Oakland Youth Join Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Honor Women of the Civil Rights Movement

Jan Mooney of Faith and Politics delegation organizers, with Congressman John Lewis and Laelah Jackson, Liana Willis, Afarre Forrest and Maria Perez Velasquez at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, in homage to 41 individuals who died in the struggle for Civil Rights.


Nine years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat from the fifth row on a City of Montgomery segregated public bus, Montgomery’s Women’s Political Council had been strategizing for that day.

More than 300 women had joined the council by the time the boycott started, a fearless and far reaching network of organizers that undergird all that went into the strength of the boycott for the months ahead.

In keeping with the spirit of International Women’s Day and Women’s history month, this delegation of women joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee in Selma, Birmingham and Montgomery for the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage.  Sixteen

bi-partisan members of Congress spent three days on walking tours, in museums, at monuments, and in churches listening to women change-makers.

Maira Perez Velasquez, Karen Bohlke, Liana Willis, bottom row Laelah Jackson, Afarre Forrest at Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama

Participating in the events were delegates organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, an organization promotes the principles of nonviolence and offers an environment where young people actively seek peaceful, nonviolent solutions to the difficult challenges that communities face.  The Freedom Center serves individuals, organizations, schools and communities in the Greater Bay Area.

East Bay delegates Laelah Jackson, Liana Willis, Maira Perez Velasquez, Karen Bohlke and Afarre Forrest spoke at a Report Back last week, held at Peralta District Office.

“How we rise above injustice is a personal struggle as much as an organizational struggle,” said Perez Velasquez. “The women had church to rely on. They studied, worked, played, organized, and developed their sense of identity. Community organizations must have a role in our nation rising above”.

Willis, a junior at Berkeley High School, spoke about the role of forgiveness and nonviolence not only as a way to navigate injustice, but to cultivate the inner realm courage and strength that long-term organizing requires.

“We have to be prepared to make sacrifices, which means giving up more of our time and resources, if we really want to see long term change,” Willis said.  T

The young people are preparing to apply the lessons learned on the pilgrimage in a Civic Engagement Circle project they are carrying out this spring and summer.

For more information on the Freedom Center and its civic engagement work, please call  (510) 434-3988.


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