Chad Jackson, community member: A Time to Look Back, Learn, Be Thankful & Be Inspired to Move Forward with a Renewed Since of Purpose!
When my Mom asked me to join her & the UMD students on their Civil Rights Bus Tour a few months ago I got excited about this trip and what it would do for me and my family. I can honestly say that, as this trip is close to its conclusion, my thoughts were nothing compared to what I’ve actually experienced.
We’ve seen many places, met many people and have heard/read some amazing stories! I was extremely moved by our visit to Medgar Evers’ house – to stand in the house where this Civil Rights Pioneer lived, where he raised his family and where he was ultimately assassinated was “bone-chilling”! What is amazing to me about the tragic deaths of leaders like Medgar, MLK, Malcom X, Kennedy and others is how young they were! I’ve always known that – but to be down here and to actually be walking on the soil, and being in the areas / places where these men and women served brings it all home. Evers was 37 I believe — being 38 myself, I sit back and say to myself WOW!
I’ve also been impressed with the “pride” in some of the young people, and really the “Mississippians” as a whole that we have encountered down here. In particular the two youth leaders at the COFO office (Brandon & Precious)! They both spoke with a knowledge and passion about the movement and their role in the upcoming “Freedom Summer” celebration.
On a personal note, I was able to connect with several family members (some face to face – others via phone) who live down here. My mother and I stayed with her sister one night and it was on this night before arriving at their home that we went to the “exact” spot to see where my Mother was born (Brandon, MS)…the sun had just set, the air was cool and there we sat in the car – looking down in a ravine of sorts where years back “shacks” sat along a creek. My Mother, as many blacks in that day, was born in the very house she would live in until she was 4. At 62, for her to finally see the very place where she was born and to share that with her is something I will hold close to me and never forget.
Slavehaven provided me a deeper understanding of the “Triangular Trade” and the depths that slaves went through to get north to freedom. Given the laws that were in place and blacks not being permitted to read or write, it was really interesting how strategic and creative they were in how they communicated with one another to relay messages. Using song, patterns on blankets and other methods to help one another in their pursuit of freedom was really ingenious and made me smile of sorts knowing just how calculated they were despite the “law limitations” that had been placed on them.
On a more personal note, I’ve also had “moments of reflection” where I have thought about my own battles and situations that I’ve been in throughout my life. Now certainly not to the level of those we’ve met and the stories we’ve heard but what my encounters with the various leaders and stories I’ve heard down here have reinforced a renewed passion in me to continue to ask, speak and act on injustice! There is a certain “pride” in Mississippi that have not seen anywhere else in my travels. There isn’t shame in what has occurred and what they had to endure to insure that folks like me could have a better way of life is truly encouraging. I am going home a different man than what I was when I arrived. My since of purpose has been renewed – and as the Father of three young children I have a responsibility, not only as their Dad, but as an African-American to continue to raise them in the spirit of our forefathers, to make sure they “know” about the sacrifices many have made and to walk boldly and confidently as they go about their lives – but to go about that walk with purpose and passion!
Lastly, I would like to say a special thanks to the UMD students on this trip – while I may not have had the chance to sit and chat deeply with each and every one of you, it has been an honor and a privilege to share this experience with you. I feel confident in knowing that there are leaders on this bus and those “change agents” are heading to Duluth to make a difference!