UTSA students travel to Birmingham, Memphis to as part of civil rights experience

Students retrace steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

SAN ANTONIO – Students from UTSA got a first hand experience of civil rights history recently.

"It was amazing to be standing in the same places that those different leaders were standing in, especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Alixie Charles, a junior at University of Texas-San Antonio.

Charles was one of 35 UTSA students who applied and were selected to participate in the school’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience. In its fifth year, the program consists of a bus ride, over Christmas break, to numerous civil rights historical locations. The trip lasts five days and four nights and is not just about visiting the sites. Along the way, history is taught and movies about civil rights are played on the bus. There was also fun involved for the students.

In the end, however, it is about experiencing, first-hand, how and where civil rights leaders impacted a nation.

"It changes everything,” said Charles. "When you can touch the same wall that a slave has touched, it really puts things in perspective."

"To go through and see the history of what my ancestors, my grandmother my grandfather went through, is life changing,” said UTSA senior Kiana Lalau.

The students keyed in on Memphis as the most poignant stop on the experience.

"Seeing the Memphis temple where Dr. King gave his last speech was just so inspiring," said sophomore Marcus Thomas.

"I got to stand at a podium that [Dr. King] was standing at, and I felt empowered," added Lalau.

Now, the students hope to pass along their knowledge to make sure their generation does not forget the struggle of those before them.   

"Right now, I feel like this generation; we're very, very privileged,” said Charles. We don't really get to see and understand how much was done and how much the way was paved for us."

"Our generation really has to hold on to that information and we have to make sure we keep these stories alive,” added Thomas. 

The experience will culminate with the students marching in MLK march this Monday.

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