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January 19, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Blog

Civil Rights Memorial

Civil Rights Memorial

A wonderful piece of our history that displays the power of our name was designed by artist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Wall. The Civil Rights Memorial is displayed at the Southern Poverty Law Institute in Montgomery, Alabama. It honors 40 individuals who lost their lives during the Civil Rights movement from 1954 to 1968. It is a fountain where water flows over a large, round, flat, granite, stone. The water is smooth and clear. It cries for you to put your hands in it. Inscribed in the granite are the names of these individuals known to have lost their life during the Civil Rights movement. In the attached museum, there is a story about every person and what happened to them when they lost their life. This exhibit is a beautiful example of the power of a person’s name and the amazing beauty of each person’s individual story. We each have a life story, regardless of how old we are, where we come from, what our background is. We have things about our life that have happened that no one else has. These experiences are unique to us.


An exciting activity to do with our children is to help them ask other people what their stories are. This is a great activity to do anytime while visiting relatives. It gives children something to do with those awkward moments when they don’t know what to say. Give them a notebook and a pen and ask them to play roving reporter with a grandparent, or aunt, or neighbor. In learning to find out what other people’s stories are, they can also learn to give voice to their own stories. They can learn how unique they are. They can learn how their lives can have an impact in the world and in their families.

Civil Rights Memorial

Civil Rights Memorial


Two things struck me as I read the stories of the individuals in this museum. Most of the individuals were going about their daily lives — everyday comings and goings — when something happened that altered their lives. Sadly, in these cases, lives were tragically lost. However, in this museum, each individual’s life becomes a testament to the journey for justice for all men and women. While most of us will not become part of a Civil Rights museum, we have things which happen in our daily lives which change our perspective, or even our life’s course. Sometimes we meet someone who offers us a job. We help or are helped by a stranger. We see something in nature that touches us. In sharing these brief moments with our children, we encourage them to share their moments. We also encourage them to become more observant of the world around them.


I also noticed a number of the individuals were very young. As seen recently in the young girl who lost her life during the shooting in Arizona, it is often the young who are open to looking for ways to change the world. They are willing to try new things, ask questions and look with new eyes at the way things have always been done. Because they are not as cluttered with the past, children are much more open to dreaming. Play open ended games while driving in the car that help your children give voice to their dreams. Keep it light and silly. It is mostly language play. In some rare moments, it might become a serious discussion. Start a sentence with: “If I had a million dollars, I would …” Or, “If I could change one thing in the world, I would …” You complete the sentence and then ask your child to complete it. You keep repeating the whole sentence with everyone’s dream. It will get longer and longer. It’s a great verbal and memory building exercise at the same time.


Often our children only see movie stars and athletes as heroes, because they are the ones that are on TV and magazine covers all the time. In reality, the people who often change the course of history are everyday, ordinary men and women going about their normal lives, who took a chance and spoke up about an injustice. Rosa Parks did not set out to be a hero. She just wanted a seat on a bus like everyone else. Tell your children about the heroes who have made a difference in your life. We all have them — a teacher who spent extra time with us and helped us understand something; a boss who gave us an extra job opportunity; a benefactor who provided us with needed finances at just the right time. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. Sometimes our biggest hero is the friend who happens to call us in our darkest moment to just say hello. Share these stories with your children and let them know that they too can be a hero in their world. Brainstorm with them about ways that they can make a difference in the moments they spend on the playground, the classroom and the sports field.

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