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Rebuilding the Bridge: Reflections

 

Below are thoughts on the 50th Anniversary Project by Donna Grimes, Assistant Director. Several of the posts contain questions and responses are welcome on Facebook or Twitter.


50 Years Ago...

50 years ago…The first episode of the game show Jeopardy aired and Freedom Summer brought 1000 activists by bus to Mississippi to help African Americans exercise their rights and duties as citizens.  What’s the winning question today?  

50 years ago…The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party formed to challenge the all-white official Democratic party.  Its delegates attended the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City NJ, until they were forcibly removed.  Is the right to vote secure today?

50 years ago…Baby boomers enjoyed watching Bewitched, The Addams Family, Gilligan’s Island and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  On television they also watched police dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs beat back their fellow citizens seeking the right to vote and equal opportunity for employment, housing and education.  Which made a bigger impact on your life?

The African American Affairs’ 50th Anniversary Initiative provides a platform for probing the impact of this historic moment on African American Catholics, the Church and U.S. society today.  For a quick look back, view the Catholic News Service video, Equality for All:  Catholic Reflections on the Civil Rights Act.  

More food for thought is available in America Magazine.  See the July 7-14, 2014 issue (Reference Vol. 211 No. 1; Whole No. 5055).  Read reflections of African American Catholics on the theme, “Black and Catholic:  On Race, Faith and Freedom.”  Share your own reflections on USCCB Facebook and Twitter

Connecting to the Past:
Remembering Freedom Summer

Cultural Diversity launches the 50th Anniversary Initiative in June 2014, by remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer.  In the Diocese of Jackson MS, a conference on June 24 – 29, 2014 provides an opportunity to learn about and better understand Freedom Summer and the Freedom School movement.  We invite you to mark this historic moment.  Listen to the voices of those who participated 50 years ago and reflect on the significance of those experiences today. Recognize and if necessary, recommit to understanding citizenship – it’s rights and responsibilities

About a year and a half later, Vatican II opened windows and doors within the Catholic Church to receive the fresh breath of God through inspired words including these:

“Obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life.”

  – (#30 Gaudium et Spes, The Church in the Modern World)

Through this same spirit of brotherhood, in June of 1964, hundreds of activists of different races and denominations from the Northeast who crossed the Mason-Dixon Line by bus to help African Americans register to vote in Mississippi.  The project also established dozens of Freedom Schools that provided classes in citizenship and other related topics.  Freedom Summer, as we now know it, accelerated the movement toward racial justice in the United States.

Three years prior, in the Spring of 1961, Freedom Riders tested the waters of desegregation on bus trips from Washington DC to New Orleans LA.  In ways that are difficult to imagine today, all of the Freedom Rides and other voter registration efforts were perilous, unprecedented and caught many Americans by surprise.  Resulting beatings, bombings and deaths raised the nation’s consciousness about the realities of segregation and terror of Jim Crow policies around the country.

Fast forward to May 2011 when 40 college students joined several original Freedom Riders in retracing the 1961 Freedom Rides.  Among them was Karl Kumodzi, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development’s 2012 Cardinal Bernardin Award winner.  View Karl’s statement and meet the other riders from every region of the country.

Dr. Robert P. (Bob) Moses, an architect of the Freedom Summer project in Mississippi, recently spoke at the opening of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History exhibit, “Stand Up!:  Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964.”

There a numerous other observances and chances to learn more.




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