American South #6: Making A Difference

Chamari Williams ’24 and Ephraim Tony Tutu ’24, reflect on the importance of youth and the civil rights movement, past and present. 

Today we began the day in Montgomery, traveled to Selma, and ended the day in Birmingham, Alabama.

Ready?! Okay well go: Our start time was 8:30 AM, which after our morning debrief we were sent on our way to visit the Southern Poverty Law center. There were two very interesting types of “fountains” where the water gently flowed over silver letters engraved in a black to gray colored stone. The round table, that plenty of us were so tempted to touch, was a timeline that pieced together many of the events we were trying to piece together: laws and Supreme Court decisions to assassinations. On the wall, water cascaded from its top to bottom, washing a Martin Luther King quote that read “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”. 

After enjoying a great meal from a Greek restaurant we began our trip to Selma. The ride from Montgomery to Selma was about an hour. We arrived at Brown Chapel AME Church at around 2 pm. There we met a woman by the name of Ms. Parish. She told us about the history of the church in great detail. She herself was born and baptized into the church. She was 16 years old when the March from Selma to Montgomery happened. She stayed back at the church with her mother but recalls seeing the marchers running back on Bloody Sunday beat and in need of help. She recalls a young man running back taking off his clothing due to the tear gas. She tried to tell him not to but ended up getting tear gas on herself. She told the group about how she participated in many of the marches and even how her sister was arrested and traumatized from the experiences of their youth. She remembers how she and many members of her communities had to hide when they heard sirens of the KKK coming through their neighborhood. She allowed us to ask her questions and answered them the best she could. Being able to hear her first person accounts was truly amazing. She spoke fondly of her mother who was a school teacher. Her mother encouraged students to protest. These protests were for African American rights to vote. 

I am truly grateful for this experience and learned so much about young people’s role in the civil rights movement today. From the young freedom riders to the young marchers we truly see today how much young people pushed change in the civil rights movement. This taught me that my classmates and I truly can make a difference in this world now. We don’t need to wait till we are older to make change, but instead we can truly start now. 

After leaving the Church we walked across the historical Edmund Pettus bridge known as the bridge the marchers on Bloody Sunday ran across while being attacked. From there we got on a bus and traveled 3 hours to Birmingham. In Birmingham, we stayed at a beautiful hotel and had a delicious meal at a classic chicken spot. After this we retired for the night.