Student Support Services Brings CSUDH Students to Birthplace of Civil Rights Movement
Last month, Student Support Services, a federally funded TRiO program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, took students from both CSUDH and CSU Los Angeles on journey to explore the Civil Rights Movement in the state of Alabama.
Covering many of the events which defined the modern Civil Rights Movement in America, the five-day expedition began in Birmingham on April 30 – the city where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed for nine days and wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which described his concerns for the laws of America and his hope for justice for black Americans. This was the second year, a group of SSS students and staff had made the journey.
“The importance of the tour,” stated SSS assistant director Martha Clavelle, “is for students to understand the sacrifices made for programs like SSS to exist.”
After Birmingham, the group visited Selma, where six CSU Dominguez Hills students spent two days reliving history by reenacting the Selma to Montgomery March, a voting rights demonstration historically known as Bloody Sunday. The 50-mile march lasted six blocks, coming to a violent end at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where 600 civil rights activists were attacked by lawman with billy clubs, guns and teargas. The excessive and fatal force finally drove the activists back to Selma.
“Going to ground zero,” said SSS counselor Samuel Romero, “helps connect students with history and arms them to face [their] challenges.”
Guiding the CSUDH-CSULA group in Selma was freedom fighter Joanne Bland. As an 11-year-old, she participated in Bloody Sunday. Now the co-founder of the Voting Rights Museum and Institute, Bland was able to provide a deeper dimension about facts the students had previously only learned in the classrooms, by giving the civil rights movement a face, a voice, and an expression of remembrance.
“[Because] of the diverse population at CSU Dominguez Hills,” explained Clavelle, “it is important for SSS to provide the Civil Rights Tour so students can understand that this movement was not exclusively a black experience, but an experience which will allow all ethnicities to build a shared future.”
During the selection process for delegates, Jacqueline Bolaños, a freshman at CSU Dominguez Hills, said that, “These movements [the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965] opened up opportunities not only for African Americans, but for all ethnicities to be able to exercise their rights and [to] be treated equally.These movements made it possible for the United States to become diverse – allowing us to accept each other despite what color or ethnicity we might be.”
The tour concluded in Montgomery, where the delegation visited the Southern Poverty Law Center and examined the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University.
A small, relatively unknown program at CSU Dominguez Hills, Student Support Services currently serves 160 students, providing unique experiences to assist with their academic and cultural development.
To learn more about the TRiO SSS program and other support services it provides, visit the office in Room 300 of the East Academic Complex (EAC) or call (310) 243.2816.
- Danielle Chambers, Class of 2009, Public Relations, USC
Intern, CSU Dominguez Hills, University Advancement