Queens College Students Reflect on “In the Footsteps of Dr. King”

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On February 26, in celebration of Black History Month, Queens College presented “Reflections – In the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” a platform for students who took part in this year’s “In the Footsteps of Dr. King” trip to discuss their experiences. The annual five-day trip to Georgia and Alabama, which takes place in January, introduces students to various historical sights and civil rights leaders from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Now in its fourteenth year, the program has had over 50 undergraduate students take part in the trip.

As has been done in previous years, the students who participated in the 2018 trip shared what they experienced and learned over the course of their five days with the greater Queens College community. They used videos, poems, dances, photographs and speeches to present their experiences; regardless of the mode of reflection, however, the emotional investment in the trip was equally palpable across each piece.

Karina Peraffan joined the program for the second time this year. She thought that understanding more about the civil rights movement would help make her a more informed citizen, and now she recommends the trip to everyone. Karina emphasized the thrill of getting to see up-close what she had only before read about in history books.

“This is as near as you can get to understanding what it must have been like for an African American to grow up in the South. You literally get to walk in the footsteps of Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, such as John Lewis and Rosa Parks. After visiting all these historic sites, you feel that it’s your responsibility to speak up when injustice prevails,” she said.

The 2018 trip’s members discussed some of the historic spaces they visited, such as Martin Luther King’s birthday home and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. For Karina, the most memorable moment of the program was visiting the Equal Justice Initiative, EJI, in Alabama.

“It made me realize that the movement’s struggle isn’t over yet and that Americans are persisting to reproduce racial injustices. Especially in states like Alabama, where 85% of people on death row are African Americans and all the judges are white. This was the part of the trip where I decided to commit to service. Now I serve at The Federal Reserve Bank,” she said.

Queens College’s president, Felix Matos Rodríguez, highlighted how it important it is for students to become more aware of the Civil Rights Movement, and stated that the program has served as an inspiration for people on both sides of the trip.

“The same way that the trip impacts our students, it impacts people there. They wait for us every year. I hope this continues as a platform for us to think deeply about freedom and justice.”

Those interested in joining the 2019 cohort can apply now at www.tinyurl.com/qcfootsteps. Applicants must be enrolled at least part-time, be in good academic standing, and a GPA equal to or greater than a 2.5. Those who participate must pay a $200 non-refundable deposit, be responsible for the transportation to and from New York, and the cost of their own lunch and dinner. For more information on how to apply, email footsteps@qc.cuny.


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