​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. Photo by Sheldon Alston.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

From July 16-24, the Youth Venture Civil Rights learning tour group visited service and learning locations in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. The group participated in projects, toured historical landmarks, and engaged with community members and activists who wove stories of inequality, struggle, and hope. Trip co-leader Joe Sawatzky detailed some of these stories in his blog post, "Becoming human to each other."

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 2- to 3-week terms each summer. For more information on future trips, click here.


A statue of Rosa Parks looks on in a Montgomery bus exhibit at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


After My Father's Funeral, a memory quilt by Hystercine Gray Rankin, on display at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The quilt describes Rankin's life after her father's murder at the hands of White men. Many of the reflections and discussions by the Youth Venture group centered on the human connections severed by racial violence. Photo by Anna Sawatzky.


Joshua De La Rosa, Jennifer Colon and Jose De La Rosa paint a room that will be used by Stewpot Community Services in Jackson, Mississippi. Stewpot provides food, clothing, shelter, and nurturing care to children, elderly, disabled and poor persons in the Jackson community. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


​The 2021 Youth Venture Civil Rights learning tour group in front of a building on the campus of Stewpot Community Services in Jackson, Mississippi. 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. Photo by Sheldon Alston.


Joshua De La Rosa works to remove the drop ceiling at Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi. The Youth Venture group helped remove water damaged ceiling tiles, insulation and flooring to assist the church in their ongoing renovation. Photo by Anna Sawatzky.  


Joe Sawatzky (co-leader) and Michelle Ramirez work to remove water damaged ceiling tile and insulation from the sanctuary of Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Anna Sawatzky.


Jennifer Colon works with the renovation projects at Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Anna Sawatzky.

Joshua De La Rosa takes his turn dissembling the dumpster-bound sanctuary piano as Jose De La Rosa looks on. Photo by Anna Sawatzky.


Jennifer Colon, Anna Sawatzky and Michelle Ramirez celebrate the Youth Venture group completely filling the dumpster outside Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi. One of the team's service projects was to remove water damaged ceiling tiles, insulation, and flooring to assist in the church's renovation project. Photo by Joe Sawatzky. 


The 2021 Youth Venture Civil Rights learning tour group with Civil Rights activist and tour guide JoAnne Bland in front of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. L-R: Joshua De La Rosa, Isaac Ramirez, Jose De La Rosa, Michelle Ramirez, Anna Sawatzky (co-leader), Joanne Bland, Jennifer Colon, and Joe Sawatzky (co-leader). Bland is the director of 'Journeys for the Soul,' and leads tours of Civil Rights landmarks in and around Selma. Photo by Ken Williams.


The leaders of the 2021 Youth Venture Civil Rights learning tour, Joe and Anna Sawatzky in front of the Edmund Pettus bridge. The bridge was where voting rights marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965, later referred to as "Bloody Sunday." Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


An exhibit illustrating a Jim Crow-era voting test at the Selma Interpretive Center in Selma, Alabama. The test asked Black voters to correctly guess how many jellybeans were in a jar. If the voter guessed incorrectly, they were not allowed to vote. White voters were not subjected to the test. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


Isaac Ramirez and Jose De La Rosa at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Each pillar hanging from the ceiling listed a state county where African Americans were lynched, as well as the names of known victims, over 4,000 in total. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


A reading at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


Anna Sawatzky (co-leader) stands alongside statues outside the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The statues represent the many (often uncelebrated) women who participated in bus boycots to bring about desegregated public transportation. Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


A stained glass window in the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Joe Sawatzky (co-leader) writes: "Yesterday's stop was Birmingham, Alabama. ... On September 15, 1963, KKK members planted a bomb under a stairwell at the church, killing four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, and injuring a fifth, Sarah Collins, who lost an eye. The girls were preparing for the service on youth Sunday, and the scripture lesson for the day was "love your enemies," Jesus' words in Matthew 5. In the stained glass window of the Savior knocking at the door of the sinner's heart, the blast left a hole where the face of Jesus had been, and a crack across his heart. People said that Jesus was so ashamed that he "hid his face" and "his heart was broken."" Photo by Joe Sawatzky.


Joe Sawatzky (co-leader) writes, "This is the stained glass window in the back of the [16th St. Baptist Church] sanctuary, thought to be the first depiction of a Black Christ on a church building in the US South. It was the gift of a Welsh architect, and includes Jesus' line from Matthew 25:40, "you do it to me."" Photo by Joe Sawatzky.

 

 

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