Inspired by the spring 2013 chapel service which focused on Dr. Charles Johnson’s involvement in civil rights events in Mississippi in the ’60s, students and others at Trevecca began dreaming about a tour of sites important to that movement. During spring break of this year, twelve students and sponsors Matt Spraker, associate dean of students for community life, and Jamie Casler, director of the J. V. Morsch Center for Social Justice, made that dream a reality when they made their own Southern Culture, Music, and Civil Rights Tour.
Participating students learned about some of the defining moments in the civil rights movement and the persons involved (See the list of sites visited below), and they experienced the music, food, and culture of the South. Additionally, participants engaged in discussions about the role of Christians in the culture.
Participants report that the experience changed their thinking in many ways. Matt Spraker explained that the trip had a powerful effect on him: “I am more proud of this experience than perhaps anything else I have been a part of during my time at Trevecca. It was powerful to walk in literally the footsteps of those who fought for human rights and to stand where those musicians stood who have shaped American music. It was equally as powerful to have conversations with our students about the current state of our hurting world and the role young people can play in reflecting God’s hope.”
For Sara Callis, a Trevecca senior, the tour gave her a new understanding of community: “The Civil Rights Tour caused me to redefine ‘community’. Those of us in the group grew closer, but we also learned a lot about what a community should look like. We have a community at Trevecca, but it can easily be just saying ‘Hey, how are you?’ while we pass in the Quad. However, love in a community is when the persons actually care about the answer to that question. The truth is that love was never meant to be about the color of our skin. Love is a matter of the heart, and everyone shares the same color heart.”
An added bonus for taking this tour was the opportunity to earn academic credit for the learning they achieved on the tour.
The group visited an impressive list of historic places:
Cities—Memphis, Tennessee; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Selma, Montgomery, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Historic sites—the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel; the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum; the Sun Recording Studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin Wolf, etc., were discovered; the Delta Blues Museum; Congo Square, where slaves were allowed to gather on Sundays and make music, an activity that led to the creation of jazz, called “America’s music”; Preservation Hall; Louisiana State Museums; Selma West Village Church of the Nazarene, where they worshipped and ate a meal with Nazarenes and spent time with members who walked in the Selma marches; the Edmund Pettis Bridge; the Rosa Parks Museum and bus station in Montgomery; the parsonage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the home that was bombed; Dexter Ave Church, Dr. King’s church in Montgomery; the National Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham; the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four little girls were killed in a bombing in 1963; Kelly Ingram Park, where police dogs and fire hoses were turned on demonstrating children and youths; and Muscle Shoals Sound, the recording studio for Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Lynard Skynard, Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Cher, and others.