This afternoon, we visited the Shiloh Rosenwald school, a three-room schoolhouse that was a haven for young Black students in the mid 20th century. The school helped its students to be educated, cultured, form a sense of community, and gain many other helpful talents for later life.
There, we met four wonderful, wise women, Felicia, Mary, Kate, and Shirley. These kind women seemed completely joyous upon our arrival, and welcomed us into their past with warmth. They explained their experiences throughout their time at the school, expressions filled with wonder and reminiscence, a sort of nostalgia.
It was thoroughly a splendid visit, and they invited us to return anytime in the future, the invitation extended to our families.
This morning we went to the Civil Rights Museum. It was beautiful, and personally, I learned so much more today than I’d expected. The footage of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches was stirring. Aside from being such a fundamentally good and pure human being, his way of speaking was also passionate and completely riveting. I cried as I read the stories of all the white, black, young, and old people who were martyrs for the cause of justice.
By the time I got to reading about Dr. King’s assassination, I had given up trying to stop the tears streaming down my face. However, I am entirely grateful to have had this opportunity. Never have I learned about the civil rights movement in such depth, and I feel that it has strengthened my belief in equality and my feelings of connection to all of humanity.
Here are a few photos from our first few days on the road. Blogposts about our day coming in the morning…
Breakfast in ATL!
At the mural outside the MLK Historic Site
At the Center for Nonviolent Change
Walking into the MLK Birth Home (no photos allowed inside!)
Jeff made us shakshuka before we hit the road–yum!
Sanctuary at The Temple in Atlanta
In front of the Atlanta Ferris Wheel
At the Shiloh Rosenwald School with our friend Felicia Chandler
Shirley Johnson, illustrious alumna of the Shiloh Rosenwald School
With four incredible alumnae of the Shiloh Rosenwald School in Notasulga, AL.
Tonight we had the incredible opportunity of sitting down with a group of young Jewish adults for a discussion that seemed to encapsulate the essence of our trip. Over plates of delicious deserts, we divided into a few small groups and read a powerful article relating to our roles as members of the Jewish community and our responsibility towards those who are suffering outside of our community, especially in the context of the recent events in Ferguson, MO and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Certain groups discussed a supposed inherent empathy within the Jewish people, and how that can prevent us from becoming bystanders. At the same time, some people thought that even beyond our duty as Jews, it is our duty as humans to intervene when we witness the suffering of others despite race, class, or religion. Some adult members of the group contributed their own experiences with anti-semitism, although as white teenagers from Massachusetts, many of us in our group don’t really identify as minorities, but instead noted how white privilege is prevalent in our lives.
Something that really resonated with me was a comment that Emilia made towards the end of our discussion. The topic of debate was a nomination by the JNF of a particular Reverend from Atlanta who is an influential advocate for the state of Israel, yet is outwardly homophobic. The question was whether or not our responsibility to the state of Israel trumps our responsibility to the LGBTQ community. She mentioned how forming a hierarchy of responsibility to other communities and values within the Jewish community isn’t exactly the right approach. Instead, we should think about these other communities as connected to us, but not comparable to each other. In the end, it was quite an exhilarating and eye-opening discussion for us all, and it was nice to feel accepted and appreciated by such an articulate and intellectual group of Jewish adults.
This afternoon we visited Martin Luther King’s birthplace, and the house where he spent his first twelve years of his life. We saw the piano that his mother wanted him to learn how to play, and where told the story of how he purposefully broke the piano bench so that he wouldn’t have to sit through a lesson. We went into the kitchen, and saw Wheaties on the 1930s style table, and we learned that it was his favorite cereal. We learned that he would often hide with a comic book in the bathroom to avoid having to wash the dishes. All of these humorous anecdotes helped us to see Dr King as he truly was — a great man, instead of a larger-than-life figurehead. Idolizing people can also sometimes dehumanize them, and Dr. King wanted only for human beings to be viewed and treated as human beings.
On the tour, we were grouped (by chance) with an interracial family from New Bedford MA, as well as a large Black family from Denver. Our tour guide, a Black park ranger was informing and educating a young Black child on the details of Martin Luther Kings home, as well as giving him insight on his people’s history.
While as a county and society we are nowhere near achieving complete racial equality, the fact that such a diverse group of people looked to a Black man as a leader in Dr. Kings childhood home was moving and powerful for many of us to witness.
Our group was captivated by Emory’s natural beauty, and first followed a Sophomore Advisor who showed us the unique and special campus on a tour. Emory has it all–from opportunities to get involved with clubs and organizations to a diverse slate of majors.
When we arrived at the Marcus Hillel Center on campus, I learned what a Hillel is, and how important it can be to Jewish students. Rabbi Russ Shulkes energetically showed us around, fed us some french fries, and engaged us in an exciting conversation about Jewish life at colleges throughout Georgia. I now understand that connecting with Jews is more important than focusing on their level of practice. I also know that wherever you go, you can and will find someone to connect with!
Well, we made it…
five hours later than expected.
Needless to say, it was an adventure in Philadelphia–the crew were a whole bunch of troopers though, and really stuck it out with me through our travel hiccup. We got to our lovely hosts home past 11 PM for some kosher fried chicken! It was delicious, as was our welcome from Jeff and Barbara.
Today we’ll see Emory and start to get a feel for what it means to be in the midst of Civil Rights history. You’ll surely hear from some of our teens later on–so stay tuned!