2018 Enrichment trip to Alabama

On the 27th and 28th of October, the Fulbright Association GA Chapter had its Fall Enrichment Trip in Montgomery, Alabama to give grantees and alumni a chance to learn more about the civil rights movement in the state of Alabama. Current Fulbright grantees and Alumni in the state of Georgia were invited to participate.

On the morning of the first day, we were divided into two groups that took turns visiting The Freedom Rides Museum and the Rosa Parks Museum. The group learned the amazing story about the 42-year-old seamstress, Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat to a white man, and behind the Freedom Riders, who addressed segregated bus systems in the southeast. After the groups visited both places, we headed for lunch. In the afternoon, we went to The Civil Rights Museum. We were able to listen to a lecture about the history and the work done at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

We also visited The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University, where we had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Franklin and Rev. Robert Graetz’s wife, Jeannie, discuss the history of the civil rights movement in Montgomery and their own personal experiences. To sum up the day, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel to discuss all we learned and experienced.

 The next day, we went to The Legacy Museum and to the National Memorial for Peace. The Legacy museum is located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved in Montgomery. The museum told the powerful story of the slave trade, racial terror, and the legal and judicial legacy of racial inequality in the south.

We had our lunch at Selma, after which we concluded our trip by crossing the Pettus Bridge. The Edmund Pettus bridge is a symbol of the civil rights movement, not just within Alabama or the southeast, but for the country as a whole, due to the voting rights march that took place on March 7, 1965. Marifat Saidalieva, a current grantee, said” I am happy that Fulbright Chapter organized this trip. I am always for learning history; we should know the history at least in order not to repeat past mistakes.” Along with learning about American heritage, this experience also allowed grantees and alumni to develop relationships with the other Fulbrighters and build cross cultural ties.

One of our grantees from Brazil, Junia Cassiano, shared the powerful reflection below on the trip and its relevance.

This trip impacted me on a very deep level. Firstly, as a person of Afro-descent, I felt that the fight was part of my legacy. Secondly, as a Brazilian, whose country was in a very important presidential election that same weekend, I felt that the past portrayed in Alabama could be my future. Lastly, as a human being, I felt that that fight was, to a certain extent, also mine. During the lecture at the Southern Poverty Law Center, I heard something that echoed in my head for the whole weekend: “What are you doing to change your nation?”. That sentence might sound idealistic, but in times like the ones we are living, times of hatred and intolerance, perhaps we could borrow some of Rosa Park’s resilience, a bit of Martin Luther King’s patience, and just a bit of the hope in the hearts of everyone who gave their life for a better future.

Marifat Saidalieva Carolyn Bero & Brad K. Hounkpati

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