Kaohlee Vue, UMD staff member: I had the pleasure of learning and living history alongside passionate and intelligent students, staff, and community members this week. Prior to this experience I have never learned so much about nor have I ever been so interested in the Civil Rights Movement.
It was exciting, yet heart-wrenching to be in the places where Civil Rights leaders have been. I stood in Medgar Ever’s bathroom, and saw the bathtub that his children used to hide in to protect themselves from the bullets of racist folks shooting into the home. I stood in the basement of the Slavehaven Underground Railroad, and felt the whispers of the individuals who desperately crawled to their freedom. I sat in the home of a woman whose mother demonstrated that anything is possible when she accepted a clerk’s challenge and recited the entire U.S. constitution. That act granted her the right to register and vote. I stood a few feet away from the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood the moment he took his last breath.
All of the stories of these men and women were moving and empowering, yet overwhelming and emotionally draining. But most of all, they were inspiring.
We learned a lot on this trip about history, leaders, each other, and ourselves. During trips like these I always reflect on myself. I learn of the amazing things other people have done and I wonder what bravery I have, and how much strength I hold. The fearlessness and determination of these leaders inspire me to do better, and be better. No human being is perfect, but we can always improve. What does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean “to do the right thing”? I believe it means to help others improve their lives personally, spiritually, financially, or any other way.
The stories of the brave men and women reminded me that success begins with courage. These brave leaders stood up individually and fought for what they believed in. They gave people hope even when there was none.
Discrimination and bigotry are still prevalent today, and it will never vanish entirely, but we all can work together to continue to improve the community little by little. It starts with small things such as encouraging others to do the “impossible”, confronting friends for bullying someone, or just saying “hello” to a stranger. We must have faith and perseverance even when others are doubtful. We must believe that the result will be glorious as long as we are doing our best.
This experience reminds me to be grateful for what I have. It reminds me to continue to stand up for what I believe in. It reminds me to not be afraid of the voices of others. It reminds me that life waits for no one.
As Owen Walker (Vicellous Reon Shannon) says in the movie Freedom Song, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”