Well here’s the short story: 16 students, two days of protesting, 32 hours of travel.
Now, let me back up and give you the play by play…
After our send-off prayer at Ursuline, the Sr. Dorothy Kazel Club hopped in the car for a short trek to Magnificat High School. Here we boarded the bus for Georgia. One car got a bit lost on the way but, no worries, it only delayed us a half hour.
The bus ride down was filled with movies about social activism and the School of Americas (SOA) to keep us up-to-date.
We finally arrived in Atlanta, Georgia around 9am to grab breakfast and freshen up pre-protest. Surprisingly, we we’re earlier than most to reach Fort Benning Road, where the School of America’s protest would take place. Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School of America’s Watch (the organization monitoring the School of America’s bad behavior) actually took time aside to meet with us. It was so inspiring to hear how Roy dressed in a military uniform, climbed a tree on the School of America’s base and played Oscar Romero’s last homily (urging “Salvadoran soldiers to disobey their military commanders, lay down their arms, and stop killing their sisters and brothers”). Roy Bourgeois performed this civil disobedience 30 years ago, igniting the start of this protest!
Throughout Saturday, there were speakers (victims of the SOA, leaders in social movements in Central America and grassroots organizers from the States) and musicians with powerful messages at the heart of their lyrics. Along the side of the street, organizations set up tables with information on a wide variety of social issues and fair-trade items available to purchase. There was also a Puppetista show that some Kazel Club members took part in as well. It’s was a wonderfully artistic way to make a statement through non-violent performance!
Around 4pm we made our way back to the bus, drove to the hotel and then walked to dinner. We actually hit up a restaurant I found on last year’s trip – there’s was a stuffed polar bear wearing a sombrero in the window, so it was hard to forget. The convention center was a short walk away and was already packed with protest-goers eager to sit in workshops on everything from killer drones to international solidarity to free trade and corporate colonialism to grassroots fundraising strategies! Around 8pm, we gathered to hear spoken-word and dance to jams from some incredibly diverse musicians. It was a personal highlight of my night to see everyone jam out to some high-powered ska music!
When Leah Song from Appalachia Rising performed the song Caminando, the entire crowd fell to hush tones. Madgie Dunn, Kazel Club member and Ursuline Education student, was personally touched by this performance. Madgie says, “Before singing Caminando, Leah explains that social justice is not something that we will wake up and just have… it’s something we will be continuously walking towards for the rest of our lives…There will always be problems in the world, so we must make this our journey… siempre vamos a estar caminando”.
We woke up the next morning at the crack of dawn to eat breakfast and make our way to the protest for the second day. On Sunday, it is definitely a more solemn event – with all protest attendees in procession while each name of those murdered are read aloud. We converge at the fence, barring us from Fort Benning, to place our crosses and signs on it as we chant / pray / sing to ‘CLOSE THE SOA’. This is an incredibly emotional and spiritual part of the protest.
After helping tear down the stage and acting like the roadies for the School of America’s Watch, we boarded the bus back to return home. It was really nice to hear how first-time protest attendees and people that have attended for 17 + years felt about the weekend.
Please join us Monday, December 2nd for a Lunch Discussion on the Protest and Martyrs. It will be 12- 1 in Mullen 214. Also, at 4:30 there will be a short prayer service remember the women in the Mullen St. Angela Chapel!