The Commerce Journal

June 12, 2013

Civil rights trip an eye-opening experience for students, teachers alike

By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — History has well documented the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s through film and still images.

But, according to Dr. Lavelle Hendricks, assistant professor of Psychology, Counseling and Special Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce, it’s even more powerful to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and to speak with ordinary citizens who stood up to oppression years ago in Birmingham, Ala.

Hendricks, along with Dr. Dan Jones, president of A&M-Commerce, and 22 A&M-Commerce students recently returned from a four day trip to visit the various sites of the Civil Rights movement.

“It was just an eye-opening experience,” he said.

The trip was completely funded by Frank and Rosalie Turner. Rosalie is an East Texas State University Alumnus who recently wrote the book, “March with Me” and visited A&M-Commerce to speak on the subject.

Hendricks said that Rosalie was so encouraged by the discussion she had with the students, she decided to begin funding a yearly trip for students to travel to Birmingham on a culturally enriched trip to help them better understand the Civil Rights movement.

“All of us who were there had heard of everything,” he said. “But it’s an entirely different experience to walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”

Students had the opportunity to sing in the 16th street church, which was bombed in Sept. 15, 1963, which killed four women.

The group also sang before the mayor of Birmingham.

Hendricks said the mayor was so impressed with their singing that he “invited our students to come back and sing in the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement next year.”

The most memorable event of the trip for Hendricks happened when they arrived on the front porch of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The curator handed the key to the lock and allowed Dr. Jones to unlock the door to Martin Luther King’s house,” he said. “Words cannot explain how this has helped.”

Hendricks said this trip helped bridge the gap for many of the students to understand what their parents and grand parents went through.

“I have had parents call me, crying, who haved lived throught that to have their kids get the opportunity to visit these locations,” he said.

According to Hendricks, this is a showcase of an alumni reaching back to another generation to further the student’s education.

“I can’t thank Frank and Rosalie Turner enough,” he said. “It was a very emotional trip and a lasting experience.”