When Garfield faculty began to plan a trip for students out to Washington D.C, Selma, and Montgomery, their main goal was to connect some of the Garfield community to the civil rights movement.
People interested in the trip had to complete an application that included short answer questions, a teacher recommendation, and a one-page essay. Based on this, certain students were selected to go through a college-style interview process.
The group plans to visit the National African American Museum in Washington D.C, as well as the campus of both Howard University and Alabama State University, two prominent HBCUs. By talking to leaders of the movement currently and leaders of the past, such as a Freedom Rider from the 1960’s, they will bring back powerful memories when they return to Garfield as next year’s upperclassmen.
As both Ms. Tiffany (the Work-Based Learning Specialist) and Rossman (the Senior Program Direction of Y-Scholars) stressed, it is important to learn about history through real-life experiences.
“It’s huge,” Rossman, one of the chaperones of the trip said. “It’s one thing to watch the Selma movie, or to read about it in a textbook, but when we are going and walking across the bridge, or talking to people who were involved or around at the time, I think it adds another level to the education.”
Through the trip, Ms. Tiffany and Rossman hope to give students a more nuanced and rich understanding of African-American history.
“It’s always important to see yourself reflected, to know where you come from, knowing that our history is not just one thing,” Ms. Tiffany said. “It’s not just slavery, it’s not just Black Lives Matter, there’s so many other dope contributions, and I don’t think students necessarily get a wealth of knowledge. This is a way to get that.”
As Rossman explained, the application was intentionally similar to that of a university application— which organizers hope will help students prepare for their senior year. The trip will also include a visit to the church where MLK was a pastor, requiring the students to dress up appropriately — a skill which they will practice in the monthly advisory meetings leading up to the trip.
“[We’re] helping students understand how to navigate an interview process, helping them through workshops leading up to the trip, behavior, contracts, the way you dress, the way you represent an organization or school,” Rossman said. “A lot of soft-skills training in addition to the culture piece.”
It will be a busy six days of journaling, doing reflections, watching documentaries, and participating in the plethora of events that come with visiting cities like Selma, Montgomery, and Washington D.C.
One of their destinations will be the recently created National Memorial of Peace and Justice, informally known as the National Lynching Memorial. Ms. Tiffany hopes that this visit will teach the students that America has not yet fully escaped its horrific past.
“Even just last year a person was tarred and feathered in the south,” Ms. Tiffany said. “Knowing that is still a thing, and tapping into all the really dope stuff but also some really painful stuff.”
To many, the civil rights movement seems a distant part in history — only loosely connected to the world of the Pacific Northwest. This can make people feel as if they are disconnected or not a part of the movement. That attitude is part of what Ms. Tiffany and Rossman hope to change with the trip.
“Knowing and navigating history when it is geographically so far away — sometimes people can feel isolated from culture and those experiences,” Ms. Tiffany said. “In terms of people of color, it’s a nice way to say you’re here, you’re valuable, you’re part of this just as much as anyone else.”