History's Journey: On the Road to the Civil Rights Past, Day 8

On June 11, nine Pitt students set off on the 15th annual Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights bus tour, a nine-day, 2,300-mile journey crisscrossing five states. In addition to visiting sites associated with the fight for racial justice, students are hearing from men and women who participated in the movement.

Photo above: Nashville activist Kwame Lillard accompanied students on a walking tour.

Saturday, June 18
Day 8—Lessons to Bring Home

This day in Nashville, Tenn., encapsulated the many lasting lessons our group can bring back to Pittsburgh. These include the necessity of community involvement, the power of empathy, and, most importantly, the unequivocal duty each of us has to provide lasting change in this journey for a greater humanity. The Movement did happen, but the work is not over. People are being shot, imprisoned, impoverished, discriminated against, and subjugated all across America. As Rip Patton, a Freedom Rider and activist from Nashville, asked us, “What are you going to do for your generation?”

It’s an important question, and one we simply cannot afford to ignore. The time is now. Let’s begin.
—Caitlin McMaster, Pitt senior

Kwame Lillard gave us a short tour of Nashville. He is an activist and was a member of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, established to promote civil rights for African Americans through civil disobedience. We stopped at Walgreens, which used to have segregated lunch counters, a separate entrance for Black people, and is the last standing building from the Civil Rights Movement in Downtown Nashville. After the tour, we went to lunch and Aisha [Hughes], Darlyn [Reaves] and I had a one-on-one with Mr. Lillard. We talked about the state of Pittsburgh today and how the city has become very gentrified. Our talk inspired me even more to continue my journey for social justice … La Luta Continua [The struggle continues, victory is certain.]
—Shatae’ DeVaughn, Pitt junior

Race is a social construct. When we know that Blacks and Whites worked the nation's land in its early years together, side by side, and when we learn that men of power used laws and fear tactics to divide those Blacks and Whites, making the races somehow inherently different, all for their own economic gain, we will stop our quarreling. We will realize that every "ism" and "phobia" is a tool to keep us quarreling, so that men of power can maintain that power, keeping the people away from that power that the people deserve. Race is a social construct.
—Andrew Muse (A&S ’16)