WSU Civil Rights Pilgrimage to include CSU, special guest


FAIRBORN — A group of students from Central State, Wright State, and Sinclair will be participating in the Civil Rights Pilgrimage bus tour in Ohio and Kentucky.

Led by Dr. Tracy Snipe, a professor of political science at Wright State, it will be a little different than before. It will be one day, include more international students because of a special guest speaker, and be in collaboration with CSU, a historically black university.

“The trip will be shorter, and with the quality of the speakers in person that we’ll have will deliver a powerful message,” said Snipe. “It’s not a pilgrimage just about the past. It’s not just about tragedy; it’s about the triumphs of our struggles.”

The Civil Rights One-Day Pilgrimage Spring 2024 will be Friday, April 12, leaving Wright State following an 8 a.m. breakfast in the Student Union. The two buses of students and academic representatives will go to Miami University in Oxford, Covington, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Dayton, and return to campus around 7 p.m.

Snipe conducted a similar pilgrimage last spring over two days that included stops in northeast Ohio. The theme was based on his class, The Roots of the Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest and the Heartland. This year’s trip is an outgrowth of his current class, Civil Rights Pilgrimage. This year, former Wright State employee Hazel Rountree will provide specialized support.

Each stage of this year’s trip has a theme. For breakfast, it’s “Let Freedom Ring.” Snipe said a program will begin at 8 a.m. including performances by Wright State’s Collegiate Choral Ensemble with Nathan Nagir, D.M.A., singer-songwriter Shirley Murdock, and poet Sierra Leone. The renowned artist Bing Davis will arrange a visual display.

A short, animated film by Junifer Hall of Gary, Indiana, will be shown, depicting how the holiday marking the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., became law.

Around 9:30 a.m., attendees will board buses for the ride to Miami University in Oxford, the second stage, with the theme “Freedom Summer, Revisited.” Oxford is the site of the former Western College for Women, where in 1964 about 800 volunteers for the civil rights initiative called Freedom Summer were trained; three subsequently were killed for their activism, Snipe said.

Christa Agiro, Ph.D., professor of English and education at Wright State, will serve as the facilitator for a panel slated to include virtual lectures by 16th Street Baptist Church bombing survivors Sarah Collins Rudolph and Junie Collins Williams and in-person presentations by Rebekkah Mulholland, Ph.D., of California State University (Sacramento) and Mother Emanuel church member Blondelle Gadsden, whose sister, Myra Thompson, was one of the “Emanuel 9.”

The panel may also include actual past participants involved with various aspects of training for Freedom Summer.

Following lunch, the group will head for Covington for stage three with the theme “Gateway to Freedom,” referencing the Underground Railroad, the series of safe houses in which runaway slaves made their way north to freedom.

The group will stop at a site honoring author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, and at a historical marker for Margaret Garner, a runaway slave who in 1856 killed her own daughter to keep the child out of slavery. State Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Wright State in 2019, will share his report in Kentucky.

The group then rides to Cincinnati to visit the Black Music Walk of Fame.

The final stage’s theme is “Sounds of Freedom,” with stops at the Second Chance Ministries in Dayton, Paul Laurence Dunbar House, and at a sculpture designed by Michael Bashaw, “I Can Make You Dance!” Various presenters including Bashaw and Shirley Murdock will speak.

Snipe said the Omega Baptist Church Performing Arts Ministry’s liturgical ensemble may present a brief dance at Second Chance.

Snipe said the special guest will be Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of the peace activist who led India to independence in 1947, and who will address the group. Gandhi visited Wright State in late January to promote better health care for underserved communities. Gandhi’s planned virtual presentation to the group will be about how his great-grandfather’s passive activism inspired Dr. King in the civil rights movement.

Snipe said in part because of Gandhi’s January campus visit, more international students than ever are registered for the pilgrimage.

Snipe added that also new this year is a contingent of students from Central State University in Wilberforce who will join the trip in addition to a smaller delegation from Sinclair Community College.

“It’s rare for a historically black college and predominantly white institutions to collaborate on projects of this magnitude,” Snipe said. “This is important on so many levels.”

Fees are $45 for students, $75 for faculty, staff, and others. Because of limited seating, registration is due Feb. 20 by emailing [email protected].

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