Sunday, July 24, 2011

Journey Through the South (Entry 1)

At the end of May, I went with the seventh graders on a Civil Rights Tour of the South. We all kept a journal of our week, so here is my first entry, finally... :P

May 23, 2011

I'm in Selma, Alabama. Our group of 44 7th graders just visited the Voting Rights museum, the Slavery Museum and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Dr. King and John Lewis led a march toward Montgomery and were met with a line of state troopers. Their confrontation became known as Bloody Sunday. The marchers were told by the poilice, "This is an illegal march" and "you have to two minutes to go back." OR ELSE. Between the slavery museum and the bridge, the students were asked to relate to the marchers. What would you march for? Can you think of anything today?

Flashback to Beitin village....

December 27, 2010

I had arrived in Beitin with 80 or so French activists. Hundreds of people from the village and some internationals and reporters were starting to walk down a hill. They were holding Palestinian flags and chanting "1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more!" The guy leading the chant was in a Santa suit. We joined in, all the French people in their bright green vests. We were marching because the road that passed from the village to the city of Ramallah had been closed to Palestinians. If the people of Beitin wanted to get to Ramallah, they couldn't take the 3-minute road, which was now for Israeli military and settler use. The villagers had to take a 30-minute back road. As we approached the bottom of the hill and the off-limits road, we saw a line of Israeli Defense Force soldiers waiting for us. As we approached, we heard over a loudspeaker, " go back, this is an illegal demonstration." 

The leaders of the village committee approached the officer in charge to explain their intention to use the road, and protesters got up to the soldiers and stood in front of them. They were pushed back. A boy with a flag yelled "Yalla al-Ramallah!" Let's go! He was small enough to squeeze through the soldiers. As I inserted myself between two soldiers, encouraged by the kid but not brave to cross the line, the soldiers started firing tear gas. Protesters started running up the hill. I felt isolated, and I knew I'd have to run through the gas to get back to safety. A sound bomb landed right next to me and went off, and I thought my eardrums had popped. I couldn't hear. I looked the the soldier who'd done it. He was older than the rest, who mostly looked younger than me. I gave him the finger and mouthed "FUCK YOU." In that moment I wasn't scared, I was just angry. Boys were starting to throw rocks from the olive groves, and I was between them and the soldiers. I side-stepped up the hill, waving my arms yelling "don't shoot!" but the gas landed behind me and I had to cover my mouth and close my eyes and run through it. I knew I was quite a sight, a blonde girl stumbling out of a cloud and dry heaving on the road. The villagers came to me, offered me onions to inhale, and led me up the hill...I stepped in front of an Arab news camera, puffy-faced and crying and determined to express something of what happened, and show the face of one American who cared. 

Now our students were learning about lines of police, tear gas, restricted movement and segregation, and being asked to draw connections. My heart melted into my pen.

Monday Night Reflection

Did Sam's (our guide at the Voting Rights Museum, who had been jailed for protesting at the age of 11) experiences matter?

Yes, Sam's experiences matter because they're a part of American history. When some people had an idea of what it meant to be American, some other people had another idea, and it's the natural order that they succeeded in winning their rights. You have to know in your heart what's right, that things can change.

*Courage to fight for what you believe in!

All over the world, kids don't really have a choice
-they won't lie down and take anything less than freedom
-if your parents or brothers were being arrested, would you take it?

Slavery museum:

We were all treated like slaves for about 20 minutes. It was really heartbreaking hearing my students being called the n-word because I know how unique and special they are and to rewind this wonderful journey we've been on, learning about each other, rewinding history, it really made me see ourselves as making history. What we're achieving together in New Orleans is legendary. 

Reactions to the n-word...

"what does it mean?"
"It was like I was nothing, that you don't care about me, so you can call me whatever you want."

Responses were varied, "it's ok for rappers to say it because it doesn't mean the same thing anymore." or "it's not ok because it was meant to be racist"

My question: Why are we having this conversation? So we can grow out of this word? What are we striving for, and how can we live that vision?

End of Day 1! I passed out at 11, only to be woken up by my girls screaming at 1am. Apparently the Oprah special on our new library make-over was re-aired and they were the first KIPPsters to catch it. Everyone was so jealous the next morning they didn't even ask me why our TV was on at 1....hmmm.