As a high school student Benjamin Craig's motto was, "Here's my plate, load it on." He brought that mentality with him to Emmanuel, where he has always been ready to take on a new opportunity.
At the end of March, students from Emmanuel College's Political Forum and Black Student Union (BSU) teamed up to co-sponsor a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, to learn more about the city's role in the civil rights movement.
Emmanuel's Political Forum, a club dedicated to providing a space in which students can communicate and debate political issues in a thoughtful and organized setting, usually takes a politically-oriented trip once a year. Typically, they travel to Washington D.C., but last year the organization's secretary, Faarooq Sahabdeen '18, recommended they visit Montgomery instead.
"We decided to partner with BSU because the Civil Rights theme was a natural fit," said David Korin '19, president of Political Forum. "They were enthusiastic partners."
While in Montgomery, the team of two Emmanuel organizations' first stop was the Rosa Parks Museum, run by Troy University. Next, they visited Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.'s church and a central location of the movement, where they were invited back to attend a service on Sunday. They also saw Old Alabama Town and its authentic 19th-century plantation structures, and the National Civil Rights Memorial.
"My experience in Montgomery, Alabama, was breathtaking," said Samantha Tingue '18, president of the BSU at Emmanuel. Tingue said that being able to stand in the same church in which Dr. King preached or to stand in the same spot that Rosa Parks boarded the bus and refused to sit in the back, made her feel extremely grateful. "Those are the feelings, moments and memories that every single person should get the opportunity to experience."
Tingue also noted that while walking along the same grounds as crucial movers and shakers, she could not help but feel moved by their courage to defend and fight for civil rights.
"Many gave their lives to this movement, not knowing that it would leave an everlasting impact on the world. It was, and still remains, a humbling experience for me, especially as a black woman," she said. "This only serves as a reminder to our society that it is our obligation to unite, empower each other, support each other and continue to establish a world of change, love, peace and justice."
Korin said that one of the lasting takeaways from the experience was gaining more depth on the dedication and sacrifices of the Freedom Riders.
"These men and women, both black and white, signed their last will and testament before boarding the bus because they knew that they may not survive their endeavor," Korin said.
In reflecting on the Freedom Riders' struggle, Korin was left asking himself if he would be willing to lay down his life for any of the contemporary causes that he supports.
"Liking Facebook posts has become the medium of our collective political participation," Korin added. "And it pales in comparison to what they were willing to sacrifice."