Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Day 4: Blacks in Wax and back to Bucknell

Brittany reading about
modern business leaders.
Maho and Carmen looking at the
slave ship exhibit.
This morning we said goodbye to the 4-H Conference Center and departed for Baltimore. Our first stop was The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. It didn't look like much from the outside and it didn't look like much when we walked into the entryway, but when we went through the swinging doors to the actual displays, it surprised us. It was the most honest display of African American history that we had seen on the entire trip. Right as we walked through the doors, there was a room made to look like the hold of a slave ship that was really eye-opening. A bit farther into the museum and down a set of narrow stairs was a room that was dedicated to lynchings that was shockingly graphic. However, if you had young children with you, those rooms were well marked as portraying sensitive material and could be avoided. The museum also depicted significant people of color from the ancient Egyptians all the way to Barack Obama. Unfortunately, we only had an hour in the museum and we probably could have spent twice as long there. I would highly recommend it if you are interested in learning about the black history.
Eunyque looking at one of the displays.

Imam Earl El-Amin showing us his
favorite room: the library.
From there we travelled across town to The Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore. We were greeted by Tariq Najee-ullah, a member of the community and graduate student at Georgetown, and Imam Earl El-Amin. Imam Earl is a very affable man who was excited for us to visit and took us on a tour of the center which is an old house located on the edge of Leakin Park. He told us that he was going to use one of the rooms to start a chess club for the kids, he showed us the library of books about the history of Islam and his collection of Jazz CDs and ended in the masjid where he invited us to sit and ask anything we wanted about Islam. One of the interesting questions was about Muslim names. He explained that Tariq was born a Muslim so he had his name from birth, but he, himself, was a "reverted" Muslim so he got to choose his own name. He didn't say he converted, because he always felt that he was Muslim and had a DNA test done to find that his ancestors were taken from African areas that were Islamic. It was a very informative visit and he warmly invited us back any time we wanted.

Trey, Esmerelda, Sha-Asia and Neyda talking about
the Posse Program.
During lunch at P.F. Chang's at the Inner Harbor, we discussed some of the feelings we had about our trip and then headed back to Bucknell. Unbeknownst to me, they told them it was my birthday and they brought me a birthday treat which was very sweet of them. It was a fantastic trip and I look forward to our followup debrief to see what the students thought of the trip after having a chance to relax.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Day 3: The Leadership Conference and Through the African American Lens

Tyler Lewis talks to the students about The Leadership Conference.
This morning we drove to K Street to meet with Tyler Lewis, Director of Messaging and Project Management for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. We were also joined by Professor Susan Reed and her students in the Bucknell in DC program. Admittedly, most of us didn't know what The Leadership Conference was or what it does, but it turned out to be very interesting. We tend to associate individual events or movements with the reason that Civil Rights laws get enacted. For example, the Selma to Montgomery march was the primary reason that the Voting Rights Act got passed in 1965. What we learned from Mr. Lewis is that there is a tremendous amount of activity that goes on behind the scenes that help push civil and human rights bills through the political system. The Leadership Conference is a coalition of over 200 organizations that work toward maximizing its members ability to empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change as it pertains to civil and human rights. Some of the major issues that they are currently tackling are voting rights, criminal justice issues such as the abolishment of mandatory minimum sentencing an education funding for underserved communities. Mr. Lewis also noted that they are gearing up for lobbying senators to uphold their constitutional obligation and hold confirmation hearings for the nominee that President Obama will be putting forth for the Supreme Court. His comment was "It should be a fun year" as he rolled his eyes. It was about a half hour into his presentation when one of the students mentioned the racial conditions in Central Pennsylvania that he told us that he completely understood since he was a graduate of Lewisburg High School. It turns out that his grandparents were the first blacks to own property in Snyder County when they bought property under the Fair Housing Act in Selinsgrove!

Lunch at Sankofa Cafe.
After leaving the Leadership Conference, we took a bus to the Sankofa Cafe near Howard University for lunch. Sankofa is part cafe, part video store and part book store. It is owned by filmmaker Haile Gerima and is billed as a liberated zone or sanctuary for provocative black film and literature and specializes in books and films about people of African descent around the world.

After lunch, we travelled back to the National Mall and went to the National Museum of American History to see their Through the African American Lens exhibit. The exhibit was meant to provide an overview of African American history through narratives of various families, organizations and individuals and also provide a preview of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture that will be opening in the fall of 2016. Some of the students had some very strong opinions regarding the exhibit.

Dunni defends her position while
Brianna looks on.
After some free time for the students to do some sightseeing, shopping and dinner, we returned back to the 4-H Conference Center for reflection time. We did an activity called Social Barometer. Each corner of the room was designated as Agree, Strongly Agree, Disagree or Strongly Disagree. A statement was made and everybody had to move to the corner that most closely resembles your opinion of that statement. The statement that generated a lot of discussion was The Through the African American Lens exhibit was presented in the right tone. We each went to a corner and the people that didn't have an opinion or were undecided could stay in the middle. We then had to explain why we held those opinions. After the first round we had the opportunity to move to a different corner if the arguments from the other corners were able to change our opinions. Several students felt that the exhibit was not indicative of the struggles of African Americans and much of the wording in the display descriptions seemed to be inappropriate. One of the conclusions was that the the name of the exhibit was inaccurate because it was presenting African American History through the lens of white Americans to broaden it appeal. The object of the activity was not to really change anybody's mind, but to gain an understanding that people bring different opinions to a situation and that there isn't always a right and wrong and if we disagree with somebody, we can have a discussion might allow us to see both sides of an issue.
Esmerelda defends her position.

Tomorrow we pack up and head off to Baltimore to go to the Blacks in Wax Museum and visit the Muslim Community Cultural Center.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Day 2: From Gospel to Rasta

The group in front of the King Memorial.
We started out this cloudy Sunday by driving to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. We walked around and read his quotes on the walls which led to a discussion about the difference between "MLK the Civil Rights Leader" and "MLK the Human Rights Leader". We found it interesting that the quotes overwhelmingly portrayed him as the human rights leader and not the civil rights leader and why the National Park Service chose to portray him in that light. We also discussed that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn't do what he did by himself and we suspected that he would agree with that. To that end, we thought that there probably should be memorials to people such as Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, John Lewis, Diane Nash and many others right next to King's.
Jinling and Carmen at the King Memorial.

From there we travelled to Asbury United Methodist Church. Asbury UMC has been a black congregation occupying the same location at 11th and K Street NW since 1864. The sermon, titled "I'm Pressing", was given by Rev. Herbert A. Brisbon from Howard University. He gave a fiery sermon about how you can't let your past hold you back and that you need to keep pressing forward to become the person that you were meant to be. The ministers were thrilled that there were so many college students attending the service. In addition to us, there were three other groups of students there from Kansas, Texas and also Howard University.

After the service, we went to lunch in Chinatown with Asbury Youth Pastor Scott Bostic; Jesse James, who organizes Asbury's monthly breakfast for the homeless; and a Wesley Seminary student that also works with outreach. They discussed the need for the church to put action behind their words and do good for their neighbors in need.
Min. Bostic and Rosalie discussing the history of Asbury UMC.

Thaddeus talks about the importance of the church
in the Civil Rights Movement as Brittany listens.

We then walked to the Museum of the American Indian. We went our separate ways inside the museum to see what we wanted see. I will be interested in what kind of things were of interest to the students when we have our next reflection time Monday evening.
Some of the students at the
Museum of the American Indian.

Finally, we finished the evening at Blues Alley Jazz Supper Club where we were treated to a terrific New Orleans inspired dinner and the Corey Harris Rasta Blues Experience. Tomorrow we will be visiting the National Leadership Conference and then having lunch with Professor Susan Reed who is running the Spring 2016 Bucknell in D.C.  program. We will also be visiting the National Museum of American History and have some free time to explore the area around the National Mall.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 1: Anacostia and Beyond

The Bucknell group hanging with Frederick Douglass.
The park ranger welcoming us to Cedar Hill.
Whew! Our first full day in D.C. is done and it was jam packed. We started the day by being picked up by DC in Black Bus Tours. Our first stop was at Cedar Hill in Anacostia. Cedar Hill was the home of Frederick Douglass and is now a part of the National Park System. We took a tour of the house and learned a great deal about who Frederick Douglass was and why he was an important figure in the history of the United States. I learned a few interesting things. For example, I did not know that Frederick's second wife was white, which had to be very unusual for the late 1800s. I thought it was fantastic that most of the items in the house actually belonged to Frederick Douglass. As someone who visits a great deal of National Historic Sites, I understand how unusual that is. The ranger explained to us that when Douglass died, his second wife raised $10,000 to buy all of his possessions from his children so that she could fulfill his wish for Cedar Hill to be his "Mount Vernon" and that people could come to see how he lived.

Amir N Muhammad talks to Trey and
Brianna about some of the Muslims
that have served in the U.S. government.

Our second stop was at America's Islamic Heritage Museum. Director and curator of the museum, Amir N Muhammad, gave us a personal tour of the museum and explained the history of Islam in the United States, which runs deeper than any of us had expected. We also got a very special surprise visit from Imam Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi. He is the great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. He talked to us briefly about his service in the U.S. Navy and on what being Muslim means to him.

Imam Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi speaks to us about serving in the Navy.
After a bus tour of the U Street area of Washington, D.C., we stopped at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. We didn't have a lot of time to spend there, but we were able to watch a short film about the surprisingly large number of African Americans that fought for the Union in the Civil War.
The group at the African American Civil War

Our tour guide, Juanita, speaking to us at the
African American Civil War Museum.

Thad refilling the bins of soy protein.
We then went on to Howard University where we joined with other groups to help put together humanitarian aid boxes for Stop Hunger Now. We broke up into different parts of the assembly lines and were able to put together 60,000 meals that will be sent to wherever they are need most in the world.
Brittany sealing bags of the soup mix.

Sha-Asia packing boxes.  Each box will feed
up to 216 children.
Each pallet had the equivalent of
11,880 children-sized meals.
After our service work, we split up and had dinner at a variety of restaurants near Howard University. I ate at a Jamaican eatery called Negril. The vegetable roti with a side of fried plantains was delicious. 

We then took the Metro back to the 4-H Conference Center where we met for reflection time on our first day in D.C. The topics for discussion included what things the students learned that they didn't know before, something they heard that perhaps they questioned and something that they will always remember.

Brittany and Neyda discussing their impressions of their first day in D.C. during
reflection time. 

Tomorrow's highlights include attending Asbury United Methodist Church's service followed by lunch with some of the congregation, the Museum of the American Indian and an evening of Reggae/Jazz. It should be another great day.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Arrival in D.C.!

Welcome to the 2016 Bucknell Civil Rights Spring Break Trip! We have a jam-packed itinerary over the next four days. We start in Washington D.C. on Saturday with a bus tour that focuses on African American history in D.C. and then we will be doing some service work at Howard University. Sunday includes attending a church service at Asbury United Methodist Church and the National Museum of the American Indian. Monday starts with a tour of Howard University and ends with free time to explore the National Mall. Tuesday we will be stopping in Baltimore to visit a museum and the Muslim Community Cultural Center before heading back to Bucknell.

Rosalie discussing System Theory as it relates to
food security with Trey, Sha-Asia and Brittany.
Last Sunday, in preparation for our trip, we had a three hour curriculum session where we got to know each other a little better. History professor Leslie Patrick spoke to us about the the African American struggle to achieve basic human rights from the slave rebellions, the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s up to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Director of Multicultural Student Services, Rosalie Rodriguez, spoke about her research using Ecological Systems Theory to help identify the issues surrounding civil rights. The students broke up into small groups and tackled topics such as food security and body image using the concepts that they had learned about Systems Theory.
Finally, we played a game of Civil Rights Jeopardy.

The crew gets some last minute instructions before loading into the vans.
This afternoon we met on Seventh Street outside of Smith Hall and loaded up the vans for our drive to D.C. My van was very quiet as most of the students fell asleep quickly. We stopped in at Wegmans in Frederick, MD for dinner before arriving at our home for the next four nights.

Angela, Brianna, Eunyque and Trey at Wegmans.

Our home for the next four days.
We are staying at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD. Its a really nice place and should make for a great base of operations for our adventures.

It's off to bed so we can be ready to start our immersion into the civil rights history in D.C.!