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Wally on Wheels:  Wabash College Immersion Trip 2017

Atlanta and Stone Mountain, GA

Nathan Biggs, Juan Haro, Charles Mettler, Thacarion Payton

The bustle of downtown Atlanta was exciting. There are plenty of restaurants ranging from fast food to local. The smells down many of the streets is overwhelming and makes the tongue salivate. While walking downtown I stumbled upon the Centennial Olympic Park, home of the Olympic Rings. The park has a show where the water fountains inside of the rings are synchronized to music that plays 4 times a day. It was a great attraction to see.

We began our day with a visit to Georgia State University for a meeting with Dr. Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey. She spoke about the influence of political and non-political rap music on listeners’ view of topics relating to Black nationalism and feminism. We listened to and discussed music that she studies and incorporated in her book, Pulse of the People: Political Rap and Black Politics. After her talk, the two courses spilt up.

The Politics of the Civil Rights Movement course went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights museum in Atlanta. The museum had a timeline of events that started with the Brown v. Board case to present time. It gave us a glimpse of how difficult the black experience was in the 1950’s. The first room was filled with televisions broadcasting about contemporary topics, often degrading and discriminatory. Importantly, this put what we learned in context far better than what is available in the classroom.

The African American music course went to hear Dr. Richard Allen Farmer speak about black gospel musical history. Dr. Farmer is an astounding musician; he could play practically any gospel song from memory. What made our visit with him interesting was that much of what he said resonated with the ideas discussed in our course, and even expressing them through musical demonstration. Dr. Farmer is truly a representative figure and product of the black gospel tradition.

Our day ended at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Here, we were able to recount many moments in his life, his supporters, and enemies. This site also contained the Ebenezer Baptist Church; which was MLK, Jr.’s pastoral home.

Atlanta mural

This is a very large mural-like piece of building art seen in Atlanta near Georgia State’s campus. Darrien Dartis took the photo from a lecture room at GSU. What’s clear about the piece is that there is a white straw sucking the black out of what appears to be a working-class black man. Fitting enough, this was seen in a locale with much evidence of socially progressive thinking: politically charged street art and flyers recruiting for protest marches were abundant. What does the piece mean? Who (or what) is draining the black man of his blackness?

Lunch Counter Simulation

This picture signifies the sounds heard and the actions felt by sit-in protestors during the Civil Rights Movement. What is shown in the photo is a simulation of a sit-in that involves a vibrating chair and noise-cancelling headphones. The simulation lasts for 90 seconds and takes you through a brief video that replicates the sounds heard and, possibly, feelings felt by the protestors. During all of this you must remain calm with your hands on the table and not fight back. This may be one of the closest experiences one can have to a real sit-in.

16th Street wood and stone

This artifact is wood and stone recovered from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL. This bombing was carried out by a hate group, and killed four innocent girls. The reason the artifact is important is because it allows one to see the outcomes of racial terrorism. Seeing what was left from this bombing shows the common theme occurring in this era. This really gave me a better idea of how violent these times were.

MLK historic site

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site was very impactful. Walking into the Ebenezer Baptist Church was particularly powerful to me. You immediately hear the voice of MLK speaking through the surround sound speakers when you enter. It felt as though the sermon was being delivered live. This moment humanizes MLK, Jr. more than reading about him could. We were able to see where MLK lived his life outside of his Civil Rights activism. We tend to hold him on such a high podium, and experiencing this made him seem much more human.