Starting tomorrow – June 8 – my wife and I will be joining approximately 35 other folks for a 9 day/8 night bus tour of some the most famous sites of Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. We take off at 6 am from Beaver Falls, PA and by 4:30 pm we are due to be at our first stop in Greensboro, NC at the Woolworth’s where students sought to integrate the lunch counters. On this blog I hope to share my reflections and insights on the trip.

Cynthia and I sought to do this trip on our own a few years ago but were discouraged by super-high gas prices. So when this opportunity to go on a Civil Rights tour came to our attention we jumped at it. In preparation for the trip I have watched a documentary on the Freedom Riders, and read the memoir of Robert Graetz one of the leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. While I have read and studied a great deal about the Movement, I expect it will come alive in ways that can only happen when you are there. In my effort to write up the stories of white allies for racial justice, I have learned the stories of some of those lesser known folks who contributed their part. It will be good to put their stories in context.

The trip has been organized by Dr. Todd Allen, a professor at Geneva College, who has conducted these tours for several years. (Todd is the brother of MAUS student Crystal Allen, who also will be on the trip.) Along the way we will be met some former Freedom Riders, Ralph Abernathy’s wife, and one of the sisters of the girls killed in the bombing of 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham.
It promises to be life-changing trip, and that is why I look forward to sharing my experience with you.

In light of my last posting on the need for a new Civil Rights Movement, I hope to reflect not only on the meaning of the events back THEN, but also what we can learn for NOW. With the return of “separate but not equal” public schools, a criminal justice system that feeds on the inadequate educational system in the so-called “school to prison pipeline”, and the de facto reinstatement of what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow,” there is much we can learn. What are the insights we can learn from the Civil Rights Movement for confronting today’s economic and social disparities? What does non-violent direct action look like when violence against the poor and persons of color is so institutionalized? How do movements for racial and social justice come together? I hope to gain insights for these and so many more questions we face today.

The other night at a meeting of representatives of POWER, the interfaith community action network in Philly, the comment was made: no one said advocating for the poor would be easy. It certainly wasn’t for the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and it won’t be for us today. Nonetheless, my hope is that there our lessons one can take away from this trip.

Look for the postings on this blog and on Facebook.