HATTIESBURG, MISS. - History is one of America’s best teachers, and a generation often forgotten about in the equal rights movement happens to be the younger generation. That's why the “Sojourn To The Past” project concentrates on educating students about the Civil Rights Movement, so they do not repeat the same mistakes.
"Listening to them speak and their hard stories is nothing compared to what they actually went through,” a participant of the Sojourn To The Past project, Adrian Harris said. “So, I am learning to be grateful and I am also learning to forgive those who have been cruel to me and who have done me wrong, and also try my best to ask for forgiveness for those that I’ve done wrong too.”
Harris learns these lessons from civil rights activists such as the Dahmer family, Angela Lewis (the daughter of James Chaney), and investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. All of whom have passed down the valuable lessons needed to end racism and hate.
“We’ve made quite a few strides here in Mississippi since the 1960s. Mississippi is a much different place today than it was back then,” Mitchell said. “But you have to say, not just about Mississippi but about the country, we still have a long way to go.”
Sojourn To The Past Founder and Executive Director, Jeff Steinburg says it starts by teaching tomorrow’s generation.
“I say young people and adults don’t get it,” Steinburg said. “Understand what real non-violence is… real courage, real forgiveness not being silent to injustice. Well, who better to explain that than people in the Civil Rights Movement?”
For nearly 20 years, this national award-winning program from California called Sojourn To The Past goes through Hattiesburg, Miss. to enrich thousands of students about life-changing lessons and key morals from local civil rights activists, which could change the future of the United States.
“We’ve got to keep our focus on improving relationships and think a lot of that is about listening,” Mitchell said. “I think too often people don’t want to listen… like they already have their own mind made up.”
Vernon Dahmer Jr. (son of civil rights pioneer Vernon Dahmer Sr.) gives credit to integration for helping him understand his fellow man.
“It made all of us aware, both white and black that we may be a different color, but we’re the same people,” Dahmer said. “We’re human-beings, our goal is the same.”
“We want better education for our kids, we want our schools to be better, and all these kinds of things,” Mitchell explained. “The criminal justice system we want it to work for everybody, not just some people. So, those are the kind of issues we need to tackle and address and begin to come together as a country instead of tearing ourselves apart like it seems like we are doing right now.”
“Because, all of us regardless of race, color, creed, religion or whatever… we’re all in the same boat. And we have to work together if we want to maintain a successful democracy,” Dahmer said. “We have to do that because if we don’t, we all sink. So, it’s time for the good people to step forward and not let these changes destroy our nation.”
United we stand, divided we fall. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.