Selma visit takes youth group back in time

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

A group of St. Louis teens is touring the country in an effort to learn about racism, discrimination and diversity. After 13 days in different cities, Selma exceeded their expectations.

Class IV of Cultural Leadership is a group of 28 high school sophomores and juniors of Jewish and/or African descent from St Louis. On Sunday, the youths had lunch with Mayor James Perkins Jr. after they completed a walking tour of Selma and walked over world-famous Edmund Pettus Bridge.

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The last stop in the Queen City was at the Slavery & Civil War Museum, 1410 Water Ave. There, they participated in a live history lesson. They were taken back in time and were able to experience a trip from Africa to America in a slave ship.

On Sunday, the group was 14 days into their 24-day tour.

David Kalishman, 16, expected the stop to be just another museum. He&8217;d heard and read about Selma and Bloody Sunday when Alabama State Troopers beat African Americans when they attempted to march peacefully across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery on March 7, 1965.

But the ability to hear, feel and become part of a history lesson was a different experience for him. Setting foot in the slave ship was the toughest part.

The museum&8217;s tour guide, Afriye We-Kandodis, has given tours to more than 500 groups. Although her job is to teach, she learns.

Kala Coleman, 17, and Jennifer Golden, 16, both said the tour was an emotional experience.

The purpose of the yearlong leadership program is to promote mutual respect, understanding and dialogue between races and to dispel stereotypes.

Joanne Bland, who heads Journeys for the Soul, the tour division for M & M Tours, said leading tours in Selma is special because some of the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement pictured in the local museums still live here.

Bland shed tears as she hugged the members of the group when they said their goodbyes. Before she got off of their tour bus, they played &8220;Unforgettable&8221; by Nat King Cole.

After a tour of Montgomery today, the group will head to New Orleans to help build a house for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The group will return to St. Louis on July 2.

Cities on tour:



Jackson, Miss.

Jena, La.

Little Rock, Ark.



New Orleans

New York

Utica, Miss.