Healthy Soul

Home Sweet Home

I’ve been home for one week and I’m still on a high from the trip. Emotionally, that is. My body has shut down, screaming for physical rest. We walked miles and miles most days, and were up pretty late most nights. On the last segment of the trip, riding from Washington, DC to Philadelphia, I started texting and emailing friends, letting them know it was all about to end.

Amtrak train - our transportation of choice to experience six cities in 11 days.

One friend, Lynda Black, asked how I was getting home from the train station. Taxi, I responded. “I’ll come pick you up,” she shot back. What a beautiful gift, I said to myself. As I told her how grateful I was for this expression of friendship, she shared how special she feels when there is someone whom she knows there to meet her at the train/bus station or at the airport when she returns home.

To me, her statement was about knowing that we each belong to a community of people who care and show that caring. And that statement was the essence of what I’d learned from this trip. The Civil Rights Movement was all about caring about each other enough to recognize, and then do something about, the injustices that were rampant. Scorched in my memory for all time will be Birmingham’s tribute to the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement, mounted in the Kelly Ingram Park. Known by name only to close friends and family, they cared enough to do whatever they could do to force the local and national changes. Many paid dearly: loss of jobs, fire-bombed homes, spouses and children harmed, and even lynching. Care and show that I care was my first lesson.

Amtrak shows its caring for employees lost in military service with a plaque at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station.

Right now I’m showing my caring for, and appreciation of, the gift of time, knowledge, and love of home received from each tour guide by inviting donations to the institutions visited and highly recommending them for a tour when you are in one of these cities.

• Chicago, IL – Barbara Morris, Black Coutours; DuSable Museum

• Memphis, TN – Elaine Turner, Heritage Tours; National Civil Rights Museum; Stax Records; Alex Haley Museum

• Jackson, MS – Medgar Evers’ home; Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center; International Museum of Muslim Cultures

• New Orleans, LA – Xavier University of Louisiana

• Birmingham, AL – Barry McNealy, 205-249-2596,; Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; 16th Street Baptist Church.

The second lesson debunked the myth about people being leery of strangers, or is it that they were simply ignoring all the warnings. We met so many interesting people on the train and as we walked around in the different cities. They gave permission to have their pictures taken, told personal stories, shared information about favorite restaurants, events and places, and were even interested enough in our journey to ask about some of the highlights.

An extremely important third lesson was the value added when the knowledge and expertise of a city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is tapped. The experiences in Memphis and Birmingham would not have been as rich if we were without the assistance and guidance of Jonathan Lyons and Vickie Ashford, respectively.

Finally, I learned that it can be fun, and oh so satisfying to just let things flow. Setting out with a map and no predetermined plans led to a day full of delightful surprises in New Orleans. That day could have been a template for the entire vacation. The 11 days were full of gifts, totally unexpected, and much more than we could have ever imagined.

So . . . when I get asked to write about my summer vacation, that blue essay book will be filled.


Click here to read the other posts from Jennifer’s Black History Tour.

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