Carrying Stories from Montgomery


 

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It was a jam-packed week full of learning, bonding, crying and growing (oh, and Oreos….all the Oreos)! Leave it to this wonderful group of people to have the most eye-opening and impactful service trip.

The 17 hour car-ride (each way) flew by at the speed of light. In no time, we had arrived at Resurrection Catholic Missions, ready to learn about racial injustice in Alabama, but not ready for the intensity of it that is still visible today. Without a doubt, going to the 10 museums about historical injustices opened our eyes to our ignorance on the subject matter, but being able to attend a Civil Rights dinner perhaps had the most striking impact on all of us. There, we heard first-hand stories of not only African Americans who had participated in the Montgomery bus boycott as carpool drivers, witnessed the bombing at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s house, worked with famous figures, and underwent the traumatizing racial injustices that we had learned about that entire week.

Most notably at the dinner, Mr. Nelson Malden spoke to us about his experiences as Dr. MLK Jr’s barber- he told stories that made this iconic figure seem like a real, down-to-earth, relatable person. Dr. MLK Jr. was funny in an odd sort of reserved fashion; he never admitted that he “liked” Mr. Malden’s haircuts, yet consistently came to only him (sometimes twice a month!), even after he moved to Atlanta! Mr. Malden’s personal account on such a Civil Rights icon truly touched me- so often people think that they can never achieve greatness such as the leaders before them because they seem “unreachable.” However, his personal stories and impersonal use of the name “Martin” showed that, like us, Dr. MLK Jr. was a man who was real; he felt irritation and frustration, desperation, and joy in the simple beauty of his wife and four children. To me, that was a turning point. I realized that I don’t have to be some super unreachable person to do something better for the world……I can just be me.

Of course, everything we learned and saw that week was an immensely empowering experience, but Mr. Malden’s account has left a lasting imprint on my heart. Our speakers are in their senior years now, and their accounts happened when they were either teenagers or in their twenties. Considering that my group could be some of the last people to have the privilege to witness their trials, tribulations, and accomplishments made hearing these impactful personal accounts even more poignant. I realized that my duty of sharing my acquired knowledge is more important than ever. In the next few decades I will be able to provide secondary accounts, while attributing my knowledge to the real sources- the dedicated and passionate participants of the Civil Rights Movement. Ensuring that these tragic injustices stay in the past is of utmost importance now, especially considering the precarious state of our country, and I believe that providing these accounts to others will help prevent history from doing what it’s best at: repeating itself.

Marika Marklin, Class of 2022