The Mulvane Art Museum launched an exhibition on May 27 of photographs, videos and reflections by 13 students who participated in Exploring Civil Rights, a travel course through Washburn.
The group of students explored the American South under the supervision of Connie Gibbons, director of the Mulvane Art Museum, and Bruce Mactavish. Throughout the trip, students documented towns and cities that played key roles in the Civil Rights Movement.
“I transformed in so many different ways,” said Julie Velez, art major. “It made me realize how hard and how dangerous it was to fight for all of these rights.”
The trip was organized over a period of four preparatory meetings during which both Gibbons and Mactavish provided students with background information for each site of the trip and its significance.
Once spring officially began, the group began their road trip, visiting Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Students witnessed locations that still struggle with inequality issues such as Selma, Alabama, where African-Americans make up 70 percent of the local population, yet only an estimated 300 of them are registered to vote.
“The purpose was to introduce them to the places, the people, food, culture and music of the American south, but it was also to get them to understand the key period of the American history,” said Mactavish. “During the Civil Rights Movement, there was a great deal of push for racial change and an effort to bring social justice to America.”
Students had the opportunity to speak with foot soldiers, musicians, poets and artists who took part in the Civil Rights movement as well.
“One of the messages that they kept getting consistently throughout the trip was that we have a responsibility to carry on this fight and stand up for what is right,” said Gibbons. “I think to each and every student, I saw the sense of ownership and responsibility for their world. They transformed into activists in many ways to carry on the mission.”
One student who took part in the trip, Maluki Rodgers, molecular biology and biotechnology major, said, “I’ve become more aware of how important it is on how you view the events like this to be able to see into the future.”
The reception will be hosted from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Mulvane Friday, June 3.