The Human Rights Institute hosted a Civil Rights Journey over spring break. The group explored historic sites in Georgia and Alabama. On their trip, students learned about the history of the civil rights movement and how to become social justice activists and advocates.
The Human Rights Institute is motivated to bringing human rights issues to light at Kean and to inspire the next generation of activists to create a more peaceful world. When it comes to this trip, Dr. Lauretta Farrell, director of the Human Rights Institute, is determined to show students the importance of Civil Rights and all who contributed to the movement.
“Each time we heard about the passing of another Civil Rights icon, I felt time slipping away,” said Farrell. “It wouldn’t be long until the world no longer had the heroes who fought these battles. If students were to have the chance to meet them, it had to happen now."
Students were accompanied on this trip by our University President Dr. Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. and his daughter. Students, of any majors and any grade, were in attendance to learn more about past and current social justice movements.
“Equity in Action,” said Farrell to describe this experience. “This trip was designed for all students – not just those with the best grades, or in certain academic or co-curricular programs, not for students who had money or special connections. It was designed for everyone.”
The announcement of this trip sparked interest in many Kean students. Some have interest in the department and wanted to join the journey that they were planning to take.
“I wanted to join because I enjoy a lot of the work that the Human Rights Institute does,” said Chevon Williams, travelearn participant. “I am a political science major so Human Rights and Civil Rights are a large portion of my studies and I felt that the in-person experience would be great.”
To be a part of this experience, students had many enrollment options. Some students chose to register for a 3-credit Global Citizenry course. Others decided to participate in a 1-credit internship. There was also an option for students to pay $500 out of pocket to cover the cost of the trip.
“I wanted to join the Civil Rights Journey because I have always had a fondness for traveling and learning new things. I thought this was a perfect culmination of both these things I like very much,” said Jacqueline Hernandez, travelearn participant.
On their journey, students had the opportunity to learn and have memorable experiences. During the trip, students will be meeting with clergy who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students will also visit the Equal Justice Initiative who is committed to challenging racial and economic injustice in American society.
“I hope to erase any misconceptions I have about Georgia and Alabama but also enjoy the experience and learning opportunities I was given to better understand not just the Civil Rights history but my own as well,” said Tahmin Choudhury, travelearn participant.
Before the trip, students in the Global Citizenry course are making preparations for the trip. Alongside packing for the four-day trip, students are taking the initiative to learn more about the places they will see on their travels. For those on the trip, they also have the option to participate in a research project that can be presented at Research Days.
“I have been looking up different sites that will be important for my research day project,” said Williams. “My research is focusing on the importance of safe spaces during the civil rights movement. Most of these places are churches, so I have been looking up the restoration process of the churches and who is currently running them.”
The goal of this trip was to educate students about civil rights and social prejudices that happen in the world. By traveling to these places, students are sure to trace the steps of civil rights leaders such as John Lewis and Rosa Parks. With this trip, students learned the importance and impact of the Civil Rights movement in the US and other countries.
“The fight for Civil Rights wasn’t waged by just Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John Lewis, Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer. They were joined by thousands of ‘regular people,’ who supported the movement in so many different ways,” said Farrell. “While we can’t all win a Nobel Prize, or serve in the United States Congress, we can, and must, all stand up and speak out against injustice in our communities and around the world.”