American South #8: Meaningful Connections

Zavi Salomon-Fernandez ‘25, reflects on the importance of bonding and making meaningful connections.

After a night of dancing in Memphis, Oscar, my roommate, and I woke up at the bright and early 7:45 in the morning. As we got ready to go eat breakfast in our hotel and go to the National Civil Rights Museum, some last day emotions came to heart; bittersweet, tender memories, but mostly I was excited to spend time together with the group. The goal today was to make the most of my time with the group.

Choosing to walk instead of riding the bus to the museum, we argued about basketball, talked about love and relationships, took a pit stop and competed on who could roll down a hill the fastest, connecting on our way. It was actually my rock-paper-scissors battle against Xavier that decided that we would walk – I won two to zero – which I think was the better choice. We arrived at the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated and where the museum was built onto. We first entered the “Tarred Healing” art exhibit that reflected on the University of Carolina’s past involved with slavery, and its present position in that context. Then we entered the civil rights exhibit where the history of Black Americans was chronologized from the Middle Passage to MLK’s assassination and today. My favorite parts were seeing the stories of the first Black children to integrate schools, getting to step inside the model of the bus where Rosa Parks stood her ground in her seat, and reading about the Black Power movement, listening to music from that era. I specifically appreciated a conversation I had with an older lady about her experiences growing up in the 60s, during the heat of the ongoing civil rights movement, and talking about her grandchildren; she gave me grandma vibes.

Walking out of the museum – me being last as I always have been throughout the trip – it was clearing up from rain; somewhat gloomy, but becoming cheerful, like the bittersweet end to our trip. As we boarded the bus, we had our final meal together. I had a barbeque chicken salad, if you wanted to know. Driving through Memphis gave me time to leaf through my many memories of the trip, and make room for the last few. After checking in, going through TSA, and doing medical check-outs, we spent our last bit of time together. We heard reflections and appreciations from our trip leaders, Mr. Perry and LM, and Envoys leaders, Terry and Annie. We had our final goofy and heartfelt conversations, and then it was time for goodbyes. With hugs all around, it was easy to tell how close we’ve grown from the beginning of the trip. One of my goals was to make meaningful connections with each person on the trip, and I can say that I deeply appreciate everyone’s presence and personalities on this trip. Instead of saying “Goodbye,” I think what’s more fitting is “See you later.” Our paths will cross somewhere, sooner or later, and I’ll be waiting until then.