American South #9: A Final Reflection

On the final day of the American South travel program trip leader, James Perry, shares a final reflection.

One more full day with this group…what am I feeling? I guess my own sense of ‘privilege’:

  • I’m privileged to have the opportunity to get to interact and get to learn from these extraordinary young people. 
  • I’m privileged to have witnessed these students have the opportunity to encounter their history, question the history that they have been taught, ask WHY the two diverge, and ask WHAT they can do in their communities to continue the fight for progress. 
  • I am privileged to have learned with them…so many things at my age that I did not know…things that I was never taught during my Independent School or my post-secondary education about our history. 
  • I am privileged to travel with a group of adults who care about these young learners; all of us coming from a different place but with a common goal…to make this trip a revealing and life altering experience for the students. 

Things that I will incorporate into my lexicon: 

  • We are here– Bryan Stevenson on what he would tell our ancestors who were lynched throughout the South. 
  • Don’t start a discussion of our history with enslavement…our history started way before that and extends and will extend way beyond that– Dan Moore, Founder of the APEX Museum in Atlanta 
  • Death Row is the only place I’ve been in my life where racism didn’t exist (amongst the inmates)– Anthony Ray Hinton 

The most amazing thing about this trip is that the students didn’t just get to see the history; it wasn’t confined to visiting museums and other historical sites, the students actually got to hear their history from people who were there! The ability to hear first-hand accounts of what transpired during the Civil Rights Era of the 60s provided them (and all of us) a unique unvarnished perspective. I am saddened, yet humbled, that this opportunity will become more fleeting as time goes on. Many of the people we have heard from so far are in their 70s, or older. We will lose that perspective, and this first-hand experience, soon. Our students took full advantage of it though, they asked lots of insightful questions, answered questions posed to them, researched people and places, presented that research daily to the group, and collectively raised our level of discourse and understanding! 

Thank you Mrs. Hutchinson for proposing and arranging this experience! Your tireless efforts to provide this opportunity is not lost on the students, or your fellow traveling adults! You have opened the door, and we will continue to walk through it!

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