Twenty-eight students and seven employees took time out of their spring break to travel to Chicago for Rochester University’s first intercultural life trip sponsored by the RU Diversity Committee.
The trip included a visit to the DuSable Museum of Black History, the oldest museum in America to display and tell the history of African-Americans. In a partnership with the Smithsonian, the museum includes exhibits on the March on Washington, the Chicago 1919 Race Riots and the overall history and story of African-Americans in the United States.
“I believe that it’s important to learn about Black history through the perspective of Black Americans because it helps drive us to passionately advocate for increased awareness and the deconstruction of systemic practices of racism that are still alive today in our country,” said Alyxander LaBranche, a junior mass communication major.
The group also worshiped with the Trinity United Church of Christ, a predominately African-American church on the south side of Chicago. Trinity began during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and is dedicated to fighting current social justice issues. The worship service included music from a full gospel choir and band and a sermon from Reverend Dr.Otis Moss III, author, filmmaker, activist and pastor of Trinity United. Moss’s father worked for the Southern Leadership Conference alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and even walked in the Selma, Alabama, march in 1965.
“Learning Black history and worshiping in a different cultural context for many at one of Chicago’s historic Black churches is the kind of initiative aligned with the institution’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice and becoming a beloved community,” said Evan Green, associate dean of students and director of intercultural and spiritual life.
Following the church service, Moss gave the group a private showing of his short film, “Otis’ Dream,” which is about his grandfather who was denied the right to vote in the Jim Crow south in the 1940s. The film has been used to encourage voter mobilization in the state of Georgia, where a voter suppression law was enacted, particularly having an effect on constituents of color. After the showing, the group was able to ask Moss questions about the film.
For Khalil Dent, a freshman mass communication major, the short film had a motivational impact on him. “The film and the Q&A inspired me to pursue my goal of becoming a filmmaker even harder. Every one of us has a story to tell and it’s up to us to tell that story,” he said.