“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again"
Last week, I had the privilege, alongside my co-leader Victoria Sardelli, to lead a Civil Rights trip to Alabama with eleven middle school students. I have been trying to sum up this experience into both a collection of photos and also written words, yet neither seem to do it justice. This visit was a first for me, so not only was I overcome with emotion, but I deeply felt the shock, pain, sadness, guilt and call to action that our students grappled with as well.
History has never felt as real and recent as it did in Alabama. To stand on the street corner where Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat, or touch the wall where a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church leaving four young girls dead, or to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis and many other inspirational individuals marched, we literally were walking the footsteps of modern history. And yet, driving down the stretch of Highway 80, a confederate flag still blows in the wind atop a large hill, reminding us that there is still so much work to be done as a country.
During our time at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, one of our students pointed to a plaque explaining that one man was lynched in front of a mob of 600 people. They asked, “What crime was he accused of committing?” The frank response was, “Nothing, he was black.” It was a poignant reminder of what the world could be if human rights are not valued and protected by the systems we rely on most.
The purpose of our trip to Alabama began with the desire to educate and bring awareness to the culture that bore the Civil Rights movement. By walking in the footsteps of the Civil Rights leaders, our students felt the history come to life. They were able to acknowledge our past and independently conclude that the determination and resolution of Civil Rights activists in Alabama was more powerful than those forces acting against them.
We take pride in the questions raised and the compassion showcased by our students throughout our trip. When we experience the journey through the eyes of our students, it is a reminder that there is so much good will in the world, and that the power of one can create change for all.
Annie Barocas has been ISDenver's Director of Counseling since 2018. She received an M.A. in Counseling from Adams State University, College of Education, and an M.A. in International Studies from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. She also completed her certification in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through the University of Kentucky in December of 2021.
Victoria Sardelli is ISDenver's Director of Database Services, and has been at ISDenver since 2018 in administrative, substitute, and after school program positions. She holds a Master’s of Education with a concentration in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University, and a B.A. from Salve Regina University, with a double major in Global Studies and French, and is also fluent in French.