Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Selma, Lord, Selma - Tisheika Snow

Saturday, March 7th, 2015, 6:15 am. Finally, the time arrived to wake up and prepare for the historical weekend ahead. While early mornings are not my favorite, I woke up at least once every hour in anticipation for what was sure to be a momentous weekend. The trip highly exceeded my expectations.

Our group departed from Cookeville around 8am on Saturday morning. We arrived to Montgomery around 3pm after hitting a minor traffic jam in Birmingham. The exciting thing about having to take a detour is that we were able to drive through the city. In a way, the city looked like any other city. Tall buildings, houses, corner stores, etc. Yet, there was something eerie about driving within a few miles of the 16th Street Baptist Church that was bombed in 1963 and resulted in the deaths of four little girls. I grew up hearing stories about that bombing, so it was a bit heartrending to be so close to the location.

In Montgomery, our first stop was the Rosa Parks Museum. It had already closed when we arrived, but visitors continued to take pictures of the building and read the historical posts that were outside of the museum. We walked further along and discovered more historical posts scattered throughout the town. We even saw the location where Rosa Parks’ boarded the bus for the last time before she refused to give up her seat.

We continued to Dexter Avenue where you can see the capitol building from far away. It reminded me of being within walking distance of our nation’s capital except Montgomery was quainter. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church looked just as it does in photos. We were very lucky to be able to enter the church. While we were in there, two little girls asked to play the piano. They played the tune to “We Shall Overcome,” and the 60 or so people who were in the church sang along. It was a very inspiring and moving experience.

Our next stop was the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). If you are ever in Montgomery, you need to visit EJI. The information they shared was so informative, and I left in awe of their commitments to the underdog. I became even more emotional while listening to the tour guide. He told us about the history of the street we were on and how a lot of its history is overlooked. 

After the tour of EJI, we went to Immanuel Presbyterian Church. The congregation leaders were so kind to provide us with lodging and meals. Let me tell you—I had one of the best tasting salads ever. The next morning, March 8th at 7am, we left for Selma. The sun was shining. It was nothing but clear blue skies. Somehow we missed the memorial marker for martyr Viola Liuzzo on Highway 80, but it’s not because we weren’t looking. Believe me, we slowed down to read every historical sign we saw. Andy Smith and I both vowed that we would return someday and find her marker.

Finally, Selma. Welcome to Selma! It was so early that the sky still had a grayish tint to it. We found a parking spot unbelievably close to the all of the activities. We took pictures in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The crowd at that point was smaller than the crowd you see in photos from 50 years ago. Fast forward six hours. So. Many. People. There were thousands upon thousands of people crossing the bridge. It was so awesome. I wanted everyone to hold hands and sing songs reminiscent of those from Bloody Sunday, but there were too many people to coordinate it! Throughout the day, we saw politicians, celebrities, and reverends. I was not expecting to see Trayvon Martin’s parents. The feeling I had as I watched them walk away from Brown A.M.E. Church is unexplainable.

Overall, the weekend was fast-paced yet very meaningful. There were people from all races, religions and regions in attendance. How good it is to stand united. “We the people. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Yes we can.” I remember that part of the President’s speech more than anything because it placed emphasis on the fact that we can do so much more and have more of an impact if we do it as a group. As an assistant coordinator in a learning village and residential hall at Tennessee Tech, one of my main goals is to inspire students to take in an interest in community issues. The trip to Selma was definitely one of those times where my heart fluttered as a result of the students’ desire to be a part of it. To quote one of my favorite authors J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” If even one student who went on this trip came back with an aspiration to do what is right versus what is easy, I would say this was a spring break weekend well spent.

--Tisheika Snow
Tisheika Snow is the Assistant Coordinator in the New Hall North Residential Hall and for the Tree House Living and Learning Village. 

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