The weekend of Jan. 15 marked a significant change in the lives of 53 people.
That weekend marked the 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Immersion Trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. Before boarding the bus to travel down south, I’m sure some people may have thought it would have just been another cool way to spend a weekend out of Bloomington, or learn some fast historical MLK facts. Reflecting on the trip, I can say that both of those assumptions were proven wrong after spending a weekend with IU students and staff.
The planning of the trip was a collaborative effort.
I had the pleasure of working with my supervisor/assistant director for diversity education Barry Magee, CommUNITY Educators Olivia Zimmerman and Cameron Moody, and Hannah Mock, who is a student staff member at the Office of First Year Experiences. What I really appreciated about the work that went into the trip is the amount of collaboration, commitment, and passion involved in trying to make this trip a success. The trip planning process was an intentionally student-led process that required participation by people who are passionate about education and social change.
The location we chose for the trip was intentional and directly connected to what the purpose of the trip was.
We chose Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, not only because Alabama could be considered the birthplace of the modern Civil Rights Movement, but also because December 2015 marked the 60th anniversary of the infamous and revolutionary Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The purpose of our trip was to provide participants with the opportunity to be immersed in an experience that would move them beyond a place of just reading about history in a textbook. We wanted them to really experience what it feels like to be a part of a social movement larger than themselves. Each person attending the trip was able to construct their own personal journey over the weekend that pushed them to consider what action they will take in the fight for social justice and equity, like those who have fought in movements before them.
As a graduate supervisor for diversity education, I was able to become involved with this trip as a part of my position’s major project. But as I became immersed in the trip, it became more than a major project to me. It changed my perspective on the world I live in.
The trip is important because it challenges students to ask themselves the tough questions about what their activism looks like in today’s struggle for inclusion and equity. It provides students with an opportunity to look at people their age that have come before them to be inspired to do something greater with the education and resources they’ve been provided. The trip also allowed students to connect with other individuals from different backgrounds to engage in social justice dialogue. After attending the trip, it is our hope that participants will transform their inspiration into action to create spaces of inclusion all across campus.