My Experience on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage

By Shayna Solomon

The author on the pilgrimage

The author on the pilgrimage

On the first day of the Faith and Politics Institute Civil Rights Pilgrimage, Rep. John Lewis (D, GA 5) joined us on the youth program bus. I was, sitting only two rows behind this powerful civil rights leader and influential Member of Congress. He told us of how the movement had grown out of study groups in churches and universities into a movement of action. Ideas started to race through my head. How can I change my world? Can I take my studies and carry the message further?

Our whole group was treated as if we had VIP status, the experience was humbling because of moments  like that. These individuals had risked their lives at my age to further their ideals. They knew their purpose and they followed through with it. I did not feel that I could even aspire to their level; yet, there was Rep. John Lewis sitting in the front of the bus, turned towards us, urging us to act. He explained, it is not that there are no more problems in the world. We simply need to find our issues and act.

ShaynaStagePilgrimageThere were many others who told us to act. Rep. Terri Sewell (D, AL 7), in whose district we travelled, told us that we had to “recommit” to the ideals of the civil rights movement. Peggy Wallace-Kennedy, the daughter of Gov. George Wallace, told us to stand in the schoolhouse door for justice, in contrast to what her father did when he tried to block Vivian Malone, an African American student, from entering the auditorium in which we were sitting.

The trip lasted only three days, but it will inspire me for the rest of my life. The opportunity was incredible. I never thought I would meet such inspiring individuals. I never thought that I would such opportunity to experience such incredible the events. Even greater than the opportunity, is the responsibility I have been given. Many of the civil rights leaders spoke passionately to us, the students. They were sharing their story for us. They want us to continue their work for justice. We have learned and experienced; now it is our responsibility to transform their words into our actions.

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