Friday, March 20, 2009

Chipo's Trip

Wow, ok. So it's over and I'm in shock and experiencing signs of withdrawal, I miss all of you guys. Um, this is a sort of summary of my trip and how I felt along the way


Today we visited Little Rock High School and I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel any major sorrow, any shock or surprise, I just didn't feel anything. I was like shame (which means I'm sorry in South African English), spit, but then it was like eh, oh well. I guess I'm desensitized, having grown up in South Africa, in a time quite similar to the era just after the Civil Rights movement. So it isn't to strange for me to have been the first black family in an area, or for stones to be thrown at me because I'm black.

When we went to the Dunbar museum, what struck me then was that most of these people looked white and I was like, Oh.
Another product of South Africa is that because people were graded on how close to white they were, I find it difficult to accept that people who are almost white and people who are black can be treated the same way.

Day 2
Worship at the historically black church was such a culture shock to me, though I'm black , because I'm South African , I'd never experienced something like that before. Lunch in Memphis was pretty good; I ate catfish for the first time and discovered that it tastes much better when you eat it with your hands.

The National Civil Rights museum was pretty legit and I really enjoyed our awesome tour guide. For me, it was the first time I'd heard a lot of the information and I thought it was exciting and new.

My favourite part about Memphis though, has to be Beale Street. We had an absolute ball there when we were given free time and I feel it really allowed me to start connecting with the people I was travelling with. We danced and sang karaoke at what must have been the most talented karaoke night in America; the people who sang were phenomenal. We also had some of our own singing notes I never thought I'd hear.


We were in Oxford and wow, it was intense. This was where our group (group 3) experienced The Heated Debate, it was intense, but that one has its own blog. The rest of Oxford wasn't as intense though and it’s a beautiful little town with ridiculously overpriced clothing stores and a really fun bookshop chain thing. It was great. They also had this really cool diner called Ajax where I deep fried eggplant which was pretty cool.
On the way out of Mississippi we stopped at this gas station and I had a conversation with the attendant and when I asked about racism, she said it was still very prevalent and that people often refused to be served by her and that in fact someone had lied to her manager that very day because she was black. When I said we were going to Alabama she said she was sorry, as it was worse there...

Day 4

Birmingham, Alabama was amazing the Civil Rights Institute was my favourite of all the museums we went to, and we went to quite a few. The other cool part of Birmingham was free time when we walked all over the city, it was amazing. We had this really awesome group with Syntche, Rachana, Chey, Lei, Lauren and I. We walked down the historical black district into these cool barbershops and just talked to people. We walked into this one ghetto fabulous store selling everything from fake hair to grillz, it was awesome. I met this guy at the store and asked him about the race situation in Alabama and he told me, how he felt his race had affected the quality of his education, how he'd felt entering the army was his only way to escape becoming a lay about at home, how at one point in time he'd worked 16hours a day to make $900 a week and how he was moving to Tennessee to escape because maybe change would come faster then.

Day 5

Selma was so cool, oh my gosh, we did this tour of Selma and walked across the bridge, it was great. The best part however, was when we went on this slavery simulation. It was phenomenal. It was one of the first times I really connected with the struggle of America's African American population. It just changed my perspective. It made me realize that we need to start racial reconciliation in South Africa now, because if we don't in forty years we'll have what America has. Where most of the majority are totally disconnected from the situation and its affects are something the minority groups feel daily.

Day 6

Montgomery was a lot intense. We went to four museums in one day, it was crazy. However, the first museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center was a real eye opener to the kind of discrimination going on today and to the forgotten heroes of the Civil Rights movement. Their wall of tolerance however, was what really challenged me because I didn't know whether to sign it or not. As someone who has faced a lot of discrimination, it's one of my main goals in life to learn to value people regardless of their age, race, gender or sexual orientation. But I was afraid to sign the wall because I was afraid people would take it to mean that I was in support of things I don't agree with. I believe that people should be allowed to do what they would like as long as it doesn't harm anyone else, but that doesn't mean I will support it or be in favour of it. So I didn't sign the wall and I'm still not sure whether that was the right choice or not.

Day 7

Was a rather interesting day, we had a bus accident (someone scrapped the bus whilst trying to change lanes) so our panel discussion for that day was cancelled. But we did get to have an awesome night in New Orleans eating benets and celebrating as bears when Baylor won their basketball games.

Day 8

This was a real eye opener because I didn't believe this could happen in America. I couldn't believe that 3years after Katrina, people could be living in a hollowed out shell of a house and that the poorer areas could be left relatively unchanged since the disaster.
It was awesome to be able to do a little something, but it made me feel sad to leave when there was still so much left to do.
On a brighter note though NO was fun for so many other reasons. I got to eat an amazing Oyster po'boy which is basically a deep fried oyster sandwich, one word = Awesome. Our planned night out in NO went a little pear shaped though, because it was pouring and we sort of ended up walking for a mile and a half going to a place we didn't even end up going. But then we danced in the rain, had benets and coffee for dinner and danced on Bourbon St. picking up beads and roses in true NO style. It was a good night.

Day 9

The last day of our trip was where I realised just how awesome it had had been and just how much I didn’t want to leave, but hey. The highlights of the day where when we stopped at Rachana's parents Shipley's and they gave us free reign of the doughnut shop allowing us to get whatever we wanted. Thank you so much Mr. & Mrs. Chhin. As well as this really awesome contemplative worship session that C Mac led us in.
The most awesome parts of the trip though were things like playing catchphrase til the early hours of the morning and having awesome conversations with people I would never have met any other way. This trip changed my life, it’s been amazing and taught me so much about myself and others, changing my world view . . .
Thank you everyone who made this possible and to everyone who participated, you've changed my world
beep beep beep....

Sunday, March 15, 2009


So I'm sitting in bed Sunday night, not really believing everything I've learned the past week.  I signed up for this trip last-minute and am SO incredibly glad I went.  It's definitely the best trip I've taken in college.  We learned in the best way to learn -- experiencing.  But even more than going to the museums and hearing people speak and even going through a simulation, I think I learned the most from our small group discussions/q&a time.  I knew one person in my group ahead of time, but now feel a connection with all of my group members and every person on the trip.  It was refreshing to get to know a group of people so different from myself.  Yet each person shared one thing: a desire to learn about how everyday people, such as ourselves, stood up and spoke out against injustice; beginning a movement that still exists today.  Everyone brought something great to the table, and I honestly loved getting to know everyone on the trip!  

Everyone's background, individual thoughts, and emotions helped form the great discussions we had.  I can't wait to hang out with everyone again and already miss everybody!  I mean, its been less than 12 hours, but can you blame me?  I close my eyes and feel like I'm on a bus, but that's okay.  

Sidles equals best bus driver ever.

Love you all!


3 Years After Hurricane Katrina

Yesterday we volunteered at a home that had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. It was one of the most rewarding and disappointing experiences I have had in awhile. It felt great to be able to help a family that really needed help in getting their home back in order. The house was rewired so that it could have electricity, insulation and dry wall was put up, there were fence post holes were dug, the decaying gutter was removed, and the inside of the house was tidied up. There was a sense of accomplishment as we completed various tasks.

However, it was disappointing that for as much work as we had done there was still so much that was needed. I'm not just speaking about that particular home, but in the entire city of New Orleans. With as much rebuilding that was going on, there was like 3 times as much that wasn't happening. The neighborhood we were in was so empty. There were no people just hanging out and socializing on the street; there were no children riding bikes and playing around. It was like the neighborhood was simply a ghost town. Life had left the neighborhood and I'm not sure if it'll ever completely return. I truly wonder if the city of New Orleans will ever be the way it was.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Things that inspire

Southern Poverty Law Center - 
Water memorial outside designed by Maya Lin that honors 40 individuals who helped make the CRM a success.  Water has been symbolic overtime for so many things, but I think it has great symbolism for healing.  The inside was interesting and wasn't information overload.  After seeing everything we've seen so far, it helped tie everything together ... but it also told a few of the many untold stories.  
Cool documentary shown ahead of time, "Faces in the Water", which began with the powerful story of Emmett Till, but also of others such as Jimmy Lee and Viola Gregg.  

Quote on wall: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim." 
-Elie Wiesel

Interesting thoughts from tour guide: 
-We all have the propensity to operate on some prejudices.  Racism is institutionally based, but prejudice is more human nature.
-Remember... being the target of oppression or on the privileged side is always interchangeable.  

Rosa Parks Museum:
Boycott lasted 381 days.  That's a freakin long time to walk.  And an even longer time to lose $3,000 each day from African Americans not using the bus system.

From You Stood Up - Rosa Parks poem by TJ Gardner Jr:
Sometimes one small act of courage
However hopeless, yet in a just endeavor
May have the power to vanquish tyranny
And change the world forever

We know that physical acts of violence 
As history has revealed
Are never as effective 
As defiance of the will.

-- I love that last line.

If you're reading this, google MLK's Epiphany right now.  The most powerful thing I've read the whole trip.

Other quotes from the Parks museum:
"One feels history is being made in Montgomery these days.  It's hard to imagine a soul so dead, a heart so hard, a vision so blinded and provincial as not to be awed with admiration and the quiet dignity discipline and dedication with which the negroes conducted the boycott." 
- Juliette Morgan, young, white librarian in letter to Montgomery Advertiser

"... That's how it was and that's why I walked.  I wanted to be one of them that tried to make it better.  I didn't want somebody else to make it better for me." - Gussi Nesbitt

" It's a feeling that makes you feel American.  America is a great country and we're doing something to make it better." - Jo Ann Robinson

Baylor Civil Rights Tour, Group #2, Mar-13th

Ahh…Naw’lins (New Orleans ☺)! What a day it has been! The Baylor Civil Rights Tour arrived in Louisiana this evening as we head into the final leg of our trip. We left Montgomery, Alabama this morning and moved west through Mississippi, hugging the Gulf Coast

During the bus ride, our individual groups were brainstorming possible questions that we could ask the Tulane University panel with issues concerning Katrina, race, rebuilding, etc:

What approach was the new governor, Bobby Jindal, taking towards rebuilding? Has the predicted demographic change surfaced after Katrina with many African-Americans resettling in different states and being replaced Hispanics laborers coming in through government contractors, etc.? How have other minority groups been affected by Katrina? I am reminded of the last question by the election of the first Vietnamese Congressman, Joseph Ahn Cao of Louisiana, who is a Baylor Alum I might add.

Unfortunately, we had a minor accident on the road that set us back an hour or two and we missed our panel discussion! I was really looking forward to the panel! But alas, we couldn’t.

But all was not lost. One of Karin’s old friends gave us a tour of New Orleans. It was a worthwhile experience to see the wide diversity in New Orleans and how parts of the city were picking up from the Hurricane. The French/Colonial architecture was sometimes especially beautiful. There certainly has been progress, but much more needs to be done because some areas still are in pretty bad shape (lower ninth ward) or destroyed altogether.

For dinner we went to a Remoulade’s, a Cajun restaurant, to taste the local food. Woo-wee! One of the best things about Lousiana is the cuisine, and it certainly did not disappoint. Gumbo, jambalaya, meat pies, the best seafood…definitely some good stuff.

Our group split up after that and walked through the French Quarter. The nightlife was certainly vibrant and one can only imagine what happens during Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day. There were many different establishments, some of questionable nature, but nonetheless offering something for mostly everyone. The mix of crowds, music, food, and both affluence and want gave this part of Naw’lins a flavor all its own.

Now we’re on the bus and heading back to Slidell, LA to rest up for the night as I type this. We’ll need rest because tomorrow we’ll be working with Katrina Corps on some rebuilding projects. Until next time!


Recap of the past two days

Yesterday we were in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. We visited the Civil Rights Museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the patronage of Martin Luther King Jr. and his family, and the Rosa Parks Museum. I really enjoyed the Civil Rights Museum and Southern Poverty Law Center. They focused not only on taking a stand African-American civil rights, but also the civil rights of all people (Middle Eastern, women, gays & lesbians, etc). I think Elie Wiesel said it best when he said "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented".

I saw one picture in there that just hurt my heart; it was a small child (around 2 or 3 years old) dressed in a KKK robe and touching the riot shield of an African-American police officer. I just don't understand how anyone could teach their child to hate at such a young age. I suppose it's the same way people teach their kids to love and be tolerant at a young age.

One thing I find interesting is that Rosa Parks has an entire museum dedicated to her. It's interesting to me that a person who physically did so little for the movement came to the status of fame that she did. Now, before you get upset, I'm not saying that she was not important to the movement, but that it's just interesting to me that there were so many other people that gave
up so much for the movement and they have not received the kind of recognition that she has. I believe that Rosa Parks was not necessarily essential to the movement, but she played an important factor in the speed of the movement.

So today is our first day in New Orleans and it has been an interesting day. We watched When the Levees Broke by Spike Lee on the way down from Montgomery. It was definitely an interesting film to watch. It talked about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the different residents of New Orleans. It was hard to watch sometimes because of the pain you could hear in the people's voices and the pain you could see on their face. They were just hurt and felt betrayed by their own government; the same government that is suppose to protect them and watch out for them. The question has been brought up on several occasions of whether help would have came sooner if the majority of the people would have been Caucasian. I honestly don't think it had to do so much with race as with socioeconomic status (SES). The areas that were hit the hardest were the Ninth Ward (especially the Lower Ninth Ward) and the Lakeview area. It just so happened that a majority of the people in the Ninth Ward were African-American. If it had been a highly affluent area I think it would have been fixed a lot quicker.

Speaking of being fixed, it has been about 3 1/2 years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Some areas in the Ninth Ward, especially the Lower Ninth Ward are still in such horrible condition. How can we spend billions of dollars to institute democracy in a foreign country but when our own citizens need help it's taking years to get anything accomplished? There is no reason that things should still be as bad as they are.

Also, I read in my journal of a town in which Caucasian "militia" men basically went around shooting African-Americans walking through their town (simply trying to escape the hurricane) because they were "thugs" and up to no good. What really gets me is that the police did nothing and have done nothing about this. Since when was it okay to go around and shoot people because you think they are up to no good? I hate to play the race card but if a group of African-American "militia" men went around shooting Caucasian people would that be overlooked as well? In one statement, an older Caucasian man said that he had seen someone get shot and that as an EMT his first response should have been to go out there and help the man but he was afraid of getting shot himself. I can't wrap my head around the fact that people were just shooting, and in some cases "hunting" other human beings. To be fair, I can possibly understand why some of them took up arms in the first place. If you are hearing news reports about the violence and looting going on and then you see those "same" people in your neighborhood you want to do everything you can to protect yourself, your family, and your property. I am not trying to excuse them from what they done, simply trying to be fair by presenting both sides.

Something else that struck me as strange and honestly quite stupid while we were touring some of New Orleans was that they rebuilt the levees at the exact same height as before. I mean if they didn't work the first time, what makes you think that they are going to work the next time. Einstein said it best, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Why not take the time and money to do it right, that way if it happens again, the levees will actually work and all this money and man power will not have to be used. Another thing that struck me as odd was the fact that they fenced off some area around the levees (that are the exact same height as before) saying that it was unsafe to live there. However, it's clearly much safer to live across the street from the fenced off area (I'm being sarcastic in case you can't tell). I mean do these people honestly think before they do some of the things they do?

We visited downtown New Orleans last night and it was quite an experience. There were so many different things going on at once. There are restaurants, dance clubs, live music clubs, street performers, and gift shops just to name a few. You can't really tell that the downtown area was affected by Hurricane Katrina, but again, I believe this is because it is so essential to the New Orleans economy.

Group 2: A late post from Monday the 9th

We visited the University of Mississippi in Oxford on Monday. We heard Dr. Susan Glisson from their Institute for Racial Reconciliation. She’s been there since 1996, I think, when the Institute was founded. She used the phrase “rhetorical space,” which Emily Hinkle really liked. Emily’s going to start requiring that people not invade her rhetorical space.

We learned about James Meredith, the first African-American to attend University of Mississippi.

We visited the library archives afterward, where Ms. Jennifer Ford gave us a presentation on what the archives do. She had pulled some interesting documents for us to look as, including KKK pamphlets, sermons given by white pastors after the 1962 riot that accompanied James Meredith’s enrollment in the university, NAACP posters, and essay contest brochures from the local White Citizens’ Council.

We also talked with Dr. Cole, a university provost, and heard his story of attending the university just a few years after Meredith did.

The White Citizens’ Counsels were like a nice version of the KKK. They didn’t murder or terrorize people, but they used social and economic pressure to keep separation and segregation going strong.

One of the essay contest pamphlets had a copy of the last year’s (1960-61’s?) winning essay. It was an eye-opener, to say the least.

The prompt was something along the lines of “Why should the races stay separated?” I only read about a third of the essay, but it was enough to see that the winning kid used arguments from the Bible and from history to justify segregation. I’m sure he probably used pseudo-science at some point, too. In his understanding, Ham, the cursed son of Noah, was the forefather of all black people. Therefore, black people were condemned by scripture to servitude. It’s highly improbable that this kid came up with this argument out of his own brilliance. No. These ideas were being taught in his church and at home. His pastor told him that people with darker skin were natural servants.

His second argument was based on world history. The Greeks were a great civilization until they started mixing with the barbaric cultures around them, he wrote. Before, they led the world in art, learning, government… everything. Integration ended a great civilization.

In small group today, we went on a major tangent, but one that is still relevant to civil rights. We talked about how the Bible was used to bolster arguments for slavery, and later to justify the separation of the races. Today we look with shame on how scripture was twisted to fit an agenda that discriminated against a group of people. We pondered whether the American church will someday look with shame on how the Bible was used to deny rights to homosexual couples.
Our group had very mixed feelings about the issue; most of us are internally conflicted about it and don’t really know which side we stand on.

On the one hand, it’s unfair to deny a population the right to get married. If they’re living like married people, why shouldn’t they get the same tax breaks heterosexual couples do? On the other hand, if gay marriage is allowed, the next can of worms would be adoption.

There’s also the difficulty of navigating the command to love while, at the same time, staying true to the doctrine of the church. The church condemns homosexual acts. If a member consistently disobeys that teaching, should the church ask them to leave the community? The tradition of church discipline says - yes, the member who knowingly continues in sin must leave. But the rest of society finds this concept intolerant and intolerable.

- Lauren

Selma Alabama, Wednesday March 11th, Group #2

Well yesterday in Birmingham was really interesting, I mean its not everyday that you get to see up and close a white robe of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm not talking about behind a glass case, this one freshly brought in from over the weekend in a Walmart bag. The person donating the item...purchased it from an estate sale recently, it even still had several stains on it. I am truly amazed!

Well, enough about yesterday, what I really would like to share with you is everything that happened today! We started out from Birmingham at around 9:30 (a bit of a later start for once this week) and got into Selma around 10:00 am to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. This museum depicts the stages in which the Movement began in Selma and primarily concentrated around the Voting Rights Act that enabled African Americans the ability to vote, but this would not be that simple. Worse, the ability to register would undermine them though impossible tasks such as quoting entire sections of various government documents in order to be "eligible" to register. Moreover, there were days the office was closed, usually days when the majority of African Americans were off of work and also closed earlier than the work day. Less than 5,000 African Americans were allowed registration, 1 in every 5, in fact sometimes less which many were vouched by white individuals who pledged that those with voting power would vote for their side, the "right" side.

The wall in the entrance recognizes all those individuals to were present during the famous march from Selma to the Capitol steps in Montgomery, which we will be visiting tomorrow, where it started of with a mere 300 marchers and gathered over 25,000 marchers along the way. But only after Bloody Sunday were hundreds of victims fell prey to the night sticks of mounted police and state troopers set on preventing the march. Tear gas spread quickly and thickly around the marchers, shielding from the public eye the atropcities of violence the officers would inflict upon so many. The second march, which included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was very successful in comparison to Bloody Sunday, but this country will never forget the first.

After viewing many articles and artifacts it was time to visit Footprints to Freedom. With this experience being so intense I am afraid I will have to post a story of our experience towards the end of the week after much thoughful preparation. Please visit back on this very exciting and powerful reflection of what Footprints to Freedom means and the debriefing that followed. You are in for an ear full!

See you in Montgomery!

--Allen Haas

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Things that stand out in my head:

Little Rock
Looking through the doors of the same school that 9 brave students were almost kept from entering and seeing President Obama's face on a hall poster.  50 years and we went from fighting for basic African american rights to one leading our country.  

We went to The Boulevard - my first time at a gospel church.  I kind-of wanted to become a member, just in case I'm ever in Memphis again.  Loved it.  It was one of the few services in my life where I've felt a connection with God while actually in church.  The Blvd didn't feel like church as much as an atmosphere made up of people crying out for God, whether it be in thanks, praise, or pain.  The service was not rushed or dictated.  As long as the church's people were speaking/shouting out to God, everything else could wait.  I could feel God 100 % in that sanctuary.  They were connected and dependent on a higher being in an indescribable way.  He could be felt in the core of their spirit, flesh and outcry.  I found myself asking if I take advantage of my ability to cry out to God when I have the opportunity.  To feel completely stripped away of everything except his presence.  This was true worship - a pouring out of human soul and emotion to the one who gives us emotion.  Connectivity in it's finest.

"You may not have gotten what you expected, but did you get what you needed?"

Also in Memphis:  
The MLK documentary: The Witness.
I felt stationary afterwards.  My heart had an overwhelming sense of loss.  I gained a new appreciation for Dr. King's life.  The way he lived in constant sacrifice for something bigger than himself.  He was loved and respected by so many for being such a visionary.  A living example of someone who fights for injustice until they can fight no more.  He was one man, but showed the world the difference one person's voice could make.  What if everyone believed in change like that?

Unremitting struggle.  Highlander Folks School.  Philip Randolph.  Emit Till.  Rosa Parks.  Grass roots.  Sit ins.  Freedom rides.

Oxford/Ole Miss
Dialogue groups in place now on their campus - frank, civil conversation about race.  A great step in my opinion, and it seems to be working.
"Justice is a perquisite to reconciliation."
Rituals of atonement ... eventually lead to policy changes.
The idea of racism acting as a system that we can study and dismantle. 
ONE Mississippi - tires to end social discrimination; created after an African american tried to go to a white fraternity party.
William Winter.
Truth Commission
Citizens Council.
Donald Cole

"Teach and fear no more.
Insist and fear no more.
Unite and fear no more."

--> This didn't end up being used.
"To say fear is a word we're not going to use is a racist decision."

Alabama notes soon.  


Birmingham, Alabama

Today is our fourth day on the Civil Rights Tour. It has been an amazing experience so far. Today we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. This was definitely a trip that I am going to remember. Just walking through the building was a bit surreal. It is still hard for me to fully believe all that happened in the not so distant past. To hear, see, and read about the violence that transpired not only on African-Americans, but on those that tried to help seems so strange to me. I can't imagine how any person could harbor that much animosity towards a group of people that they do not even know.

As I was walking through the museum, I came across a section that was about other civil rights around the world. I liked the fact that the museum ended by showing the power of people; that normal citizens can create drastic change. It kind of makes me wonder what all am I doing with my life in order (sort of cliche statement coming...sorry) to make the world a better place. People my age and younger than me have braved fire hoses and dogs in order to get their rights; have stood in front of tanks in order to create change in something that saw as wrong. What is going to be my generation's legacy?

We also visited the 16th Street church (the site of the church bombing where the four little girls died). Again, it amazes me that this type of hate existed. I can't imagine the pain the parents of those little girls must have gone through. I do not understand how the persons responsible could go on with their life like nothing happened knowing that they killed four young girls. I learned that two young men were shot and killed that same night. It is funny how so many history books leave out "little" details like that. One of the members of our group asked an interesting question to one of the members of the 16th Street church, he asked if any members of the church ever tried to reconcile with any of the men convicted of planting the bomb in the church; the answer was no. It makes me wonder if I was in that position would I have tried to reconcile. Of course the "right" answer is to say 'Yes' because that's the good Christian thing to do. However, I don't honestly say I can blame them for not trying to reconcile with the bombers. I don't know if I would have tried to reconcile if someone had killed the person I loved. That being said, I do think it's important that the church forgave them; not so much for the bombers' sake, but for the sake of the church.

One of the best things we did today was just walked through downtown Birmingham. We ran into the oldest African-American barbershop in downtown Birmingham called New Deal. It was like the barbershops you hear about with the old men that really like to talk to you about various things like politics and other issues. They were just a really friendly group of men. One thing that was interesting to see was how the scenery changed the further away we actually got from downtown Birmingham. We went from the shops being in poor to so-so condition to the buildings being practically new looking. It makes me wonder is it because many of the small shops downtown seemed to be owned and visited by African-Americans.

One member of the group brought up the fact that we sometimes tend to self-segregate ourselves. I noticed during our stay in Memphis, Tenn. that we did segregate ourselves. I don't believe we did it on purpose, it just sort of happened. I think we just tend to drift towards others like us. A student brought up the question that if we realize this and still end up doing it anyway how much harder is it for those that don't notice to stop it? Another observation someone in the group made was the fact that people kept staring at us as we were walking. Was it really that strange to see a racially mixed group of adults walking around together? It is the small things like these that lets me know that there is still work to be done.
We had quite of few hours of free time today. At the end of it we split into our groups once again to talk about the response questions. Afterward, someone pointed out that during our free time the groups that had split off for various free time activities were divided based on race. This accounted for the fact that some wanted to take a nap and others wanted to explore the city. But nevertheless it was a valid statement. The 'minorities' had gone off in a group while those who had stayed behind were white. The comment brought about interesting reactions, mostly excuses about why it was okay that it happened. The reasoning was valid, there were simply different agendas for the afternoon, but I still wrestle with why that happened. My question was why in a group that is so intential about race especially during this week and clearly concerned with the issues, would still unintentionally allow itself to divide as so.
It is interesting to acknowledge these things and so important to talk about. I don't know what the answer is or even if there is one but I guess that is what makes the conversations so important.

The Heated Debate- Group 3

The question that started it out was, “How do you think our community should remember and forgive? The question went on, but that’s where we sort of got stuck.
One member first stated that though he felt we should remember we shouldn’t overemphasize it, because most people aren’t racist and it’s a fringe issue. I then said that I didn’t believe that racism is a fringe issue. Another member brought out the statement that forgetting doesn’t bring closure. He then responded that he wasn’t advocating forgetting, but that overemphasizing issues from the past brings up emotions that aren’t necessarily true and that in all honesty they’re always gonna be idiots who perform unspeakable acts. She then responded that racism doesn’t have to be outward it can also be inward. A third student then joined the conversation saying racism is real in the way we interact and in our judgments. He then said how he felt that the government was instituting racist mandates against white people through things like affirmative action and asked whether diversity should be chosen over merit. I then gave the analogy by saying how affirmative action was like helping people to start the race on an equal footing to catch up where the oppressors had had a head start... And he counteracted with, is it fair to steal from the rich? My notes then got a little fuzzy ,but the conversation picked up later with him asking for statistics of discrimination in the mainstream and she then shared how though her mother had been passed over for a job even though she was better qualified simply because she was black. And he counteracted, but it seems now that if you’re a minority and a woman you’re golden, so…… not the majority of people who act in racist ways. What I want is for the best person to get in and the issues aren’t as black and white as we think they are.

Two of us spoke about it later and we both spoke about how we were shaking during the conversation. I was shaking with rage; I was so upset and felt like people’s sufferings had been discounted. Later on in the conversation, I had to keep telling myself not to cry. She on the other hand was shaking because she said she rarely shared her personal stories and she felt like it was discounted and misunderstood.

Group 3 Introduction

Well Hi , this is a slightly delayed introduction to Group 3, but it’s totally worth the wait. Group 3 is made up of some very different people who have very different views on the world .Our entries will explain , what we think and who we are. To help you understand us a little better we’ll give you our stats so that you can understand our perspectives and why we feel the way we do.

Ashley Anderson: Caucasian, 20, Female, Colorado
Chris Clark: Caucasian, 20, Male, Texas
Sonja Davidson: Caucasian, 20, Female, California
Chipo Hamukoma: Black, 18, Female, South Africa
Joseph Hawkins: Caucasian, 20, Male, Tennessee
Brittany Thomas: African American, 21, Female, Texas

Day 1 -Little Rock Arkansas
Little Rock Central High School was our introduction to the Civil Rights. Having travelled since around 6 am we arrived in Little Rock rather tired, but excited. One thing that struck most of us was just how beautiful the High School was and that was really juxtaposed with the ugliness of the things that happened there.

Our group discussions that day were a little stilted and we really didn’t get as involved as we could have because we didn’t know each other well and were being far too polite and politically correct. One of the issues that came up was whether or not it really is the government’s responsibility to bring about economic equality or whether we should leave it to private sector to sort out? We’re still unsure as to what would be best. We then got onto segregation and who it truly benefited and Chris said “I can’t find any argument for de facto segregation.” But that then left us with the question, should we force integration now?

We then got on to the topic of whether race relations are any better in the North than they are in the South in present day and we concluded that we didn’t know . Because both Ashley and Sonja said, they’d never seen or experienced racism, but then I (Chipo) pointed out how it’s possible to be oblivious to racism if it’s something you’ve never experienced yourself. Joe then told us how the Obama election had removed any glaze he’d put over racism in his own environment, revealing how he knew a lot more people with racist views than he thought he did.

The day wasn’t all intense conversation and serious discussion and we had a lovely, light-hearted evening at the house of Matt Schnaar, another student on the trip. Thank you so much Mr. and Mrs. Schnaar, we had a great night!

Day 2 - Memphis Tennessee
Day 2 started with a church service at Memphis Boulevard Community Church, a historically black church in inner-city Memphis. It was an experience. For many of us it was our first taste of African American church culture. The congregation was really warm and welcoming and that led us to question why there were no white families in the church? Brittany explained to us that ever since the days of slavery, the African American Church had acted as a basis for African American culture, a place were people would go to for both spiritual and cultural growth. How the church is often the epicenter of people’s lives and helps us to focus on the things which affect our community. So if you lived in an all white/all black community, the chances would be that your spiritual life would be segregated too. However, the question that still lingered was how can we claim to be one body of Christ, if we’re still segregated on colour lines and have no idea of the greater church body outside our racial group or denomination.

Our afternoon was spent at the National Civil Rights museum where we had a phenomenal tour guide who led us through the unremitting fight for freedom. We all really enjoyed it and felt it was a good ‘taster’ of the places we were going to go .We felt like the actions of the freedom fighters inspired us to question what issues we needed to fight for today and whether we were willing to give up some of our rights to do so.

Again, the evening ended on much lighter note where we were given free time to explore Beale St and enjoy Memphis’s wonderful music culture.

Monday, March 9, 2009

We love Don Cole

So we met with an awesome guy today: Dr. Don Cole. We loved his jacket and his jokes and his stories. Though they weren't really stories... they were real life. He told us about his personal experience as one of the first African American students at Ole Miss. He endured racism and verbal abuse that was hard to listen to, let alone imagine actually enduring. His bravery and good heart was maybe the most impressive. Though he was surrounded with adversity he was able to maintain his composure and focus. He emphasized how much hard work paid off. He was driven and clearly has been his whole life, and yet he is humble. That stands out most in my mind.

Overall consensus: Cole = bomb diggity. Loved him.

- group #1

: )

Group 3 Day 3

Sorry this introduction is delayed , but we'll adding our first two days a little later , we are unable to do so at the moment , due to technical difficulties. But now for the juicy bits .
Today we were at Mississippi University and the questions given to the group provided fodder , for intensely deep and moving conversation on capitalism . We discussed the differences between liberal and economic perspectives and perspectives on race relations from both blacks and whites. The conversation got heated and we'll add more about that later ......

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Baylor Civil Rights Tour Group 2, Day #2

Can anyone say PHENOMENAL? While the early rise from loosing an hour of sleep may have been a minor obstacle, our adrenaline pumped to prolific songs, clapping of hands, and even some fellow students joining in a bit of dance celebration. The morning church service of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church was none other that, phenomenal! What a way to start your day. After participating in such a communal atmosphere in church where the participants help lead the service, a personal experience with our Creator could parallel no other in this world.

And this was just the beginning; after service it was off to downtown Memphis, where the search for sustenance began. Well what do you know, a Kooky Canuck, in the heart of the South. This was definitely not the highlight of the trip. Check please.

Now for the really interesting stuff. I know ya'll have been waiting for it, so here it goes. The National Civil Right Museum. OK, there I said it. It was extraordinary, amazing, and truly a mind opening experience. While during my childhood I had learned many of the issues and people surrounding the issue of slavery, the Civil War, segregation, and the movement to end these atrocities, this experience could not compare. Our eccentric tour guide Jolynn Palmer, from Memphis, TN gave us quite the experience as we "felt" the tension of restaurant sit-ins during desegregation of the south.

As we moved through the exhibit, seeing the many stories of struggle, we began to realize the depth of the scar this would leave in our great country. Many to this day still believe many of the promises made are still unseen. Standing less than a few feet from where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr would utter his last words to friends and associates who championed the same enduring beliefs, values, and efforts to make our country Just and equal.

Now, visiting memphis could not be had without just a little bit of fun. Corky's BBQ was really good and I think I can speak for the entire group when I say we would recommend it to anyone who would visit the Memphis area. Next, Beale street... WOW! There is such much talent for such a small area. Luke - I hope you make it big some day, that was an amazing performance, even if it was just Karaoke!

Well everyone, there is so much we could share, but we gotta make our next stop--Oxford, Mississippi, home to Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi). See you there!

--Allen Haas

Baylor Civil Rights Tour - Day 2 Trip Leader Posting

Another great day on the Civil Rights Tour! We started off early (especially after the time change!) and headed to Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee for worship. The church community made us feel very welcome and provided us with an amazing worship experience!

Following church, we had a quick lunch (very quick, in fact!) in downtown Memphis before going to the National Civil Rights Museum. We spent more than three hours at the museum and learned a tremendous amount about the struggle for civil rights and much of the history that lead up to and made possible the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s. We had an outstanding tour guide through the museum who used her theatre training to help bring the exhibits to life. Our students' small groups then spent some time discussing what they had learned both in church and at the museum.

Then, it was off to dinner at Corky's BBQ, arguably the best barbeque in Memphis. Several folks in our group had the courage to order "slabs" of ribs! A great meal to be sure! Then, we headed to Beale Street in downtown Memphis to experience the music of Memphis in person. What a great night life...especially for a Sunday night!

The theme for our Civil Rights Tour so far seems to be "full days!" Everyone is tired, but learning a lot! We are having profound discussion of civil rights issues, cultural differences and similarities, social justice and much more. We also are laughing a lot! What an amazing group of people we have for our first ever Civil Rights Tour!

-karin klinger

Baylor Civil Rights Tour Group 2, Day #1 Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Wow, what a day it has been! I’m sitting on the bus right now as we head to Memphis, Tennessee after a long day of traveling. If you did not know, Baylor is leading a group of students on something called the “Civil Rights Tour” over Spring Break. We’re traveling across the South in what basically is a “classroom on wheels” to see many important places within the Civil Rights movement.

We left Waco at an early at 6 a.m. I haven’t woken up that early all year at Baylor and it was super hard! Especially, after spending the night before till about 3am packing (my own fault!). I can sort of understand what a soldier feels like because I had to lug a weeks worth of gear to the Bearpit. I slept for most of the morning and ended up waking up around 11 a.m., just as we arrived in Hope, Arkansas – the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton and Governor Mike Huckabee.

We left after grabbing a quick lunch towards Little Rock, Arkansas. The first day’s itinerary was focused on the Little Rock Central High School and all that happened there with the first forcible integration in the nation. Learning more about the Little Rock Nine and what they went through for an education was very interesting. This was history coming alive and I really could not believe that I was at the very school where 11,000 federal paratroopers, for an entire year, guarded a small group of students against a mob that was angry at integration.

The school is still open today and the neighborhood is still there. It’s just very hard to believe that so much happened in what looks like a “normal” town. I can be naive and pretend that racism does not exist today (it does), but it’s hard not to see the fruits of what started in Little Rock in 1957. The sacrifices, the triumphs, the pain caused by racism are becoming a little bit more real as we start the first leg of our trip.

After a great meal at Matt’s house, whose parents invited us to their home in Arkansas, we’re off again on the bus. It’s dark outside and all of us are tired, but we’ve had a great time to discuss this day in our small groups on the bus. I can already sense that the conversations and the learning that is going on in this trip is definitely something that not every college student experiences. I can’t wait to see what we’ll do tomorrow.

-Rachana Chhin