DALLAS – It was built as the field trip of a lifetime. An exclusive trip to Atlanta that would enhance the lives of five area students and increase their knowledge about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.
For the 10th Annual Black History Month Challenge, the Dallas Mavericks and BNSF Railway in association with American Airlines, hosted the three-day journey and provided the students with a guided tour that advanced their cultural awareness.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Jacolby Wenslow, a 16-year old junior at LD Bell High School. “Just being able to really walk in history and realize that MLK wasn’t just a big advocate for civil rights and human rights, but also for Christianity, was great to see.”
“It was really nice to see where he came from and really what he saw, and for him to be able to propel his mind to elevate it before he was assassinated.”
Two other historical events that stood out for Wenslow during this all-expenses paid trip also centered around Dr. King.
“I didn’t know that his mom was shot and killed while playing the piano in the Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Wenslow said. “That blew my mind.”
“Another thing that blew my mind was that Dr. King gave his own eulogy. They played a recording of his last sermon before he died, and that was his eulogy.”
As part of the Black History Month Challenge, the Mavs asked students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to submit an essay based on the topic ‘Advancing The Dream: Taking The Next Step To Improving My Community.’ Over 100 entrees were submitted and the five winners were chosen by the Mavs and BNSF Railway.
Each student was allowed to bring a chaperone – all of their expenses were also paid – along with them to Atlanta.
“I had an amazing time,” said Sa’Vana Davis, a 17-year old junior at Uplift Heights Preparatory in West Dallas. “It changed my perspective on some things, especially going to Dr. King’s house.”
“The most important thing that I took out of that is everybody’s opinion is important and everybody’s voice needs to be heard. But it’s also the aspect of finding where your opinion is needed and where your voice is needed the most.”
Jennifer Omwudinanti, a 17-year junior from Cedar Hill Collegiate High School, said the trip offered numerous teachable moments that will last a lifetime. And she couldn’t wait to get back home to share her stories with her friends.
“I told them about how we got to go inside Martin Luther King’s house, because not everybody gets that opportunity to see that environment,” Omwudinanti said. “And I also told them that at the Civil Rights Center our tour guide, I think he experienced some of that, because he was an older guy and I feel like he experienced some of that because he had so many stories to tell about it and he was on-point with his details.”
“He talked about how the blacks were separated from the whites and what it felt like.”
The students also went to Athens, GA, where they had driving tours to – among others – the University of Georgia, the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, Hot Corner, Morton Theater, West Hancock Historic District, Clarke Central High School, First AME Church 1886, Chestnut Grove School 1896 and Athens High and Industrial School 1913. The trip also included a driving tour of an African-American all-female college (Spelman College) and an African-American all-male college (Morehouse College).
The Atlanta Center of Civil Rights and a Native Guard performance at the Alliance Theatre was also included in this educational trip to the Deep Southern part of the United States.
“The trip was really amazing,” said Rahmo Bare, a 15-year old sophomore at Conrad High School in Northeast Dallas. “I got to learn a lot of stuff, like what happened to Martin Luther King Jr. and what he did.”
“It was very interesting and I was really glad I was able to go on this trip. I definitely recommend it for everyone.”
Nicholas Hines also highly recommends this trip, which the Mavs and their partners made possible.
“I learned a lot of stuff about African-Americans, and not just in Atlanta, because we also visited Athens,” said Hines, a 17-year old junior at Cedar Hill Collegiate High School. “They have a lot of culture and they had a lot of black entrepreneurs in the early 1900s, which you don’t see that a lot.”
“The most enjoyable part had to be just going to all of the museums and seeing all the history with Martin Luther King and his legacy and his life and what he did. We got to go to Martin Luther King’s home where he grew up, we got to see that Dr. King was very educated, his family was very educated, they were built around family and building each other up and just being there for each other.”
Invariably, the wealth of first-hand knowledge Hines received from this Black History Month moment turned out to be an emotionally-charged experience.
“I told my (basketball) teammates, my coaches and my teachers, and they really got choked up,” Hines said. “A lot of this stuff they didn’t even know and I didn’t even know. I got to share it with them, so that’s pretty cool when you can share information.”
“Our tour guide presented it so well, as if we were going back in time. I know everybody don’t have the funds for a trip like this, but if you get the opportunity like me, then most definitely you should go for it.”
Like the other four students, Hines appreciated the Mavs for the key role they played in reaching out to the African-American community and supplying him with an experience he’ll never forget.
“I want to tell them ‘thank you’ for this experience,” Hines said. “I love what they are doing because I don’t see any other teams trying to show respect and elevate African-American students.”
“There’s not a lot of people that will elevate us or appreciate us, so I want to thank the Mavs for appreciating the African-American community and the African-American students because we need that.”