While students on many campuses used spring break to enjoy the sun and beaches, a small number of Berea College students, faculty, and staff traveled to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama for a spring break of service.
Throughout the trip, Bereans went on tours and visited various places that were pivotal to the Civil Rights Movement. They toured the Rosa Parks Museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. The group traveled the route that the marchers took during the Selma to Montgomery Marches of 1965. This included traveling under the Edmund Pettus Bridge where attempts were made to march from Selma to Montgomery in hopes of reaching the state’s capitol to protest voting rights.
Staff member Keith Bullock described the trip as humbling. “I was transfixed on the enormity of the situation,” said Bullock, “to see and cross again the Edmund Pettus Bridge that was in my life a symbol of hatred and a barrier between white and black understanding was powerful.”
For many, the highlight of the trip was a service project at McRae-Gaines Learning Center in Selma, AL, which was founded in 1976 and serves 3-12 year olds. At this school, Bereans participated in a gardening project where they planted food that will be used in the cafeteria. In addition, they interacted with students, sat in on some of their lessons, and heard about some of the economic issues and conflicts facing the school that may endanger its existence.
Alicestyne Turley, director of the Carter G. Woodson Center, remarked, “seeing the kids at McRae and how smart and energetic they were made me question what McRae-Gaines was doing right and what we as educators do wrong that prevents young students such as these from maintaining that high level of excitement concerning learning.”
As a result of their experience at the McRae-Gaines center, the Berea students are attempting to form an informal Student Board of Directors for the school. If accepted this board will enable students to raise funds for McRae-Gaines Learning Center, serve as mentors for the students, and open possible internship or volunteer and learning opportunities for students.
Sophomore business major Lawynter Bailey was one of the students impacted by the trip. “One of my favorite moments was in the museum when some of the videos featured negro spirituals” says Bailey, “seeing them sung in the videos taught me how much they really meant.”
This trip was sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Center, the Black Cultural Center, the President’s Office, the Peace and Social Justice Department, the African and African American Studies Program, and the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service.