​The 2021 Youth Venture Civil Rights learning tour group (L-R): Anna Sawatzky (co-leader), Michelle Ramirez, Joe Sawatzky (co-leader), Jennifer Colon, Isaac Ramirez, Joshua De La Rosa and Jose De La Rosa. They are standing outside of a house they painted as part of service in the community. Photo by Sheldon Alston.

By Michelle Ramirez
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

This blog was edited by Mennonite Mission Network staff in accordance with Shared Voices. It was originally published on the Mosaic Conference website on August 18, 2021.

The Youth Venture Civil Rights Trip (July 16-24) was an eye-opening experience. I co-led this group, sponsored by Mennonite Mission Network, and we visited landmarks of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1950-60s to learn why our faith calls us to stand against injustice and oppression.

Four youth from Mosaic Conference and I had the opportunity to go on this remarkable trip. . We visited different civil rights locations, from museums to national landmarks. On some of our stops, we spoke to people who experienced civil injustice firsthand during the 1950-60s, providing us a firsthand view on how African American people were treated.

This opportunity allowed me to see and learn about things and people in a whole new way. Most impactful for me was visiting the Lynching Memorial at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. At the memorial were pillars filled with the names of lynching victims from almost every U.S. county. Reading the names was so moved me deeply as I thought about what they suffered.  It was truly eye-opening to learn about all the struggles people went through in the past simply because of the color of their skin. I realized I didn't know as much about civil rights as I thought after reading some of the stories.

We also visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the famous motel where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony in 1968. While journeying through the museum, we were able to see things King and other civil rights activists did in the 60s. It was a truly an educational experience.

The trip challenged my way of thinking and gave me a new perspective on events I previously thought I understood, including learning more about injustice that African American people went through during this time.

This trip challenged to remember that I have a voice to speak up and defend those who are oppressed, just like the Bible instructs us to do.

This trip was also impactful for the youth who joined me. The value of knowing and understanding history allows us to work to make a difference in society today. Working alongside Mission Network for this trip was great, and I hope to partner with the agency in similar ways in the future.

A big thank you to everyone who made this trip happen!

Youth Venture is the service program of Mennonite Mission Network that gives young people, ages 15-22, the opportunity to serve, learn and worship in local communities around the world, through 1- to 3-week terms each summer. For more information on future trips, click here. For more photos from the Civil Rights Learning Tour, click here.





Michelle Ramirez is the Youth and Community Formation Coordinator for Mosaic Conference. Michelle is excited to be a part of the Mosaic team as working with youth has always been a passion of hers. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida.



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