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Civil rights pilgrimage: Footsteps of civil rights leaders guide us to change

East High School staff member Calvin Harris sits at the Council of Federated Organizations office in Jackson, Miss. The council was founded by a group of leaders, including Bob Moses, an activist who still is working on civil rights issues today. (Submitted photo)

Twenty-four University of Minnesota Duluth students, faculty, staff and community members went on a life-

changing journey during spring break this month. We traveled south on a civil rights history tour. We were inspired by the struggles and sacrifices made to advance equity, diversity and

social justice in the U.S.

Each person gave a speech as a civil rights leader to students in two rural Mississippi high schools. As we passed historic sites, we shared stories with each other, and because of all of the connections the message amplified in strength. For instance, as the bus crossed the Tallahatchie River, UMD student Hamdi Barre told the story of 13-year-old Emmett Till, who was murdered for whistling at a white woman.

We met ordinary men and women who struggled for their beliefs and opened our eyes to the inequality that still grips our society. The trip changed me; it changed all of us.

Cheryl Reitan is the associate director of external affairs for the University of Minnesota Duluth.