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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Join us on our Journey

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It has been 20 years since Nancy Murray, Pam Ellis and Bill Batson got the crazy idea to take 9 youth in two vans to the South to meet veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. It was before Mapquest allowed us to get around by GPS. It was before smart phones allowed young people to call home everyday. And there were a lot more Civil Rights veterans alive then.

While I was not there for the very first trip in 1993, I was able to go in 1994 and have a life changing experience. I met with people like Cesar Moore (RIP) who has lived nearly 100 years and had seen so many major changes in the country. I met people like Hollis Watkins who used his singing to motivate people to action. I visited the grave of sheroes like Fannie Lou Hamer who was unafraid in the face of vociferous racism.

This trip changed my life and I am really excited to be able to make sure that another generation of young people are able to experience the ongoing power of this crucial moment in American history.Over the next couple of weeks you will be able to read the reflections of the youth who are on this year's trip. We have raised the money for them to be able to experience this, and writing blog posts is part of the way they pay it forward. I hope that you will take the time to read their reflections. Feel free to submit questions or comments to them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

Today we went to visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. On that bridge in 1965, there were three attempts to march across to advocate for voting rights. On March 7th, 1965 600 people attempted to march across the bridge and were attacked and tear gased by state and local police. They were forced to turn back. Determined to stand up for their rights, on Tuesday, March 9th about 2,500 people came to march across and they were again met by police. Finally they were able to get the court to uphold their right to protest and on March 16th, 1965 close to 8,000 people started the 3 day march from Selma to Montgomery. By the time they reached the state capitol there were more than 25,000 people marching. We visited the bridge and here is an impression of our time there......


Hi, my name is Ashley Saint Hilaire. I'm 20 years old and I am in my 3rd year of college at Salem State University/RCC. I am originally from Manchester Ct but I've been living in Boston for 4 years. I got involved in project hip hop through my sister who told me to audition for a summer spot for the organization. I have been in project hip hop for about 2-3 months now and it's more than a great job; it's family, fun, and growth.

One experience on the trip that I saw that stood out to me was the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. The bridge looked exactly like it did in the pictures that I saw in papers and pictures. The bridge was shorter than I expected but no matter what it was an amazing thing to see.

I felt like I was in a place of greatness and change. To be walking on that bridge where people of honor and greatness walked for my freedoms and current privileges I felt blessed and honored. I also wished that my mom could have experienced the bridge with me. She raised me and taught me everything I know about the civil rights movement and the importance of knowing about the history of African-Americans in the United states. She also showed me the reality of our freedom here in the US which was why I felt even more impacted inside because my mother taught me about the walk from Selma to Montgomery and to be there in the place made me proud of my history.

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The Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, AL

My name is Dilanna Morrison, I'm 17 years old and I recently joined Project HIP-HOP this summer. The Civil Rights Tour of the south we are currently on has greatly impacted me, from the places we have visited to the people we have met with. The purpose of this trip is to learn about our culture and the struggles so many courageous African Americans had to endure just for us to have equal rights. One of these activists was Rosa Parks.

We recently visited the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Most famous for her refusal to give up her seat to a white male on the bus during the time of segregation, Rosa Parks was an African American civil rights activist, whom the U.S Congress called "the first lady of civil rights", and "the mother of the freedom movement."

The museum is a major landmark in downtown Montgomery that was constructed on the site of the old Empire Theater where Mrs. Parks made her courageous and historic stand in 1955. The purpose of the Rosa Parks Museum is for the benefit, education, enjoyment of the pubic and to help them understand and relate to the accomplishments of individuals associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During our tour of the museum we saw different exhibit spaces and archives related to Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement. It was truly amazing to see how much our people have gone through to be where we are today. In my opinion, Rosa Parks is one of the most influential people during the Civil Rights Movement, she helped shape and form a revolution of people to stand up for what they knew was right and because of that she is a constant reminder of why giving up is never an option.

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The Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL


My name is Jalen Juwaun Toombs-Williams and I and one of the youth at Project HIP-HOP where Farai Williams is our artistic director. This is my second year participating in the summer program but my first year on the Civil Rights Trip. I go to Zion Bible College and I am studying Music and Worship. This summer we have been studying economic justice.

I am writing about the experience at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. There are two parts to the memorial - a circle with the names of all the people who died in the movement and the major accomplishments of the movement. Then there is a big wall with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. saying “Until Justice Rolls Down like Water and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream”. There is water flowing down over the circle and over the wall and people come to the memorial and lay there hands in the water, sometimes they even pray. We went there to celebrate the life of the people who fought for equality and freedom.

The Civil Rights Memorial is a monument for 40 people who died between 1954 and 1968. It was effective because it taught me about the people who I may not have known fought for our freedom and equality as a people. It showed me how important it is to be learning about my heritage and history. The quote meant to me that they will not stop fighting “until Justice rolls Down like Water and Righteousness like a Mighty Stream”. We, even though we are young should be fighting and learning about this and I am grateful to have been a part of the trip today to know what people of the past have done to affect my present.

Thank for your time reading this and I pray that you have a blessed life..

Jalen Williams

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Meeting w/ Cleveland Sellers

Hey what's up it’s Blair again. And today the crew and I went into South Carolina to see Mr. Cleveland Sellers; former member of SNCC, and current president of Voorhees College, which is a HBCU (historically black college/university).

First, we had to hop out of the cars to perform for freshmen who were waiting for us for over an hour. I felt bad for making them wait. However we got there and did what we were supposed to do and they enjoyed it and hopefully received a message. Despite the fact that I fell after I jumped off the stage and everyone laughed. But I said my piece and it kind of redeemed me, but I needed some Vaseline for my rug burn.

After the show, we went to go to talk to him and ask him questions about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a very good person to talk to about being strong and having your wits about you while you desire to make a change. This man was friends with Dr. King and they shared great times together. We asked many questions and he answered them with good humor and great intellectual confidence.

Something that stuck out to me was a personal moment when we were saying goodbye and he shook my hand and said: “I expect great things from you. Don’t stay quiet, speak up and say what you need to say”. That really affected me because many people expect greatness of me and for someone as important to my history as him to see something in me worth nurturing with his words and example of his life was really powerful. But he nurtured all of us by his example of standing up for what he believes and not letting the baton fall by the wayside without being passed to the next generation. I really appreciate it. All in all I believe that he was a man of not many words but a man of action and leadership by example. Catch all of you laters. Bye alligators! J

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday with Lewis Brandon

This is PHH member Jesse-James checking in with y'all! Today, we met with and talked to Lewis Brandon, a leader in the Greensboro sit-in movement. We discussed racial reconciliation and economic justice. He is also a member of the BCC, which stands for Beloved Community Center. The community center is strongly rooted in the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. in an effort to fulfill MLK's vision of a "beloved community". The community center is located in West Greensboro.

We mainly discussed key civil rights events in Greensboro, specifically the sit-ins at F.W. Woolworth, and the involvement A&T College and Dudley High School had in this key moment in civil rights history. On February 1st, 1960; four black teenagers sat down at an all-white lunch counter at F.W. Woolworth's to protest segregation. This event sparked the beginning of a movement of non-violent protests around the country against racism in America.

The discussion was very powerful to me, I was definitely feeling some type of way when we discussed the Greensboro Massacre. In 1979, five protesters were killed by nine members of the KKK and American Nazi Party at a parade in an effort to organize black people in Greensboro to fight segregation. What angered me the most was how easily the entire situation could've been prevented and yet it still happened anyways. There were no police at the scene, and they only responded after the shooters left. All nine shooters were acquitted of their charges, and on top of that supposedly the Greensboro police knew about the shootings and did nothing to stop them. I've truly lost faith in a system that's designed to protect us but only seeks opportunities to oppress the victims of social injustice.

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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

My name is Ras Kassa Ramsey and this is my third year with Project HIP-HOP.  I have learned many things working with PHH; from my past history to why we are still suffering as the “black race” today.  This summer is my first opportunity to travel with PHH on a down south civil rights tour.  Traveling through many different states and talking to different people that were involved in the civil right movement has been a very positive experience for me.

This morning I was really stuck by our visit our Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  Learning about John Brown was very interesting to me.  He was a white man that led 21 Black and white people trying to free enslaved people.  Even though he was white and could have lived his life in peace, he risked everything to save blacks.  I got to visit the very place he tried to invade.  Everything looked very old school, and there were people that was reenacting the very moment.  The museum was also helpful to understand what happened in those thirty-six hours before John Brown was caught and killed.

This really impacted me because this place still exists today, and I walked through the same trails that he did. I stood in the place where they were cornered and captured.  This shows me that anyone, black or white, can be capable of being good or bad.  People know what is good and what is bad.  John Brown knew having slaves was not right, so he lost his life trying to save my people.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Hey everyone I’m Blair. I’m a new member of Project HIP-HOP this year. I am a musician and I sing here. I love music. My favorite artists are Coldplay, Paramore, Beyonce, Adele, and Diggy Simmons. They are cool cats no matter what genre they are. I like to laugh. Laughing is groovy and it will make everything good as gravy. Autobiographies are really weird so I’ll just make statements about myself that I will not explain. I like old movies. I love Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t have a favorite book there are too many so I always resort to saying the Bible to not have to choose. I want to perform music and such which for the rest of my life. I love leaving people with something so here’s a quote: “Do what you love, and the money will follow”- Rev Run For this trip I am excited about all of it. I want to see the rest of this country I live in. See the people we often see on the front line and the people that we forget about. I am excited to learn more of my history and sleep in different places. Also I want to become stronger with the group that I am working with this year. We are still getting to know each other and sure it’s a little strange going out of the state with others you don’t really know that well but it’s a chance to live. Because as they say: you’re not alive if you’re not livin’. And while you’re livin’ it gets better when you meet people and develop connections on the way to wherever you’re going in life. That is what I am excited about for the tour. Meeting people I don’t know about and getting to know the people I work with more. Plus, I want to see how my first tour goes; especially if I’m going to get used to touring. Start now. Yeah buddy! ;)

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Less than 48 hours before we leave.......

In less than 48 hours we are going to be leaving for our Civil Rights Tour, so I asked young people to reflect on what they have learned so far and what they think they are going to get from the tour. Here is a reflection from one of our newer members..... My name is Lavar King. I am a member of Project HIP-HOP who is a rapper and Congo player. One of the good trainings we did this summer was Undoing Racism, taught by The People's Institute For Survival and Beyond. That training changed my views on my community and why it is being oppressed. We also attended the Playing for Change training, with Edgard from Brazil, which showed different ways of bringing different people together by dancing and playing cooperative games. I am expecting life changing experiences on the upcoming Civil Rights Tour that I am attending with Project HIP-HOP. I feel as if this tour is going to open my eyes and give me new thoughts on how I view the world I live in today. This Civil Rights tour is going to hit so many states where events have taken place and have been kept in museums and in the hearts of people that are gladly able to retell what they went through.

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