Welcome to Montgomery
Stephen Kleitsch ’11 - Today involved a plethora of cultural experiences that shook my understanding of what racism and equality meant. Since this morning, our class has toured five unique places. Each had it's own story, interpreter, and effect on my worldview that is really impossible to quantify or describe. So, instead of giving a recap or some in-depth analysis, I will give the best description of what happened that had significant to me. At the end of today, the single event that has tied together all other elements and made this trip a life changing was the guide at the King's house.
To set the scene, we visited the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church. This is where the Reverend King was pastor, where the mass meeting that started the bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks, and where modern Civil Rights movement was born. But none of that really had the 'immersion' feel that I want to talk about. Sitting in King's seat and standing at his pulpit did not seem earth shattering and significant.
We moved on to King's home where we met the tour guide Shirley Cherry, a woman who was alive during this time period and old enough to remember. We started our tour... to be blatantly honest this part was boring. The crater where dynamite thrown by the K.K.K. exploded in front of King home, the dining room where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was born, and the original furniture throughout did not effect my world view about equality.
The kitchen that's where it happened if I had to pin point it. Yea, that's where King prayer over a cup of coffee after a death threat and had an epiphany, God told him to stay and he would be with him. Now is where it got real to me. When Ms. Cherry told about her childhood. She had grown up with her parent telling her that when she walked, always to look at her shoes, because of what happened to Emmit Till, and never make eye contact with a white. That was when I realized she had been looking into my eyes since we started the tour. At that point, I began to realize what this history meant to her and those countless others that I have seen thus far. No amount of reading of the horrors of the era or examining images will be able to give the personal tie that this experience gave.