Thursday, August 02, 2007

Birmingham, Atlanta, and Greensboro

We needed more time in Birmingham. We needed more time everywhere, but Birmingham is the crux of the whole damn thing, the symbolic center of the struggle for civil rights. And there we were, staying in a hotel located at the outskirts of the city. Once we drove downtown, though, I could sense a change. The students are interested in the events and the historical repercussions, but this is my country. This is my ugly history. Being downtown where the fire hoses and dogs were turned on the protesters was an unsettling experience.

We went to the 16th Street Baptist Church. The students wanted to discuss the finer points of the movement. They're at the age where they are just understanding how things fit into a spectrum of history and global power dynamics. They ask the best questions and make connections I would never think to make.

We drove on to Atlanta. The King Center is a sprawling complex in downtown Atlanta. We were shadowed by a no-nonsense reporter and her jovial photographer. We walked and walked, listened, talked, and walked some more. There are dozens of pandhandlers who swarm the visitors to the center. Are they taking advantage of white guilt, black guilt or just tourists in general?

Yesterday and last night we were in Greensboro. A woman from the International Civil Rights Museum spoke to the students. She was a mesmerizing speaker and a fascinating woman. She spoke to them about the importance of democratic participation, of divisions between blacks and whites and within the black community, of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, of current ingrained racism. She took us down to the original Woolworth's, which is under construction and will eventually become the International Civil Rights Museum. Everyone sat at the very same counter where the Greensboro Four sat in 1960. There were smiles as we all sat together, and then tears when it started to sink in.

It was our last night before we go to Washington. The end is looming in our minds and weighing heavy on our hearts. We're hugging each other a lot.

Today will be a long day on the bus.

5 comments:

step right up said...

I have been to Birmingham on several occasions. Lots of history there and I hope lots of positive growth, too.
Some of my best times were spent in the 5 Points area of Birmingham listening and dancing to live music.

The [Cherry] Ride said...

I am awaiting your thoughts on DC. I hope it is an interesting experience for you.

The [Cherry] Ride said...

... and the kids, of course.

Jonah said...

Thank you for taking the time to post and share this fantastic road trip. I wish all of our young people could trace your steps. Is Stella freedom riding with you?

Alisson said...

hey alannah, sounds like you are having fun and totally keeping busy. you will most likely crash when you get home? i found sara moore's blog through your site and that is fun. take care and i will try and call soon