Students embark on Social Justice Trip to Washington

By Sade Smith, News Editor

In a trip sponsored by various offices and student organizations on campus, 40 UMass Dartmouth students and four faculty members traveled to Washington, D.C. on Friday October 7 for a social justice trip, featuring museums and historic sites.

Students interested in attending the trip required $50, a Faculty signed recommendation form, and a risk and release form. Black History Four Seasons Council (BH4SC), Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership (SAIL), Frederick Douglass Unity House (FDUH), Moor Engaged Noble (M.E.N.), and Sigma Phi Rho Fraternity, Inc.

This trip was one of three, including a trip to New York in March of this year, and participation in the Million Man March of Fall 2015.

Before any of these educational stops, the group made rest stops on the charter bus, where LaSella Hall, the Associate Director of the Frederick Douglass Unity House showed movies such as the Civil War focused Glory, preparing students for discussion and active change. “I want you all to take these discussions seriously and really get into a deep level of thinking,” Hall said.

On Saturday October 8, the UMass Dartmouth group arrived at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

After watching a short film walking visitors through Douglass’ life, they were able to take a tour through the $1.3 million (today’s dollar value) home where the self educated espace slave and slavery abolitionist spent the last 17 years of his life.

Sophomore Crime and Justice and Psychology double major Dessi Swank reflected, “ He is a role model and a rebel,…I understood the idea of Black excellence and success way more from those movies and the Frederick Douglass Unity House.”

After a slew of pictures on the property, students and faculty were en route to the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Upon entering, students had three hours to explore the vast museum, documenting the history of America from slavery up to the present day.

The special “History Galleries” exhibition is three levels of chronologically ordered photos, videos, art pieces and even shackles of slaves on the Middle Passage to America from the 1400’s.

The levels titled, “Slavery and Freedom (1400-1877)”, “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation (1876-1698)”, and “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond” showed the collective struggle and success of Black Americans.

Interactive and multimedia displays allowed museum guests to fully observe and learn what shaped the social, political and economic state of the country. These displays included a representation of the brown paper bag test, which excluded dark skinned Black Americans from social and professional situations.

Since the opening September 24, 2016, the museum has seen thousands of people every day especially large groups, such as the Canaan Baptist Church from Patterson, NJ.

Juliet Gordon is a 63 year old grandmother and advocate for Black pride, who welled up with mixed emotions on going through each exhibit. “It’s very emotional…..But I am just very proud. So proud.” She explained how she learned about the museums opening on 60 minutes, creating her anticipation to go there, and helped her church organize a trip to D.C.

Upon researching the Smithsonian Institute Museum, Gordon discovered the curator, Jacquelyn Serwer was trying to find antiques mostly in West Africa and various American locations.

Students and faculty chaperones agreed that the museum opened their eyes to a lot of what the American school system did not teach. Dessi Swank said, “I want students on campus to know that we wouldn’t be here today without higher education and reading books. We have to keep this thirst for knowledge and not be timid to learn.”

After a discussion the next morning, the UMass Dartmouth group made a stop at the African American Civil War Museum where a reenactor in a full Civil War uniform taught them the conditions and requirements of fighting in the war.

They were also able to discuss the difference between attending a Historically Black College and Universities while on a tour of Howard University.

The entire trip consisted of group discussions surrounding race, education and politics in America.

On snack packs for the group of students, read “There is no progress without struggle.” Frederick Douglass said.


Leave a Reply