Nearsighted welcomes Javier De Paz, Assistant Director at the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement at Holy Names University. I asked him a few questions about the current fundraiser that’s happening to help send a group of HNU students to Alabama to visit several historic civil rights sites this November.
Belo Cipriani: Why does the Center for Social Justice at Holy Names University take a group of students on a civil rights trip every year?
Javier De Paz: For the past 12 years, the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement has helped members of the Peace and Justice Club organize visits to historic civil rights sites in the South. This year’s trip takes place from Thursday, November 19 to Sunday, November 22. We start in Birmingham, Alabama, the cradle of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. While in Birmingham, we will visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th St. Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Civil Rights Sculpture Park. We then continue over to Montgomery, AL to visit the Rosa Parks Museum, the Freedom Riders Museum and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial.
Holy Names University serves a large number of first generation college students. By attending these types of opportunities, we expand our worldview beyond Oakland, which helps us to understand local and global issues of justice at a deeper level. This firsthand exposure will enhance students’ studies of these topics and enable them to add to academic dialogue in a unique way. In addition, learning about the Civil Rights Movement will empower students to develop leadership skills and become active citizens so they can be transformative leaders in our communities, beyond Holy Names University!
The Center provides logistical support to the group. This includes booking airfare, lodging, food, rental vans and tickets for the civil rights museums. This year, it will cost approximately $8,500 to take 10 students and one staff. We are busy fundraising and now are reaching out to everyone to help out a little!
We will appreciate any assistance you are able to provide! In appreciation for your support, we will provide a report back presentation to the Holy Names University and Oakland Community on Wednesday, January 27, 2016.
BC: Who gets to go on the trip?
JDP: Holy Names University students who are part of the Peace and Justice Club get to go on this trip.
BC: What makes these museums and historic sites unique?
JDP: There is so much we can learn from museums. We like to think that museums are like the elderly. They both hold so much information from different periods in history that can better help us understand the past and the present. While on this trip, we often meet individuals that lived through the historic civil rights movement and help educate us even further with their life experiences. For us, it’s important that students know and understand what forces have shaped our country. In high school and even in college, students study history. But it’s a whole different experience when students visit historic places and learn first hand accounts of what happened during the movement because it transforms students’ worldview.
BC: What have been some of the reactions from students in the past as they visited the various historic sites?
JDP: Students feel reflective when they visit historic landmarks. While some have family connection to the movement, others have taken history classes and read books about it. However, many students have shared that it feels different when you get to walk these historic sites and learn the significance of each place. Students express gratitude to those before them who fought to integrate schools and end racial discrimination in this country.
This trip also helps change individual perceptions. When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, we all think of Dr. Martin Luther King. When we get to the museums, we learn a different story. While Dr. King played a pivotal role in building the movement, there were other men, women and children who also shaped and fueled the movement. Examples include Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer and many youth that filled the jails in Birmingham protesting unjust laws.
In the end, these trips empower students to lead. By learning the history of the civil rights movement and who led the movement, this breaks down this notion that you have to be a Dr. Martin Luther King to positively impact change.
BC: How does the Peace and Justice Club fund the trip?
JDP: We are grateful to the generous support of the Associated Students of Holy Names University (ASHNU). Every year, members of the Peace and Justice Club submit a funding proposal to ASHNU. ASHNU has been extremely generous and has provided some funding to cover some of the costs associated with the trip.
Club members also reach out to family, friends, faculty and staff for their support. Students develop letters that they send out.
We also make buttons to sell to the community. We attend local community events such as the Day of the Dead or First Friday and we sell buttons. Last year, we also used the fundraising platform GoFundMe. This fundraising platform helps us spread the word by posting on social media, allowing us to reach a wider population. In addition, students contribute $175.00 each for the trip.
BC: How many people support HNU students on the trip?
JDP: The number varies. I can estimate about 50 people who lend a helping hand to make this trip possible. The support comes in various forms as well. While some people provide financial support, other people donate tangible objects that we can raffle to make extra money to cover expenses.