Field Trip to the Legacy Museum and Equal Justice Initiative

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Last week, on Wednesday, November 28th, a number of faculty and 50 students took part on a field trip to Montgomery, AL to visit the Legacy Museum followed by a visit at the Equal Justice Initiative (ELJ). EJI was founded by Bryan Stevenson, author of our 2018 all-school-read Just Mercy. Students were able to take in all the exhibits, visit with members of the EJI, and do some hands-on activities dealing with some very difficult topics. 

One of the highlights was being able to visit with Kuntrell Jackson, who was featured in the book, Just Mercy. Kuntrell volunteers at the museum and was able to share first hand his story of being sentenced to life in prison without parole at the age of 14 with our students. EJI worked successfully to have him released in 2017.

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After this powerful experience, they traveled several hours south from Montgomery to Mobile to listen to Bryan Stevenson speak at the University of South Alabama.

Before the main event, our students were invited to participate in a panel discussion with students from other high schools in the Mobile area. Facilitated by Dr. Joe’l Billingsley, University of South Alabama Associate Professor, and Terrance Smith, from the City of Mobile’s Innovation Team, students watched a short video that addressed the importance of proximity, a theme echoed by Mr. Stevenson, followed by group discussion.

Stevenson says, “When we allow ourselves to be shielded and disconnected from those who are vulnerable and disfavored,” we lose our effectiveness, but “proximity is a pathway through which we learn the kind of things we need to know to make healthier communities.”

Photography of the main event was not allowed, but our students were able to snap a few shots before Mr. Stevenson began speaking.

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Once he took the stage, our students were once again confronted by the harsh truths of the past and how our present is still being shaped and impacted on a daily basis. They were also challenged as to what they will do to shape the future.

Freshman Emma Gwan-Nulla said the trip allowed her to “grasp the vastness of the injustice that exists in the criminal justice system. It was absolutely life-changing.”

Sophomore Joanna Lunsford said what she learned about lynching, slave auctions and the sense of persistent despair really changed her perspective on history and on the way things currently are. She said, “It is definitely a trip people should take.”

After a long, powerful, and emotional day, with many of our faculty and students moved to tears, they arrived back on campus at 2:00 am early Thursday morning.

As a school, we look forward to the discussions that will continue after this powerful experience. It was such an amazing opportunity for all of those involved. 

But it’s also just one of many steps that we hope to take as a school to continue these conversations. As one example, our Social Studies department has already decided to incorporate a yearly field trip to the Museum in Montgomery for certain classes as part of our Upper School civics curriculum.

In an email to parents in September, Garry Sullivan, our Upper School Head, wrote, “The all-school read for Upper School this year, Just Mercy, was the first step, this year, in introducing cultural awareness to our students. Ongoing training and various initiatives will be taking place involving all members of our community throughout the year and beyond. A vital part in being able to have constructive conversations about topics that are not always easy to address is increasing our understanding.”

He also included a link to this article that lays out four suggestions for parents to facilitate discussions with their children. You can click here to read more: Understanding Diversity: What’s a Parent to Do?

Here at Brookstone, we are committed to facilitating these conversations with our students. If we don’t start talking about these often very difficult subjects, how can we ever move forward together?

*Special thanks to Cindy Todt, Dean of Faculty and Upper School Math teacher, for spearheading this trip! It was one to remember.

 

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