Summer Journey Blog!

The Mountaintop

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Students read the impromptu speech that came to be known as “The Mountaintop Address” from the dais where it was delivered. Some say Dr. King, who said, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land,” was preaching away the fear of death. He would be assassinated the next day.

Memphis

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Artist Richard Hunt wanted his “Mountaintop” sculpture to represent the peaks and valleys of Dr. King’s life. He wanted it to be walked on, to be defaced, to rust, and–like Dr. King and the movement–to overcome.

Little Rock

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“I may have appeared calm,” Elizabeth Eckford told #OUDC22 of facing down the mob alone–a moment captured in an iconic photo that came to represent the Little Rock Nine and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. “I didn’t respond because I felt like if I responded I would start crying. I didn’t want those people to see me cry.” Eckford didn’t speak about her experience for thirty years afterwards, but now believes, “We can only have true reconciliation when we acknowledge our painful but shared past.”

Indianola

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After a moving church service at Mt. Beulah Baptist (during which two #OUDC22 students spoke beautifully), Class 22 was treated to a delicious lunch at the home of Indianola Mayor Steve Rosenthal (right), who shared his efforts to improve education in Indianola, as well as his experience as a Jewish person in the Mississippi Delta. The students also learned from Charles McLaurin (right) who enthralled them with tales from his SNCC days, which included serving as Fannie Lou Hamer’s campaign manager.

Mississippi Delta

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Mississippi has some of the lowest performing schools in the nation, and many communities in the Delta remain highly segregated. At the Sunflower County Freedom Project, Class 22 learned about efforts to enrich literacy, build community, and draw upon Mississippi’s rich history of activism to create leaders ready to graduate high school, tackle college, and become agents of change.

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Class 22 honored Fannie Lou Hamer at the site of her burial in Ruleville. A sharecropper with only a middle school education, Hamer lost her job and home when she tried to register to vote. But she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and her witness helped to rouse a nation during the struggle for voting rights during Freedom Summer and beyond.

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Ahavath Rayim may be a small congregation (15 members), but its spirit is mighty. Class 22 learned how Judaism remains vibrant in Greenwood, despite not having had a permanent Rabbi since the 1950s. We shared a meaningful Havdallah service with them to mark the end of Shabbat.

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An abandoned building covered in vines is all that remains of Bryant’s Grocery, the store where 14-year-old Emmett Till purportedly flirted with a white woman in 1954. Till was kidnapped, brutalized, and murdered by the woman’s husband and his half-brother. The murder and trial that followed (during which the killers were acquitted) politicized many of the emerging activists who would go on to become the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

Hollis Watkins

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“I’ve still got a hangover from them days,” Mississippi organizer Hollis Watkins said of his movement days. “We were working in the shadows of death.” But the music kept him going.

Check out our social media for video of Mr. Watkins singing with us.

Interfaith Exploration

Class 22 continued their interfaith exploration in Jackson. They learned about efforts to preserve and support southern congregations at the Institute for Southern Jewish Life, participated in an interactive Jumu’ah service at the Museum of Muslim Cultures, and welcomed Shabbat at Congregation Beth Israel.

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