In November 2015, several HNU students travelled to the Southeast to participate in a peaceful protest against the School of Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, and to visit civil rights landmarks in Alabama and elsewhere.
This is the 12th year that a delegation from HNU has participated in the peaceful protest against the SOA. At the end of January, some of the students who went on the trip delivered a presentation about what they learned and how the experience affected them.
Many of the students spoke about what they learned while peacefully protesting the operations of the SOA in the company of so many others. The SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is an institution operated by the U.S. Department of Defense for the purpose of training military personnel from Latin American countries. Several Latin American dictators who carried out severe human rights abuses were trained at the SOA.
Erick Alvarado, a sophomore psychology major, talked about the profound effect the trip had on him. “Thinking about the memories, even though it was only not too long ago, I still feel like all of us grew a lot just from this experience. I was exposed to social justice things before, but having this again it was more eye-opening to me.”
Miguel Cardenas, a sophomore communications major, discussed how the experience changed his thinking. “It was a great experience for me because I learned more about myself because there were immigrants and I feel like I could relate to them because my parents were also immigrants. Just knowing how to express yourself and letting them know this isn’t right made me feel like I was more in touch with my culture.”
Cardenas’ comments were echoed by Donquonta Atkins, a sophomore communications major. Atkins spoke about how powerful it was for the group to be involved in active social justice efforts. “I think the power is asking yourself or knowing that your brothers and sisters are there behind you backing you up, wanting to create this change, wanting and having the hope to see a better future.”
The trip also focused on visiting sites that were significant for the civil rights movement or related to the history of the movement. Students spoke about their visit to the Kelly Ingram Civil Rights Sculpture Park in Birmingham, Alabama and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.
Amy-Rose Damas, a sophomore English major, said that exploring the history of the civil rights movement was enlightening. “I was totally blindsided, I wasn’t aware of all the stuff that happened in the past. It’s really important to know these types of things that happened in history because, we can’t move forward as a nation, as a community, as people united, if we don’t understand what has happened before.”
Speaking about seeing the Rosa Parks Library and other civil rights movement landmarks, sophomore liberal studies major Rhica Savella spoke about how important it is to keep in mind how much progress has been made and how much work there is still to do. “Discrimination and racism happens to this day, but with spreading awareness we can help people see the bigger picture of coming together and unification.”