Road to Alabama: Middle School Students Grapple with American Civil Rights at the Epicenter of the Movement
Sixteen ISDenver students visited Alabama as the culmination of their study of American Civil Rights. The elective offering, or X-Block, is one of a variety of options middle school students can select from, giving them agency to delve into the topics they are most curious about.
Annie Barocas, Director of Counseling and Director of Inclusivity and Belonging, and Victoria Sardelli, Director of Database Services, led the trip and offered their reflection shared, unedited, below.
Our Civil Rights trip to Alabama struck a little differently this year. Here we are, learning about the cruelty that one human can inflict on another, while the devastation of current world conflicts show that people still toil with the worth of another human life.
The first day, our group walked the stairs at the 16th Street Baptist Church, the same church that was bombed in 1963, killing four precious young girls. The experience provoked anger and sadness within us all, but later, we listened to Martin Luther King Junior eulogize these four angels, he shared, “spilled blood of these innocent girls may cause the whole citizenry of Birmingham to transform the negative extremes of a dark past into the positive extremes of a bright future.” Our students saw that even in the midst of tragedy, people saw hope. This is what made the civil rights movement continue on and it is how change was created.
The youth were the power within the Civil Rights Movements. Whether they were the first to pass through the door of a desegregated school, the ones leading marches through Kelly Ingram Park, or the brave feet boarding the greyhound bus as a Freedom Rider, the youth led the way from darkness to light and from cruelty to kindness. Even the youngest changemakers left their mark.
ISDenver students experienced an exhausting four days, and an emotionally provocative journey from slavery to police brutality and incarceration. We left Alabama inspired that the sixteen students we were with had limitless power to improve the world around them. They saw how anyone can fight for the rights of others, and they talked about their roles in sharing others' histories in order to prevent the same injustices from occurring. And so as we continue talking about this trip in our classroom, with the Middle School and Upper Primary, and even at our kitchen tables, we will continue to reflect on the greater global experiences of others, because in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody is free until everybody is free.“
Director of Counseling/Director of Inclusivity and Belonging
Director of Database Services
The International School of Denver, together with colleagues from two other ACIS Schools, led an important breakout session conversation at this year's NAIS People of Color Conference in St. Louis.
ISDenver paves the way in making bilingual education a standard of excellence.