Last Day

March 18, 2008

The bus ride home on Saturday was relaxing. Earlier in the day we visited the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King was shot. It has been turned into the National Civil Rights Museum. It was very affecting, especially the extensive displays about all of the questions surrounding the real story behind Dr. King’s assassination. I had no idea that there were so many unanswered questions. I also did not know that Coretta Scott King and the King children do not believe that James Earl Ray was guilty.

Our group went to Neely’s Bar-B-Que for lunch. Chopped beef sandwich, cole slaw and about four glasses of sweet tea- that’s what I call lunch.

It’s a 7 hour drive from Memphis, TN to Dallas, TX. We watched Acts III and IV of When the Levees Broke. If I didn’t say this already, this is a must see for every American. Stop reading and go rent it now. We also watched two documentaries about the history of rock n’ roll, and most of Stomp the Yard– one of my favorite movies because it combines my interest in break dancing, attractive men (ha), and historically black colleges.

Earlier in the evening we quietly took up an offering on the bus, and presented it to Ray Jordan (our illustrious leader, an intern in the Chaplain’s office) as a big thank you for all of his hard work and planning. He truly thought of every detail and was both flexible and structured at all the right times. He should get some sort of award. But we did what we could to say thank you, even though he deserves much more, considering how much we all got out of the trip. Also, we took up a second collection for a “love offering” (as the older ladies called it) for the bus driver.

Our driver was an interesting man named David, who retired from the banking industry 3 years ago and wanted to have an adventure in his old age rather than sitting around at home. He only does long distance, and has driven the SMU civil rights group all four years.

During the ride I got a little reading done, and just relaxed. As we pulled into Dallas, Ray said a few closing words. Then Professor Simon and Professor Johnson spoke. Simon said that he has never had a group of students like the one on the trip- all so attentive and focused, and genuinely focused on the material. He said we had spoiled him for the last 8 days and that he didn’t know what he was going to do with his classes where only a third of the students are that way. I especially liked what Professor Johnson said: that this trip has been the best experience he has had during his 6 years at SMU.

I know that this trip has renewed my faith in the people of SMU. If there are people here like the ones that I have met on this trip, than this is a school I can be proud of. Interacting with my fellow travelers and with the truly amazing people that we have met along the way has renewed my faith in people in general. As much as I am off campus and as different as my life at home is from my life at SMU, I really do get stuck in the “bubble”. I read about things and forget what it means that the events really happened to someone. Someone real, that I can talk to and meet and even help. I forget that the world is wide and I live in all of it, not just this one small part.

This year’s trip was the fourth, and the last that is paid for by the grant that supports it. I believe that the Chaplain’s office is going to be searching for other means of funding in order to continue the trip. I have been thinking about writing an editorial in our school paper about this trip and what is has to offer. A school that struggles with diversity as SMU does should make sure to maintain these kinds of educational, active learning initiatives. Especially this one, since there are still (for a short while) survivors of the Movement alive and willing to speak to us.

After all, if Ole Miss, with all of it’s history, can have 14% of the student body be African-Americans, SMU can do better than 13% of any kind of minority (which is our current percentage).

I will have to see if I can find the right words to say.

(images: cherry blossom tree against the cloudy sky in Memphis, pansies in front of the capitol building in Montgomery)

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