Schock, students to tour Alabama civil rights sites
Feb 28 -
By CHRIS KAERGARD
of the Journal Star
A trio of central Illinoisans will spend this weekend walking in the footsteps of civil rights pioneers, thanks to the invitation of one of those same, remaining trailblazers.
U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock and two area high school students will join a group led by Rep. John Lewis to travel to a variety of Alabama sites that figured prominently in the civil rights movement.
When Schock, a Peoria Republican, was invited by Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, he jumped at the chance to join a host of other colleagues on the trip.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn from someone who was there,” Schock said, “to get a better appreciation of what people in the South went through … and to be able to communicate (the experience) with folks back home in the district.”
Schock asked if he could bring along area students so that they could share their experiences in school and with social service and faith groups in the area.
“It’s to a point where as we celebrate the Civil Rights (Act of 1964) passage, the desegregation battles that were successful, it’s become more historical than first-hand perspective,” the third-term lawmaker said.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of the University of Alabama, the Birmingham “children’s crusade,” the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and the letter from Birmingham Jail penned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The weekend culminates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which Schock and the teens will take part in alongside a number of luminaries including Vice President Joe Biden.
“I think that might have a great impact, to be able to do what other people did” during the civil rights movement, Richwoods High School senior Lydia Amissah said, speaking of the event she most looked forward to over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Onsi Aaron Kamel, a senior at Springfield High School, said for him the chance to see historic sites makes the trip appealing.
“The people and places involved have become almost mythic, in a sense,” he said. “To experience that in a more tangible way and not as a story or history to be read in a book is, I think, going to be pretty amazing.”
The events run from Friday through Sunday. The two students were selected for the trip by their school district superintendents.
Chris Kaergard can be reached at 686-3135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.