At least I think so. Today I ordered chipped beef with extra skin from an authentic BBQ joint in Alabama and it was great. I recomend it to anyone. I also tried for the first time fried green tomatoes and okra. Ok people are going to bed so I am signing off. This Was David L from Atlanta. Hope you enjoyed the update.

Oh Golley

Today we traveled from Montgomery to Selma to further our education about civil rights, specifically about the March for voting rights. The ride was only a little over an hour which is nothing for us at this point in our trip. As we traveled along the rolling hills the beauty of Alabama and the rural environment became very apparent. Having spent my whole life in the suburbs outside of Manhattan I truly enjoyed the country scenery. We drove over the bridge in Selma and immediately saw the devastation. Every other store front was vacant and few cars filled the streets. It was apparent the white population had relocated and the majority of the population was African American. We attended a voting museum that explained more of the history of the march for voting rights. As we pulled up to a drug store the vacant store fronts had danger signs in the front windows warning that the building had been deemed unstable and able to collapse at any moment.

Prior to our trip I had learned from Diane Shaw that Marquis De Lafayette had an important role in the civil rights movement and actually had a monument in Selma. We tried to find this monument and eventually found the small plaque that stated the importance of Lafayette in the movement. It was cool to see that the founder of our school had played a role in the movement we were studying.

Then we traveled to Atlanta from Selma and the traffic made it apparent we were no longer in Alabama and had entered the city!

YWCA-Birmingham…Day 3

Hey y’all!

Today we had the opportunity to visit the YWCA of Birmingham.  You may be familiar with the YMCA organization (not only for its excitable dance moves).  The slogan of YWCA Birmingham is “eliminating racism, empowering women”, and the center seems to do just that.  Prior to today, I hadn’t even heard of a YWCA, and since then have found out that they aren’t all like the one down here, but it truly is unbelievable.  We arrived around 9:30 am, and were greeted by a lovely woman with a coolly authentic southern accent.  For about an hour and a half, we got a tour of the facility and learned a lot about the organization.  The center is a place where homeless children from local shelters were given special attention to ensure their eventual success in the public schooling system.  We found out that more often than not, kids that grow up in homeless shelters don’t usually have the confidence to succeed that a child growing up in a two-parent household has.  This in turn led the school teachers to put the children into a special-ed class, which is an issue within itself.  At the YWCA, there are plenty of staff and volunteers at work to make sure that these homeless children are able to learn the fundamentals from reading and writing to basic hygiene necessities.  The place was truly amazing, but it only gets better.  In the upper floors of the ten-story building, housing is available for families who are transitioning, as well as single mothers fleeing abusive relationships, and other circumstances of that sort.  At the end of the tour, we were introduced to Deshaun and Jacob, two AmeriCorps volunteers that work with the YWCA.  This is truly where the day took a turn.  We entered a room adjacent to the gym, unknowingly (well at least I didn’t know about it) about to participate in a workshop that addressed social justice.  Just a sidenote: a lot of times, we as a society regard the term “Civil Rights” as being a black-white concern.  While that is the case, we tend to disregard the fact that “Civil Rights” refers to all the injustices between social groups.  Among identifying the dominant people in “ism’s” such as racism, sexism, religionism, ageism, sizism, etc., we participated in a bunch of activities and conversations that really dug deep at these issues, and more.  Well, I’m about at the part of the day that I wanted to talk about, so haha for unintentionally long blogs.  The best and most real part of the workshop was what Deshaun and Jacob called the “Privledge Walk”.  At this point, we moved into the gym next door.  All ten of us, and Marie (a volunteer for YWCA on her first day) started standing on the half-court line.  We closed our eyes as Deshaun and Jacob alternated reading different statements that we were told to step forwards or backwards a step (based on our agreement/disagreement).  The statements were simple at first glance (examples include “If there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, step forward”, and “if you were often told by your parents that you were smart and/or beautiful, step backwards”), but they definitely allowed for some deep reflection.    At the end of the series of statements, we were told to open our eyes and look around.  We were scattered throughout the room.  As we moved back next door to reflect upon the “Privledge Walk” we had just endured, I was speechless.  I have always considered myself an appreciative person, but I now realize that appreciation goes WAY beyond material things, education resources, and things alike.  It upset me that I hadn’t before truly appreciated the little things, like encouragement from my parents, or the fact that I grew up not in a single-parent home.  What upset me more, was the fact that on a bigger scale, I innately was given more privlege than someone else.  It just doesn’t seem fair, which is the root of the “Civil Rights” issue.  We then wrote letters to ourselves (to be mailed out in a month), just about anything.  In that letter, I made sure to tell myself to appreciate the little things, to take a step back from what probably will be a stressful schedule and appreciate that I am getting not only an education, but a great one, and that I can’t complain about the way I’m living, or anything really.

Well, this was very long, and I didn’t even get to talk about “My Sister’s Closet”!  Hopefully someone else will get to that!

Alana :)


On Tuesday we arrived in Montgomery, AL and finally had nice weather. We decided to take advantage of this and walked around the city to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There we saw the Civil Rights Memorial which honors 40 martyrs of the Civil Rights struggle. Outside a black wall stands with the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream “. Additionally a disk has the names of the martyrs inscribed in chronological order along with other historic events and water stands on the top of the disk. It was a neat experience to run my hands through this water and see later inside the pictures of historic figures from the Civil Rights movement such as Rosa Parks standing in the same place. Before we left we were also able to sign the Wall of Tolerance which is a digital screen scrolling the names of all the individuals who have visited the memorial and pledged to take a stand against hate and injustice. Also in Montgomery we visited the state capital and met an adorable elderly man who gave us a tour of the building. Our last visit in the city was to the Rosa Parks Museum. The museum gave new insight into the famous incident which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and also information on other factors affecting this Civil Rights landmark, such as the fact that a lawsuit by four other women, arrested prior to Rosa Parks was the legal end to bus segregation. I really enjoyed visiting Montgomery, the capital and big city for Alabama, even though it only has one skyscraper. It is a nice change of pace from northern cities and offered a wealth of knowledge on the Civil Rights movement in creative ways.


Day 2

We started the morning bright and early with a delicious breakfast prepared by a woman who worked at the Highlander Institute for over 30 years. After breakfast, we watched a short informational video that talked about the Highlander Institute’s involvement in raising awareness and training advocates of civil rights. It was interesting to see the progression of the institute from dealing with specifically civil rights to a wider range of issues including protection of the environment, youth leadership, and others. After our time spent at the Highlander, we drove four and a half hours to Birmingham. Upon arrival in Birmingham, we stopped at the 16th Baptist Church, which was the site of a racially-motivated bombing by the Klu Klux Klan that resulted in the deaths of four young girls. Walking into the church was overwhelming because when I think of a church, I envision a place of security and hope, but in these times black people were not safe in their churches or even their homes. Realizing that they went to sleep at night with no sense of security really brought a flood of emotion. After visiting the church, we crossed the street and visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The museum was more thought-provoking and eye-opening than I could have imagined. I really was able to emotionally connect with the situations and tried to put myself into the events and imagine what both white and black people were thinking and feeling as these events played out. One event that really affected me was pictures of boycotts that took place in what is now Kelly Ingram Park. The Birmingham police confronted demonstrators with firehoses, dogs, and mass arrests. Many of those arrested were children. There were a few pictures of children being attacked by dogs and knocked to the ground with powerful firehoses. This really affected me when I imagined the fear I would have felt five or six years ago in the situation as a kid. The fact that innocent children (and adults) were subject to arrest and violence because of their skin color is just so hard to comprehend. The courage children had to participate in boycotts and attend school despite constant danger amazed me. Even as an adult, I would have been fearful at all times as I am sure many adults were then but the fact that children had to endure these atrocities just affected me in a way I cannot fully explain. Something that really stirred me was a display of a cross that was picked up as evidence from a cross burning that took place in front of the house of an interracial couple during the 1990s. The fact that racism still results in violence measures in recent times bothered me. I often forget that civil rights is not an issue of a past but an issue that still exists today. The museum made me thankful for all the progress that has been made but it also made me aware of how much there is left to be done. This experience has motivated me to want to make a difference in some way. Although I am not sure exactly how to use these experiences to make changes, I want to begin by sharing my experiences with other people and by being more conscious of civil rights issues by reading about current events and initiatives. After a quick walk through Kelly Ingram Park, we headed back to our hotel, cooked dinner, and had reflections. The reflection was really thought-provoking and brought up issues including education systems, socioeconomic status, and race, and how different circumstances interplay to give certain people more opportunity and privilege than others. The day definitely educated us and gave us some answers, but it also brought up many more questions with no simple answers.


Day 1

Well, the car ride was long we drove and drove and drove some more…I’m not sure what to expect from this trip.  We have a great group.  Each person has a very unique perspective.  We arrived at the Highlander Institute at night.  It was pitch black and I went searching for our room.  Once we were all settled in, Bonnie and I searched the facilities.  We discovered the main workshop and center room.  I stood there in all- a circle room with rocking chairs.  The lights were dim and you could feel the reverence of the room.  The circle of the chairs produced energy from the past and I tried to imagine the important people who once sat in these chairs.  I took a seat tried to soak up the atmosphere.  We got the team together for our reflection that took place in the circle room.  Each person sat there and soaked it all in.  It is unbelievable how powerful the environment you are in changes your behavior.  Each person was in the zone and made powerful contributions.  It was empowering and I knew the trip was going to be a success.