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Voices from the Civil Rights Trip

This Week at Gordon February 15th 2007
02150701.jpg Last week, the eighth grade went on their trip to Georgia and Alabama.

It meant a lot to me to be able to hear about what Birmingham was like in the 1960s. It is one thing to read about history in a book, but it is another to hear about it directly from its source, from someone who was actually there and able to recount what it was like. I, along with all of my other classmates and teachers, got swept away in your stories, listening to you for over an hour in silence, occasionally asking a question, but otherwise letting you tell us about your life as a child.

02150702.jpg They studied for weeks before the trip, and the work continues without a pause when they return to Gordon.

I know that you normally like to speak with high schoolers, but I think spending that afternoon with us was really worth it.

02150703.jpg This week, students had a writing assignment due every day.

I would like to thank Ms. Brooks for sharing her knowledge about Montgomery in general, because it is my topic in class. Also, I was glad you picked me to read my summary, as it was good practice for reading in front of crowds.

02150704.jpg On Wednesday, they handed in thank you letters addressed to the people who served as their guides at each stop.

In my class, we are all making documentaries about one of the crucial cities in the civil rights movement, and my city is Montgomery. Needless to say, I learned a lot of new facts that I can put into my documentary from the tour and presentation.

02150705.jpg The assignment served as a review of the format for a standard personal letter, as well as lesson in making one-to-one communication direct, polite and full of detail.

I have an older sister who is now a senior in high school and I have been on a lot of college trips with her and my family, and they have all been the same. So when I heard that we were going to have a tour of a college I thought it was going to be like that. I was blown away by the history of the school. Dante was the first tour guide I have seen who acted like he wasn’t reading off a script, he made the experience come to life.

02150706.jpg On Thursday, students handed in drafts of a personal reflection on one of the sites they visited.

Morehouse College obviously helped African-American males but your college also helped everyone else, because it awoke the world to the power of majority. Your college had the courage to explore what it would be like if one of the most oppressed minorities was able to stand up and be the majority.

02150707.jpg These reflections will draw on the journals they filled while on the trip, and will serve as the basis of presentations they will give for their families on the 26th.

I thank all of you for helping me to understand the real value of courage while allowing me to learn about a prestigious college that I should have known about long ago.

02150708.jpg After the long weekend, students will hand in the first draft of their screenplays.

One story you shared with us really stuck with me. I was astonished to hear about the treatment, or lack thereof, that your grandmother received when you and your family brought her to the hospital. I have lost two grandparents even though they had proper medical care. I understand what it is like to lose a loved one but I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in a helpless situation where you are unable to do anything because no one will even give you a diagnosis of what is happening.

02150709.jpg They are each producing a video documentary on a key city in the civil rights movement, using the Ken Burns words-and-still-photos approach.

It never occurred to me how hard it must have been raising a child in the civil rights movement. I always thought that as soon as a kid could walk, they marched, but it was much more complicated than that.

02150710.jpg For the screenplays, students must use a more formal, journalistic voice than the one they used in the letters and reflections.

Remember me? I am the boy with the incredibly curly hair. You were one of the highlights of my stay in Alabama.

02150711.jpg They are expected, however, to structure their screenplays so that they present the facts in the context of a tradional narrative structure, with instigating events, conflicts, a climax, declining action and resolution.

I especially liked your no nonsense way of going about things. You made me think, “Okay, she’s got something to say, so I had better shut up and listen, and I did.

02150712.jpg An eighth grader would tell you that the narrative of Gordon’s eighth grade curriculum follows a cyclical plot structure as opposed to a more classic structure.

I wanted to share with you that when I got home, at dinner I was telling my family about the trip, and when I got to Selma my sister (the one I told you about) got all excited and she said “Did you meet Joanne Bland?” and I said yes, then she says “She was a cool person, I really liked her.” I thought it was really special that she remembered you because it has been five years since she has been on that trip and now she is a senior in high school and her life is really hectic with all the college applications and schoolwork.

02150713.jpg The plot cycle of the civil rights trip will resolve into preparations for the month-long service learning projects.

Thank you for showing to me that even though I might feel sad about the movement I should always have a positive attitude and never give up.

02150715.jpg As the finale of the last year of a Gordon education, the month spent working at a local nonprofit brings together strands from throughout the school’s curriculum.

It is definitely easier to say you’re going to make a difference than it is to actually do it, but your words really inspired me to make more of an effort to stand up for people who are being mistreated.

02150716.jpg The lesson, one of many, is that each student is a capable individual, and that individuals’ actions are the fuel for positive change in this world.

When you said “Those of us that have, have a privilege to give,” it made me want to get more involved in helping others.

Text from letters written by the eighth grade this week.
A letter from a previous year can be found on the Web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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