Office of Diversity, Mann Center partner for diversity excursions

Asia Simone Burns, Editor-In-Chief

Thirty Samford students headed to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Tuesday to tangibly explore the city’s history of division and progress.

The trip was one of two Alabama Civil Rights Excursions hosted by the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives in Partnership with the Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.

The first of the excursions was March 28, when 21 students visited the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. According to its website, “The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”

“It was founded by Bryan Stevenson,” Denise Gregory said, referring to the public interest lawyer and author from Montgomery. “He collected soil samples from different lynching sites in
the state of Alabama.” Gregory is the director of diversity and intercultural initiatives.

“(Stevenson) said it’s important to visually remember the things that happened in Alabama, including the things that happened that we are not proud of,” Gregory said.

The more recent of the excursions took place within the city, consisting of a guided tour of the Civil Rights Institute.

The Mann Center and Office of Diversity have a history of partnering together to take students on trips like these; in February, the two organizations joined forces to take a group of students to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“When we partner with organizations like the Mann Center and other entities on campus, it allows us to reach a broader audience, as well as do things more frequently because we can combine efforts and resources to offer these opportunity to our students,” Gregory said.

Both of the excursions were free of charge to students, encouraging participation by offering convocation credit.

“The students are definitely excited about the opportunities that are offered,” Gregory said, “and sometimes, it might not be something new they’ve learned, but they’re able to put in something they previously learned in the books and have tangible evidence of it.”

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