Seven High Schoolers to Join Rep. Barbara Lee In Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama

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Congresspersons Barbara Lee and John Lewis shown with students during 2019 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

Seven high school youth leaders from Oakland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center will attend the 2020 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama March 6- March 8 with Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
The nearly annual Pilgrimage was started in 1998 by Congressman John Lewis and is a program of the Faith in Politics Institute. The pilgrimage welcomes dozens of bi-cameral, bi-partisan members of Congress, who travel together to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, visiting pivotal sites in the nation’s Civil Rights history.

The Freedom Center’s seven high school-age delegates will make speeches, present on panels, and orchestrate reflection circles with members of Congress and other attendees throughout the pilgrimage. The Freedom Center delegates’ roles are particularly timely this year as the theme of the 2020 Pilgrimage focuses on youth voices. This year represents the 10th year the Freedom Center has been invited to send youth leaders.

“Freedom Center students and staff are participating in the Pilgrimage fully prepared to listen and learn, and to speak up and connect with others who are prepared to own the common responsibility to confront racism, poverty and violence in ways that create an interracial, pluralistic democracy where love and friendship become our basic strategy for living,” said Dr. Roy D. Wilson, Freedom Center executive director.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), who as a regular participant on the Civil Rights Pilgrimages, is the only U.S. member of Congress who consistently takes young people from her district on the pilgrimage. This year’s youth delegates, led by Dr. Karen Bohlke, Freedom Center director of Government and External Relations, include:

Jaylin Brown, San Leandro High School, 9th grade, from San Leandro; Ayanna Boateng, Sacramento Charter High, 12th grade, from Sacramento; Jayda Gray, Oakland Technical High School, 10th grade, from Richmond; Ursa Kaiser, Oakland Technical High School, 10th grade, from Oakland; Ellie Lee, Alameda Science and Technology Institute, 12th grade, from Alameda; Fayth Njenga, Kentwood High School, 12th grade, from Kent, WA; and Jennifer Hernandez, Lincoln High School, 9th grade, from Tacoma, WA.

This year’s delegation includes students from congressional districts of Congressmembers Ami Bera (CA 7th district), Derek Kilmer (WA 6th District), and Adam Smith (WA 9th District). The delegates are representing Freedom Center West Coast initiatives. Bera and Kilmer join Lee and colleagues on the 2020 Pilgrimage.

According to the Faith in Politics Institute, which produces the annual pilgrimages, “Since 1998, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has led close to 300 members of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, through Alabama on this pilgrimage. In Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, the pilgrimages have explored the events that dramatically challenged racial discrimination and turned the course of American democracy. Political leaders have universally described the pilgrimage as a transformative moment.”

The Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage aims to expose members of Congress to epochs shaping national polity, where luminaries, historians and Civil Rights veterans offer an environment for calling forth courage, conscience and compassion. The theme of the pilgrimage uplifts intergenerational reflections on community, respect, personal commitment and nonviolence.

The 2020 Pilgrimage will visit Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church. In Montgomery, the Pilgrimage will visit the Legacy Museum, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In Selma, the delegation visits Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Southern Poverty Law Center Civil Rights Memorial, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and other historical sites.
For more information on the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center visit www.mlkfreedomcenter.org.

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