Hello Family and Friends,
It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through immersion.
We just left Birmingham, Alabama and it was both heavily emotional and inspiring to be there. While we were there, we had the pleasure of working with BuildUP, an organization that gives low-income youth in Birmingham the skills and knowledge to revitalize their own community. Through paid apprenticeships and personalized education, the youth leave the program with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, and career-ready skills.
Our group had the opportunity to work on one of the housing projects in Ensley, which involved hanging dry-wall, mowing the overgrown lawn, and cleaning up the house. After working on the house for a few hours, we had lunch with some of the youth involved in the program and talked with them about their experiences. At the end of it all, even with our different and diverse perspectives, we were able to come together and express our gratitude for each other.
Later in the afternoon, we also had the chance of meeting with the mayor’s new Office of Peace and Policy. Our group was able to have a conversation with them about their vision of the future for civil rights work, as well as, their current view on Birmingham.
It was saddening to learn about how the state of Alabama has made it difficult for the city to make laws that aid in the civil rights movement. But, it was also encouraging to learn that they are still working hard to try to make changes despite all the hurdles set in front of them. Their hope for the better future also help encourage us to be hopeful too, especially with the passing of the highly aggressive anti-abortion bill happening so close to us.
The following day, we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church, an important landmark from the Civil Rights Movement. At 10:22 AM on September 15, 1963, a bomb went off on the east side of the church and four young girls were murdered.
Their names were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair.
This event solidified the fact that not even children are exempt from the hatred, violence, and bigotry that exists in the world. The group facilitator at the church spoke of how even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was speechless after hearing the attack and just sobbed.
What’s even more powerful was how even the world came together amidst this tragedy. The speaker spoke of how the citizens of Wales wanted to donate a mosaic portrait truly from the people. They gave the church a beautiful stain-glass window, depicting an African American Jesus. This was unprecedented in the South at the time due to extreme prejudice.
Today, we had the amazing opportunity of meeting with Wanda, a tour guide from the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. From just our very short amount of time of meeting
her, it was clear to all of us that she was heaven-sent.
Wanda greeted us with open arms and an open heart, sharing her love for music, humanity, and God. She spontaneously burst into singing “This Little Light of Mine” and we all joined her in this beautiful moment of unity.