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Posted by The Charlotte Post on Monday, March 7, 2016

Life and Religion

Bus trip to understand struggle for equality
Journey through South teaches lessons in history
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013 3:43 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

Jaylin Cureton, 16, and Leslie Espinosa, 16, embarked on a four-day, three-city bus ride through the southeast to learn how young people in America contributed to the fight for Civil Rights. Both students say the journey changed their lives, and they are encouraged to take a bigger stand for equality.

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963, young activists crowded the streets in protests across the nation to take a brave stand for equality.

Thousands armed with only a toothbrush and a dime to call home in case of arrest traveled the country to take part in demonstrations that would forever change life in America.

The Levine Museum of the New South recently took a diverse group of high school students on “A Ride for Understanding – from Charlotte to Atlanta to Birmingham,” a three-city, four-day road trip across the southeast. The purpose was to help students gain a deeper understanding of what took place during the struggle for civil rights and explore how those struggles continue to resonate with today's social issues.

Stops along the tour included the Atlanta History Center, Martin Luther King Center, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in addition to others. Students also had an opportunity to speak with Latino community leaders and organizations in all three cities.

Leslie Espinosa, 16, said the trip was life changing. Espinosa, who attends Philip O Berry Academy of Technology, said she would never forget visiting the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

“Just being in the place where they had bombed and the girls had died was really powerful,” she said. “It made everything more real. We had seen documentaries and read things about it, but when you’re looking at it on TV it’s different from when you are actually there and it’s staring you in the face… That really changed me.”

She added that the experience made her much more appreciative of rights she previously took for granted.

“I don’t have to fight for my voting rights and most of the equality that I already get,” she said. “These people had to fight for it… I got a lot of inspiration from them. If there is anything that I believe in, I won’t back down. I will stand and fight like they did.”

She was not the only one encouraged by the struggles young activists endured half a century ago. Other students said that after returning from the trip, they too were more determined to a take a stand on various social issues of today such as human, gender, LGBT and immigrant rights.

“My specific passion is LGBT rights,” said 16-year-old Jaylin Cureton, a student at Charlotte Country Day School. “Being an African-American gay male, especially in a predominantly white school where everyone is mainly straight, it’s very hard for me to go through my days alone and be proud of myself. So I’d really like to fight for other people to be proud of who they are and to not be ashamed of their sexuality or their race.”

Cureton said one of the most memorable moments of the trip was crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama, the site where the Selma-to-Montgomery March of 1965 took place. The march later came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” after some 600 marchers were attacked and beaten by state and local law enforcement.

According to Cureton, students at his school are not taught about black history, not even during February. So he had never heard about “Bloody Sunday” prior to arriving in Alabama.

“I was speechless,” he said. “As we walked across the bridge there was complete silence… It’s hard to believe that things like that happened, and to now look at where we are. We were walking across that bridge different races together, and we were not being beaten… because they fought for us.”

“A Ride for Understanding” was part of the Levine’s “History Active” summer program, which was designed to help young people recognize various forms of discrimination and ways of challenging them.

The program was implemented in two phases. The first was a weeklong intensive workshop, from which 15 participants were chosen and offered a seat on the bus tour.

“The History Active program is a really great opportunity for students to learn some history and connect to it in a different way,” said Kamille Bostick, Levine Museum program coordinator. “So much of the history that we get is from a text book or some movie that you might have halfway watched. I think with History Active, we made students engage in it in a different way by going to the places, seeing the sites and hearing from the people who are on the ground in those cities. It made it that much more real.”

She said it was not only a learning experience for the students but for the staff as well. In addition to learning a lot of tidbits of information they had not previously known, Bostick said it also changed her perspective on the interests of young people.

“We had a really diverse group,” she said. “It really changed how we think about students and how they see history. Sometimes you think that only certain kinds of students are interested in certain kinds of history, but that’s not the case. I think it has something for everyone. This is our story, it’s an American story, and this trip kind of proved that. So I definitely think we’ll do it again.”


I am very proud of my grandson Jaylin, his love for education,life and his special gifts. He hold his head up and respect people for who they are, and treat people the way he would like to be treated
Posted on July 27, 2013

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