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Bladen Community College students recently traveled to Selma, Alabama, to attend the North Carolina Chapter on Black American Affairs 15th Annual Student Leadership Conference.  Students from Catawba Valley Community College, Davidson County Community College and Isothermal Community College accompanied them.  Students participated in the conference at the campus of Wallace Community College in Selma.

BCC Student attendees were Akili Grafton, Jhabari Tatum, Kimika Melvin, Jennifer Munoz along with BCC advisors, Cara DeLoach, BCC English Instructor and John Green, BCC Recruitment and Retention Counselor.

A highlight of their trip was the experience of observing the anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights.  In 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local officers attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. To commemorate 400 years since slavery, the students lay on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to observe 40 seconds of silence.

Students attended the Foot Soldiers Breakfast in Selma where individuals who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King in “Bloody Sunday” shared their memories.

BCC student, Kimika Melvin, commented on the recent trip to Selma “ The trip to Alabama was amazing and inspirational. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before. We met a lot of brave and kind individuals.  We also traveled to many historic sites. I greatly appreciate the opportunity given to attend the trip.”

Chaperone and BCC Counselor, John Greene added “ There is something sad yet inspiring that comes from visiting places that were shaped by very dark and tragic events in history, yet at the same time had many obvious and subtle positive events that have shaped the legal landscape of America.“

The experience included a visit to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Ala., which opened last year. Located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved, the Legacy Museum displays the history of slavery and racism in America. A life-changing experience for the students, they learned about slavery, racial suppression, and mass incarceration of minorities in the United States.

Students toured the Tuskegee Airman National History Site, the training site for the first African-American pilots. At the Tuskegee History Center, Fred D. Gray, attorney for Rosa Parks and King, spoke to students and encouraged them to break down laws of segregation. He then autographed books.

In addition, the students visited the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University and the Capital Building in Montgomery. They visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

The youth leadership conference was sponsored by the North Carolina State Chapter of the Southern Region Council on Black American Affairs, a council of the American Association of Community Colleges. The Council promotes development of the full human potential  by teaching excellence through intellectual, social and cultural enrichment; encourages use of technology to enhance teaching and learning within the context of the North Carolina Community College System.

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