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Legacy Keepers 1

Students from the School District of La Crosse walk down a red carpet Aug. 14 as they begin the Legacy Keepers trip. The weeklong tour of the southeastern United States included stops at museums, black colleges and other sites key to African American history.

When she sits in history class, Brittany Williams often feels as if something is missing.

Namely, her history.

“We learn about slavery and everything, but we don’t really get in-depth visuals of everything else that happened,” said Williams, a senior at Central High School. She and 42 other black students returned Tuesday from a weeklong trip across the southeastern United States, where they toured museums, black colleges and other key sites in African American history.

“It was nice,” she said, “to get a different perspective we’re not usually shown in La Crosse.”

The Legacy Keepers trip, funded through a $50,000 donation from the La Crosse Community Foundation, brought students and chaperones to places they’d only read about in books — in some cases, places they’d never read about at all.

At the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, students saw the lunch counter where four black men staged a now famous sit-in over racial segregation.

At the King Center in Atlanta, they learned about the titan of social activism and the face of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr.

And at nearby Spelman, Clark and Morehouse colleges, they retraced the footsteps of some of the first African Americans to earn a college degree.

“I had heard of historically black colleges and universities, but I didn’t really know what it was,” Williams said. “I’m going to be graduating from high school soon. It’s cool to see that people like me were out there pursuing this.”

Khyree Malone-Day, a freshman at Central, said she was particularly moved while walking down a former slave trail and while viewing the casket of Emmett Till, a black boy who was murdered for offending a white grocery store owner in 1955.

“It was also cool to go to new states and build relationships with students I didn’t really know,” she said.

One of those friendships is with Omar Cox-Bey, an eighth-grader at Logan Middle School.

Omar jumped at the opportunity to go on the trip, though it meant sacrificing a week of summer vacation, because he wanted to see the sites and absorb the history.

“Most of my teachers aren’t colored, and some of the stuff they teach is not true,” he said. “I liked seeing all of the art and the quotes on the walls. If you listen, you can actually use this stuff instead of it going in one ear and out the other.”

The students who attended the trip have no intentions of keeping the experience, the lessons to themselves.

Williams, for example, plans to feature a different African American historical figure each month at her school.

Danya Day, community school coordinator at Northside Elementary, sees the need for better education around African American history every day.

She attended the trip as a chaperone, she said, knowing it would be a safe and welcoming environment — a chance for both students and teachers to reflect on a lost history.

“I knew I would feel accepted and that I wasn’t just a grain of pepper among a pile of salt,” she said. “It’s important for students to see themselves in a positive light. That’s needed in our history books, too.”

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Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.

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Kyle Farris reports on education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

(14) comments

Robert Kitten

La Crosse Lady,you have some great ideas that I totally agree with but how do pull racism from my statement? I am by no means a racist. I dislike all societal leaches equally regardless of color or religion. Do I think a trip which seemed to entitle a specific race is a bit much? Yes I do. What these kids are “hearing” from a trip like this is that people are apologizing for the way their ancestors were treated generations ago creating sentiments that they are owed something by society. Nobody alive today owned slaves,therefore nobody alive today owes them anything. Our job as a society is to guarantee every child a spot on the starting line,where they finish the race is up to them. I believe the longer we keep preaching to our children that racism is/was a problem,the longer it’s going to continue. Go ahead and bash away but I judge each person I meet on an individual basis. Religion,sexual orientation and race have absolutely nothing to do with my final judgement of a person so “racist” claims by several commenters here are baseless. Strengthen your argument rather than just automatically falling back on a juvenile response.

CelticMan

I hear what you are saying, Robert. Can I offer a suggestion? You might try thinking about it like this. Let’s say there is a quirky rule, in effect, all the time, in the NFL that says that each week, teams carry forward their margin of victory or loss to the next game. So, in Week 1, everyone starts the same. The Packers win by 14 and the Bears Lose by 14. In Week 2, when the Packers play the Bears, the Pack starts out ahead by 28 points. There is really no way the Bears can catch up. Given the huge lead, even if the Bears outscore the Packers by 14, they still lose by 14 and will start Week 3 down by at least that much. Well, in our country, white people have something like 25 times the wealth that black families have. Black people are 20 times more likely to be jailed for the exact same crime as white people, etc. White people have had hundreds of years of winning games and building up a massive lead. So, when a black baby is born, that little baby starts out waaay behind. This trip is a small way to move those kids closer to the starting line where most white kids already are standing.

Redwall

"...white people have 25 times the wealth..."

Hate to break the news to you, but the 1 percenters are not a monolithic block of white Catholics.

If you're going to quote statistic, you should come to understand the difference between the mean and the average. Also, numbers do not necessarily indicate cause and effect.

LaCrosse Lady

I just think it would be a good tool to also teach others and fight racism. I would have loved opportunities like this one in school. Maybe it would help build bonds instead of tearing them down. The whole right now seems full of hate and anger. You can’t turn on the tv news without seeing it. Unfortunately some people have made it OK to treat others badly and discriminate again. Seems it’s human nature to feel better but setting up a peaking order. People get attacked (severely so) by whatever about them is most obviously different - race, sex, religion, weight, ......
The only way to fight back is to once again make it NOT ok to do so. That takes standing up to racist/sexists/.... collectively AND educating kids.

LaCrosse Lady

I think this trip was a wonderful thing and such trips should continue. I think these students connected more with their roots than otherwise would have been possible.

My concern is that such trips could cause more racism and more Robbert Kittens. I think no matter your race this trip was a valuable experience. The history teacher giving out wrong information would be a great chaperone on one of these trips. I think it would be great to have yearly trips around the US allowing ethnic groups to connect with their history and rotate the ethnic group. But it should be open to more than the just students in the ethnic group. Allow some students to pay own their way if they can. Maybe offer essay contests to determine who else can go with expenses paid. Maybe offer this as an alternative to the senior trip with class credit for going. It’s a very, very valuable experience. If a parent is worried their child is becoming a racist - a trip like this could be invaluable. If it was open to all - it would shut up the racists of the world and maybe prevent some kids from becoming resists.

Let’s have community fund raisers to help provide yearly trips. How about weekend monthly bands at the high schools but with local popular bands where proceeds go to the trips? Maybe weekend summer farmers markets in the parking lots with stall fees going to the trips.

I would love to see a trip planned to the holocaust museum. Are their Women’s history museums? Native American Museums? But I would love to see it opened to all with children in that ethnic group given priority - but others NOT excluded.

Redwall

Sounds like a nice trip and the comments by the students are thoughtful. Glad they visited the King Center. Hopefully they understand their path forward is full of opportunities King would want them to seize and reject the welfare state, drugs and violence so often ruinous of lives of the young of all backgrounds.

Cassandra2

The racism displayed in these forums is sometimes appalling. I really hoped that LaCrosse was better than this. Shame.

Logged

“Most of my teachers aren’t colored, and some of the stuff they teach is not true,”. Sound like you don’t trust you teachers because there white how isn’t that a problem. I think that’s being racist as well.

irish56

You should have paid attention to your white spelling and language teachers....

becauseicare

You are a bigot, Robert. I doubt that your “hard working” ancestors would be proud of the racist that you’ve become.

Robert Kitten

I remember when I was younger and got an all expenses paid trip to Scotland. I got to tour an all white college and see the potato fields my ancestors worked in. It was great to learn about where my work ethic came from and why I have what I have today. When I returned everyone greeted me with high fives and handshakes!

irish56

Did you see the Scottish slave ships? Or the museum filled with atrocities committed against Scots? How difficult it must be for you when young Scots are pulled over for no reason other than DWS. It must break your heart when your son walks down the street and people cross to the other side. Thank God the days of separate and unequal facilities for Scots are over.
I bet you voted for trump, and miss the good old days. By which I mean the white old days. Lucky for you, your president is trying to bring them back. Your attempt at humor belies your ignorance and racism.

PackAttack93

Virtually every society has experienced enslavement. Children should be talk about African-American enslavement, but also of others. Simplifying groups of people into universal oppressor and universal victim categories will take us all down a dark path.

Scottish people have been enslaved. Here is one example: "For a period in the history of coal mining in Scotland, miners were bonded to their "maisters" by a 1606 Act "Anent Coalyers and Salters". A Colliers and Salters (Scotland) Act 1775, stated that "many colliers and salters are in a state of slavery and bondage" and announced emancipation; those starting work after 1 July 1775 would not become slaves, while those already in a state of slavery could, after 7 or 10 years depending on their age, apply for a decree of the Sheriff's Court granting their freedom. Few could afford this, until a further law in 1799 established their freedom and made this slavery and bondage illegal." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_Britain)

The word slave comes from the Slavs who were "taken as slaves by Muslims in the 9th century:" http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/9chapter1.shtml

In contemporary Africa, Black Africans engage in enslaving other Black Africans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_contemporary_Africa

There are people of all races engaged in human trafficking in the US today.

Jews were also involved enslaved in the enslavement of African-Americans in America: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jews-and-the-african-slave-trade/

My point is, ancestrally speaking, no one has clean hands. Most people aren't even aware that slavery has existed outside of African-American enslavement in the Americas because we don't teach this in schools. We won't improve as human beings until we look at the darkest parts of ourselves, and acknowledge we all could be capable of evil under certain circumstances.

HolmenPackerFan

Some would say you’re pointing out these things to defend your white privilege and affirm your racist tendencies. Nevermind the fact nobody knows your race; they would just say it.

Humans, historically speaking, have been horrible to other humans. This history lesson would go further in healing race relations than continuing to separate and focus on racial history rather than human history. Just my opinion.

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