Friday, March 09, 2007

Birmingham and Beyond

Spending a morning with forth graders at Wright Elementary in Birmingham
I left Birmingham on Thursday morning after learning a TON and having a wonderful time with the AWESOME family I got to stay with-- Drew, Tamara, Francisco and Santiago. Thanks for the wonderful hospitality :)

I spent the day on Wednesday exploring the downtown area of Birmingham-- primarily in the Kelly Ingram Park area. That is the park where children all over downtown Birmingham came on May 2,1963 to demand the end to segregation and better treatment for African Americans.. The children were met that day with fire hoses and dogs. The water was so strong that it took the skin off of many children. And the scene was so terrible that people all over the country-- in fact all over the world-- were horrified by what they saw.

Across from the park is the 16th Street Baptist Church. That was the scene of a bombing on September 16th, 1963 where four little girls were killed. I didn't get to go in to the church, but I did see it from the outside. Pictures and links to come :)

Also across from the park is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute which teaches about the Children's March, the bombing at the church, the Freedom Riders (I'll talk about that when I get to Jackson), and many other key events in the Civil Rights Era. I learned SO much. It's been so amazing to learn about people that have been so brave.

On Thursday morning I got to talk two groups of fourth graders at Wright Elementary School in Birmingham. They asked awesome questions and even made me take a spin on the bike around their gym! Ha! Their P.E. teacher Mrs. Pierce sent me away with a bright yellow Wright Elementary t shirt. Thanks! Now I'm even more visible on the road!

I also want to mention this about Birmingham: If you happen to go, you must try out a place called Niki's West-- I learned the importance of the good old Southern meal of "meat and 3" -- that's three vegetables and a meat dish. Stacked HIGH on the plate-- this filed me up for what seemed like would be the next week and a half!

I headed out of town after talking at Wright Elementary on Thursday and there is not much to say about the route I took.... not many positive things, anyway. Who knew (not me) that route 269 is the most dangerous road in the state of Alabama? From Birmingport (12 miles out of Birmingham) to 12 miles out of Jasper, I was passed over and over by HUGE coal trucks. Coal mining is a BIG industry here. But check out this bright spot: I met another bicyclist! Jonathan braved the road with me after he got off work (he is a truck driver), and we talked all about the pleasures of touring. Good luck Jonathan! Hope to see you down the road someday.

Well that's about all for now, dear reader. I'm off to Tupelo, Mississippi, and then I'll be heading down the Natchez Trace Parkway all the way into Jackson. Cheers!


Urbana Svendsens said...

Marcia! I have tried to respond to your blog entries several times and for some reason it never takes them, guess I haven't been signed in correctly. Anyway, tonight I think I got it! Can I just say how much you ROCK??!?!?! I am just so proud to sit here and read your blog and think, "Hey, that's my FRIEND!!!" Only you could take a year off from teaching and still manage to inspire and educate those who know you--and all while riding a bicycle! I check your blog every single day and I am loving every minute of it, and living your adventure vicariously through it. Thank you so much for taking us all along for the ride!

Love to you and be safe on those roads!!!!! Emily

Marcia Ventura said...

Thanks Em!!!! It's so great to hear from you! Looking forward to catching up by telephone soon.

Much love to you and the Urbana Svensens :)