ACPS Participates in Alexandria Community Remembrance Project Pilgrimage
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) was well represented at the Oct. 6-10, 2022 pilgrimage to the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL. The pilgrimage honored local victims of lynching as the City of Alexandria recognizes its place in that history as part of this national memorial. The Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (ACRP) delivered soil collected that symbolically reflects the lives of two known Alexandria lynching victims, Joseph McCoy in 1897 and Benjamin Thomas in 1899.
The City of Alexandria pilgrimage included elected officials, ACPS leadership, staff and students. ACPS staff who traveled to Montgomery felt that this experience helped to open the conversation and reflect on the pain in this history, especially for the students who were part of this experience. “The thought was sobering that racial hatred was so pervasive,” said Alexandria City High School (ACHS) African American Studies teacher RaAlim Shabazz. “There were a lot of tears over the senseless reasons that people were murdered.”
During the visit, ACRP claimed a six-foot steel pillar from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that had been engraved with the names of both Alexandria victims. The memorial features over 800 steel pillars, each representing a county in which the Equal Justice Initiative has confirmed lynchings and each engraved with the names of the lynching victims. The pillars at the monument were a powerful sight that provided an infinite effect, said ACHS TV and media production teacher Ben Lyon. He added that everywhere you looked, there was a similar shape, with steel pillars documenting the names of victims, counties, states and cities where these lynchings took place.
In advance of the pilgrimage, Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School technology engineering teacher Nicole Reidinger accepted a request to involve her middle school students in building the vessels used by ACRP to gather the soil transported to the Alabama memorial.
This pilgrimage also included visits to Montgomery and Selma civil rights sites and museums. Among those in the ACPS group were Interim Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt, Alexandria City School Board Vice Chair Jacinta Greene, School Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz and ACHS teachers and student representatives.
The pilgrimage was recorded by ACHS students for future viewing of the experience. Lyon said the students filmed 25 hours of video footage and have invited teachers and students who made the journey to share their thoughts on film. “There is no way you can see something like this and not have it affect how you live your life after that,” Lyon said reflecting on the experience.
ACHS student and member of the Black Student Union, Amel Mohdali, on a quest to discover her identity, was moved by the experience as she said, “To remember our ancestors, let us become agents of change who strive for excellence and self-improvement.” Shabazz added, “Although there was a great deal of pain that came out of understanding this history, I think there is a great deal of growth that will come out of it as well.”