Advocacy Focus: Civil Rights Trip

Travelers visit Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, AL

Have you ever walked across a bridge that played a major role in our history? Or witnessed the anguish still present today in a person who was brutally attacked by police and firemen when they were young? Have you ever thought about what those four young girls were thinking about, chatting about, and doing just before a bomb blew up outside their church basement window, killing them instantly?

For the travelers who went on the Civil Rights Trip from April 18-21, the answer to all of these questions is “yes.” There were 27 on the bus to Alabama, led by the Revs. Lucy Crain of First Presbyterian and Delton Farmer of First United Presbyterian. Larry Bosc, an experienced tour guide, organized the trip, which led the group to different sites in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama. Through shared experiences (such as a flat bus tire) and deep conversations, new friendships and alliances were formed among the pilgrims.

16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

In Montgomery, the group visited three deeply moving sites established by the Equal Justice Initiative: the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (also known as the National Lynching Memorial); the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration; and the Freedom Monument Sculpture Park. In Selma, the group walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which still stands today as a solemn monument to the courage and sacrifice of those who marched across it in 1965, facing down violence and injustice in their quest for equality. In Birmingham, travelers visited “Dynamite Hill” and Kelly Ingram Park, ground zero of Bull Connor’s brutal attack on participants in the Children’s March. In all three cities, masterful tour guides with first-hand experience brought sites of the Civil Rights Movement to life.

“We will remember. With hope, because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage, because peace requires bravery. With persistence, because justice is a constant struggle. With faith, because we shall overcome.”

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice Montgomery, Alabama

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice,
Montgomery, AL

The culmination of this meaningful journey was Sunday worship at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. “The experience nearly brought me to tears,” Janet Lyman, a member of the church’s Anti-racism Subcommittee, said. “We felt so welcome, so warmly received, where we might have been greeted with skepticism or hostility.” This beautiful church remains strong today, 60 years after the horrific bombing that took the lives of those four little girls.

“The trip brought to life for me the civil rights struggles of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s,” Hal Clarke, First Presbyterian member, explained. “We learned of many individual acts of heroism as well as the sacrifices – intimidation, bodily harm, and death – of those who were fighting injustice to secure the civil rights of African Americans. We also saw the hate, brutality, and ugliness of those fighting to maintain white supremacy. The experience left me asking myself what role I should play in opposing today’s injustices as I seek to follow Christ.”

Share this with a friend!