What Selma Means to Me!
A few months ago I was asked to join the Selma to Montgomery NHT for the park's 50th Anniversary. My role would be to interpret this site's meanings using civic engagement through facilitated dialogue. I was honored to participate.
SEMO received unbelievable support and was given an opportunity to immerse the young and old in a Walking Classroom. The goal was to follow the same foot steps as the foot soldiers who embarked in a journey in 1965 that started in Selma and ended by walking 54 miles to Montgomery, AL. In addition, participants were challenged to think about their lives and the greater community regarding voting rights and other civil rights.
A call to action was announced and hundreds answered, many came with their parents (see the photo of Edith and her mother below), many represented their high schools and colleges, and many were ordinary people who flew in from around the country to be apart of this authentic experience that would forever change their lives. I was proud to learn that National Park Service (NPS) sites like Brown vs. Board of Education NHS and Little Rock Central High School NHS sent students and staff to represent this pivotal moment in time as we know that many of the issues that faced Americans in 1965 are still present in our society today.
Even though my role changed as the program developed I did facilitate many visitor-led programs during the week. The topic focused on the events that shaped this community in 1965 (after the March) when supporters left--The program was called "What is Tent City?" We discussed the meaning of voting (50 years ago) and individual sacrifice in our own lives and how this shapes American perspectives today. This new formed community heard from prominent speakers, viewed the new film from Teaching Tolerance called Selma, rallied at the state Capital in Montgomery, slept outdoors for five days in tents, and much more!
I was blessed to be apart of the Southeast Region Team, to share this with my co-worker John Rudy, and to feel the emotional and intellectual connection of the participants through out the week! I knew this program was on to something on my very first day. While flying out of Montgomery and listening to three young woman share nonstop about their experience over the last week, I knew this awe I was feeling was shared by others.
Selma inspires me to be a better person, mother, instructor, and employee of the National Park Service.