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This Sunday is our official Destination Freedom Kick Off, a
free afternoon program featuring panel discussions, new exhibits and
entertainment, along with a special talk by Civil Rights activist Diane
Nash. In preparing for Sunday, we had the opportunity to ask several of
the panelists questions surrounding the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights
Movement, their own activism, and what they are looking forward to during the
Destination Freedom Kick Off.
Next up: Elver
Barrios, Community Organizer at the Latin American Coalition
How does Sept. 15,
1963 relate to the causes you are most passionate about? What takeaways have
you gained from the Civil Rights Movement?
Sept. 15, 1963 relates to causes I am passionate about
because of the fact that there has always been people who, for various reasons,
always feared or showed hatred towards others based on their skin color, gender
or other identities. But, the fact that there is always someone that stands up
to fight for what is right gives me courage to see that it might take a while
to make changes. It is never too late to make those changes. I also look at
the sacrifices from this day 50 years ago and think about how in movements for
change sometimes there are sacrifices and losses.
Changing the immigration system is something that I’m really
passionate about since I’m personally affected by the broken immigration
system. I think that the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s is much like today
when we are still fighting for a new group of people that are oppressed.I think that if there is something that I
take from the Civil Rights Movement is that perseverance always pays off and
that one person can make a difference if they fight with their heart to make a
difference and work to make some else’s life better.
How do you recall
your activism and any highlights of it?
I think that my activism has impacted in a positive way the
lives of many by encouraging them to join the movement. That together we can
make changes so our undocumented immigrant families can stay together and not
have to be separated.In 2010, when the
fight for the DREAM Act became stronger than ever, I decided to take a stand and
fight for my education along with that of other young people in Charlotte and
challenge our North Carolina Senators to fight for the future of this country.
Although it did not pass, the youth immigrant movement only became stronger!
Today, we have grown from that time and have realized the importance of focusing
not only on ourselves as young people but also on our families.
What are you looking
forward to during the Destination Freedom Kick Off
I think that it is important that we acknowledge that in
this country there has always been a group of people that has been oppressed at
some point in history, and the struggles are very much similar but yet so
different. It takes more than one person to make those changes. During this
event I hope to see people make the connections to what happened in 1963 and today and why it is important to fight not only
for our struggles but also to help others overcome theirs.
Hear more from Mr. Barrios and others at Levine Museum, Sunday, Sept. 15, beginning at 3 p.m.
This Sunday is our official Destination Freedom Kick Off, a free afternoon program featuring panel discussions, new exhibits and entertainment, along with a special talk by Civil Rights activist Diane Nash. In preparing for Sunday, we had the opportunity to ask several of the panelists questions surrounding the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement, their own activism, and what they are looking forward to during the Destination Freedom Kick Off. Next: Ms. Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, One of 4 girls to participate in the 1957 desegregation of Harding High School, an all-white school in Charlotte, NC.
How do you remember Sept. 15, 1963 and what did it mean to the Movement? I was a junior in college and had just returned to school. Students on the campus that participated in the March On Washington were talking about their experience in Washington on August 28, 1963. We were all excited about the changes that would happen in this country, “hope” was the key word. Racial equality was now beginning to happen. After my experience with school desegregation in 1957 was not a success, I hoped that things were going to change for young children in this country; to receive what they deserved, a quality education. Then on September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, as an act of racially motivated terrorism. I asked myself “how could someone have so much hatred that [one] would kill 4 innocent children?” This was the turning point for the Civil Rights Movement and passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Hope was alive again! How do you recall your activism and any highlights of it? My activism started as a young 15 year-old girl entering an all-white school in Charlotte, North Carolina, in hopes of receiving a quality education, because racial desegregation was unjust and morally wrong. The law was passed in 1954 and it was time to test the law and I was one of the 4 chosen to test the law. Charlotte was not prepared, nor willing to make this change in the system. My experience, was not a good one for me, it changed my life. I would go on to fight to ensure that other children did not endure what I experienced. My life has been working with young children, teaching tolerance and injustice so that when they grow up they will learn the importance of acceptance. I was not a marcher, but I felt that through my teaching and mentoring of young children they could learn the importance of “acceptance” and carry on these beliefs and change the world. How does the Civil Rights Movement relate to today? The passion is gone; people have become accepting of the norm and allowed the fight that we made to be forgotten. Yes, we have an African American President in this country, I did not think I would live to see, but the hatred and racial inequality has resurfaced as it was 50+ years ago. What issues are we still facing? Resegregation of our schools, voter suppression, rights for women [are all] being denied, so many of our laws are being changed to set us back, especially in North Carolina’s 200 years. My hope is that after the March on Washington in 2013, which had a very diverse population of people, we will pick up and fight for what is racially and morally right in this country again. What are you looking forward to during the Destination Freedom Kick Off on September 15? I am looking forward to the conversations and reflections of others in the group of their views of the Civil Rights Movement, and their thoughts of now and where we need to go to move forward. Also, looking forward to hearing Diane Nash.
Hear more from Ms. Counts-Scoggins and others at Levine Museum, Sunday, September 15, beginning at 3pm.
This Sunday is our official Destination Freedom Kick Off, a
free afternoon program featuring panel discussions, new exhibits and
entertainment, along with a special talk by Civil Rights activist Diane Nash. In preparing for Sunday, we had the opportunity
to ask several of the panelists questions surrounding the pivotal moments of
the Civil Rights Movement, their own activism, and what they are looking
forward to during the Destination Freedom Kick Off.
First up: Joshua Burford, Assistant Director for Sexual
& Gender Diversity at UNC, Charlotte.
How does Sept. 15, 1963 relate to the causes you are most
passionate about? What takeaways have you gained from the Civil Rights
I grew up in Alabama and early on learned about the impact of
Civil Rights on my home state as well as the US. The killings at the 16th
Street Baptist Church were and are a reminder of the innocent life that is lost
when people who are blinded by hate, don't understand the ramifications of
I grew up learning about how people who believe in change
can only make change by putting themselves in positions to challenge the
dominate norms of our culture, and how many times [those dominate norms] can
bring about harm to [the challengers] in so many ways.
As a teenager I saw the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS
crisis in the 90’s and watching ACT UP activists put themselves and their
bodies on the line really resonated with me. This same desire to put your
physical self in danger and to make your body visible so that people who seek
to silence you are forced to think of you as an actual person is what propelled
me to become an activist.
I understand from the Civil Rights movement that a policy or
an idea that denigrates some of us in fact denigrates all of us, and that all
human beings are worthy of full civil rights in our country. I became a
Queer activist because it’s important to advocate for those with no voice, and
ultimately my own privilege allows me and in some cases forces me to be a voice
for my community.
How do you recall your activism and any highlights of it?
My activism started out small and very quiet. I wanted
to make changes and my youthful anger allowed me the brashness of throwing
myself into causes with a fervor that I hope I still retain. I have
worked with HIV/AIDS advocacy groups, I have worked for Trans* inclusion in our
community, as a professor of Queer history I have worked to try and give a
sense of our community back to young people, and I have worked to address needs
as they arise.
I hope that my activism has become more nuanced as I have
gotten older and have a deeper understanding of what intersectional justice
looks like. I take pride in the fact that people think I am a radical and
I want people to see that my desire to change the nature of our culture for
Queer people means that I am willing to put myself on the line, to always be
vigilant in the fight for equality, and to harness my anger to redress the
creeping cultural heteronormativity that always seeks to undermine LGBTQ life.
My activism is ongoing, growing, and never satisfied and that is why I
keep doing it.
What are you looking forward to at the Destination Freedom
I think what I am looking the most forward to is the
interaction with various other activists in the community. Since LGBTQ
activism intersects with so many other types of identity, I am interested to
see what other people's approaches to their activism is and how what we are
doing is the same and different. This will be my first opportunity to
converse with people in this type of setting.
Hear more from Joshua and others at Levine Museum, Sunday,
September 15, beginning at 3pm.
Plaque commemorating the four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
Our kickoff for the Destination Freedom series is scheduled for one week from today on Sunday, Sept. 15. The timing of the event is meant to be commemorative.
If you have been following this blog and the Civil Rights timeline, the reasons are insurmountable. On Sept. 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed after the KKK planted dynamite in the church’s basement. The bombing killed four young girls: Addie MaeCollins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14.
News of the bombing shook the nation. Everyone, including Dr. King, heard what happened and then had to ponder: what kind of hate and racism would allow the killing of young girls at their church on a Sunday morning?
Yet despite the public outrage, it took years to convict the perpetrators of the crime. It has taken years more to answer other questions that the tragedy brings to the fore:
Have we as a nation made it possible for young people (of every color) to feel safer?
Are those who would use violence to further their ideology more likely to be brought to justice today?
Who else, or where else, might be a target for those looking to send a message of fear?
The aftermath of the dynamite explosion at 16th Street Baptist
Church in Birmingham, Alabama
The 16th Street Church bombing was a significant event in 1963, and it still has reverberations today. Coming after the successful Children’s March and Birmingham campaign (where the 16th Street Baptist Church played a critical role as a meeting place for activists) and the success of the iconic March on Washington, the bombing reminded many of how much work was left undone and how much harm activists were putting themselves in the way of. It also reminded many of what was truly at stake with civil rights: the ability not just to protect those 4 girls but all children so they can grow up in a world free from the dangers their skin color could cause.
In May 2013, President Barack Obama awarded the four girls The Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.Read about this historic honor here.
That is one of the many ways the girls’ legacy is being honored. Today from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Levine Museum will host a screening of the film 4 Little Girls.The documentary, directed by Spike Lee, looks at the lives, loss and continued impact of the bombing.
Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @LevineMuseum. Follow along using the hashtag #DestinationFreedom. You can also find us at Facebook.com/Levine Museum to RSVP to the screening and learn more about the Destination Freedom series.
As soon as the landmark events and changes of the Civil Rights Movement began, there were artists—ranging from singers, authors, painters, playwrights, dancers, and more—who tried to capture the stories and explain their impact.
We can read it within the works of poet Langston Hughes, who depicted the activists, angst, letdowns and promise of the movement. A poet who burst to the national scene during the 1920’s-1930’s Harlem Renaissance, Hughes had long dealt with the themes of being black in America as well as freedom and equality in his writings.
His poem “Birmingham Sunday” (you can read here), looked at the events of the 16th Street Baptist church bombing,while the poem “Go Slow” responds to those who criticized the movement as being too confrontational—the same criticism that inspired Dr. Martin Luther King to write his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In other works like “Freedom ,” “Bombings in Dixie,” and “Death in Yorkville” about the 1964 death of James Powell, Hughes explored the many questions and contradictions of American democracy that the movement exposed.
Another author dealing with the events in 1963 in his works was Christopher Paul Curtis. His 1995 novel “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” won a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for children’s literature in its depiction of a family that lives through the 16th Street bombing and has to find ways to deal with its emotional aftermath. The book has been turned to a television movie which will air on Sept. 20, 2013. Here is more information about the movie adaptation.
Lukova's "I Have a Dream"
Contemporary visual artist Luba Lukova, whose work is featured in the Network of Mutuality: 50 Years Post Birmingham, now on exhibit at Levine Museum, looks at 1963 in a different medium. Using graphics, her work “I Have a Dream” juxtaposes images of Dr. King with the violent attack dogs Birmingham police used in 1963. Lukova has been heralded for her provocative work. The exhibit Network of Mutuality, has been called not only timely but an exhibit that raises questions, through art, for a continuing dialogue about the state of race relations and the quest for equality, freedom and just today.
Public art at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama
Sculptor James Drake also responded to events in Birmingham in 1963 through art. Drake crafted three sculptural pieces that line Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park, the site of some of the most shocking events in the Children’s March. Drake’s sculptures, which depict the shocking scenes of police-led terror on protesters (including police dog attacks and the use of fire-hoses on children), evokes a real sense of what it would have been like to participate in the protests but also reveals how art can translate history in a powerful way.
How do you remember learning about the events of 1963?
What are some of your favorite artistic pieces that deal with the Civil Rights Movement?
If you were an artist, how would you choose to represent the civil rights events of then or now in art?
Share your answers with us on Twitter @LevineMuseum. Follow along using the hashtag #DestinationFreedom.