Reflections on Charlottesville after a Civil Rights Pilgrimage

August 18, 2017
UAC's Arun Prabhakaran reflects on his trip, and unexpected lessons learned, after Charlottesville: "Last week my family and I made a powerful journey, our Civil Rights Pilgrimage, from Montgomery to Selma then on to Birmingham and Memphis. We visited the hallowed ground of our nation’s proud Civil Rights history. Whether it was the once bombed home of a young King family or the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where John Lewis and many others were beaten on “Bloody Sunday,” we trod in the footsteps of legends and the winds still echoed the gospel of freedom. In every place the Movement provided vibrant testimony. It preached the power of love and faith in the work of overcoming hatred. The voices of the martyrs made their case in the grand court of history. They proved that the highest values of the great American experiment in liberty and equality, while challenged at every step, lift our nation, imperfectly and incompletely, to meet the challenges of the day. Then, Charlottesville happened. It was like we drifted back in time to see the ghosts of white supremacy that we thought were buried in the graveyard of past. The air chilled with the ugly display of the worst values that our nation espouses - bigotry and violence through mobs and torches - descended on American streets. Then the murder of Heather Heyer, a modern day martyr, reminded us that we are in a Movement that marches on. Our family’s shared experience, a pilgrimage through the past, gave us hope as we drove on Sunday night to stay in a hotel in Staunton, VA, just 45 minutes from Charlottesville. I was comforted by Dr. King’s words, when he said that history will tell the story of “a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights and thereby injected a new meaning into the veins of history and civilization." In reflection, we must to stand up today and live with that new meaning and moral courage in our veins. We must teach our children - like my wife and I had the blessing to do - the truth and how to live by our highest values like those brave people who came before us did. It is only through love, faith, and abiding conviction in liberty and equality that we shall overcome… one day." Photo:Sanjay Suchak/University of Virginia