Today was another interesting and unusual experience. To start off the day, Hillel Community Day School led tefillah from the Smartboard and introduced us to many new tunes and tefillot. Sarina and Ethan presented about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Four students from the NE Miles Jewish Day School joined us.
On the long bus ride, we used our time wisely and watched a documentary about Selma and its history. It gave us a nice preview of what we were going to see later on in the day.
When we arrived in the City of Selma, we noticed that all of the buildings are run down, and it seemed pretty abandoned. It looked like most of the stores were closed. We finally got off the bus and went into the only synagogue in Selma, named Mishkan Israel. The building was very impressive, but the architecture reminded us of a church. There were people in the stained glass windows and a Methodist Church had donated the space in 1870. Hannah and Ronny, who maintain the synagogue, are two of the five members of the synagogue. They spoke to us about the history of the congregation and the relationships between the synagogue and civil rights. They expressed the feelings of fear of the congregants at the time that led to them not speaking up. They had heard rumors of potential bombings.
The lunch options were mac and cheese and grilled cheese. Most of us didn’t like the mac and cheese which was rubbery, and the grilled cheese was cold and soggy. We have had lots of snacks today, so we aren’t hungry-yet.
We met a new, enthusiastic and inspiring civil rights activist named Ms. Joanne Bland (which is ironic because her life story is anything but). We met her on the bus where it became clear that she was both strict and funny. She has fought her entire life to ensure that everyone is treated as equals. We drove to the Brown African Methodist Episcopal church where the marches began. We stood on the same steps as Martin Luther King Jr. This was the first of many times she called us “history makers.” After the Church experience, we went to her car where she opened up a little gift stand for us. Many of us got shirts that have something to do with Alabama, or we got wristbands. We then went to an area behind the Church where we all picked up tiny rocks, and Joanne said that “These are the rocks that Martin Luther King Jr. and many others stood on! We have to follow in their footsteps!” We promised that we would write to her congresswoman saying that we wanted to preserve the cement that all these essential people stood on.
We went on a bus tour where Joanne pointed out all of these fantastic places in Selma where a lot of history takes place. One of these places was a place where we stopped at for about 20ish minutes. It was a beautiful antebellum mansion called the Sturdivant House which was turned into a museum. Joanne explained that this house was used as a courthouse and a slave house, although the owner was only in the house for around five times a year. Joanne and two other German people came to the house for a tour, but the guide didn’t even mention that it was a slave owner’s house. When one of the German people asked about this, the guide said, “Well, we don’t want to embarrass someone.” It was awful because when the guide said that she was looking right at Joanne as if Joanne cared about embarrassing slave owners!
Joanne went to jail 13 times between the ages of 8 and 11. She said she was proud to have been that active in the civil rights movement. She also decided that for middle and high school she would not go to the black school but would be one of the eight black students who went to the all-white schools. Not being able to sit at a lunch counter aggravated her and motivated her to stand up to segregation and became part of the three marches. She was also involved in Bloody Sunday and described her senses during that time. She remembers the sounds of the horses trampling people and the screams of terrified protesters as they were being beaten by the police, who she called Po Po. In the end, she said that we were the future and that we are the next leaders and we have to lead!
We marched across the Bridge but felt that the City has not recognized the significance of the marchers and the bridge itself. Except for its name, there were no real signs of what happened there; we saw no monuments, no pictures and we could have mistaken it for any old bridge.
Dinner was just what we needed-lasagna and strawberry shortcake for dessert. After that, we talked about our impressions of the day and then worked on journaling. To end the day, Eydan did his slide presentation on Montgomery, a city we will visit on Thursday. It was a great end to a long but learning-filled day.
Henry, Miles, Tav, Dani (editor in chief), Rabbi Amanda, Morah Marcy, Ed, Julie and the rest of the 6th grade