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Civil Rights Trip: Amazing Experience with E. Vargas

Enrique Vargas ’19 — This Civil Rights Trip was a really amazing experience; a week that I will most likely never forget.

Even though we only left one week ago, I still feel like a completely changed person. Seeing these historical civil rights locations in the flesh really brought things to reality for me. One of the dangerous misconceptions that arises when you only have a history book as a reference, is that these events feel like they took place long ago. What this trip brought to reality for me is that the Civil Rights Movement did not take place one thousand or two thousand years ago. These events are in recent history; there are still people alive from that period to tell their story. We heard a lot of stories this week; and we visited a lot of different places.

The place that struck me the most was the Lorraine Motel, which we visited while we were in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on April 4th, 1968. I first read about King’s assassination, surprisingly, when I was in elementary school. I never thought in my entire life I would actually be able to visit this location. It is very prideful to see how King’s life goes on. Even though he was killed here, people have gone through greats efforts to ensure that he is not forgotten. The museum educated me on the complete history of the African American struggle. All the way from slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, and continuing to this day. It showed me that there is still work to be done for equality, but to also be respectful for the activists who lived before me, and sacrificed their lives so I could live a better one. This is one of the aspects of the trip that will live with me forever; be kind and pay your respects to those that came before you.

I would not be in the right to ignore this next thing. As we were traveling along in the trip, I took notice of the high percentage of run-down neighborhoods we passed by, and how many homeless people we encountered on the side of the street. It just made me confront the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done in the U.S. about poverty. We like to ignore it, and say that it only happens in other countries, but not the U.S. I think people with this mindset need to go on a trip like this, so they can see firsthand that they are wrong. Something needs to change; I think it starts with us immersing ourselves and seeing that a change is needed.