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Vacation! My experience at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

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My family and I went on vacation last week, taking a road trip through the South and ending up in Georgia to see my great aunt and great uncle. Because we have the Queen of Planning on our side (my mom) it was an awesome trip and the best part is it has all been fairly inexpensive. For the first several days, we brought our own food to make things like sandwiches and even spaghetti, we also did free but awesome activities such as seeing the Mississippi river, the Cypress Preserve in Greenville, and the Sloss Furnace Historical Landmark. We’ve had the perfect blend between activities and downtime.

Although I had many favorites, there is one that stands out in my mind relevant to the message that I am trying to send through this site.

On Tuesday, the day after we made it to my aunt and uncle’s house, we went to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Malala Yousafzai Quote
Video about lack of women’s rights. “We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai

I come from a family that truly believes that all people have value and should be be treated with respect and dignity. My mother instilled a deep sense of compassion for all types of people and Martin Luther King was the focus of many of my research and English papers. I’ve been to my share of civil rights museums, but this one takes the cake.

It didn’t just cover the struggles of African Americans, but it covered the struggles of many groups, such as those with disabilities, women, immigrants, LGBT, Americans, citizens of other countries, etc. It was highly interactive and started out an exhibit that featured stories from the groups mentioned above and even more. It had several touch screens set up and as you moved close enough to a particular one, it activated your choices and let you pick a story to listen to. All stories were prompted by the words “I am…” Jewish, Gay, Christian, a woman, etc.

Human Rights Champions
Human Rights Champions

This led to my favorite part of the museum “The Spark of Conviction,” the Global Human Rights Museum. It talked about different dictators and featured people throughout the centuries, who defended human rights (Human Rights Champions), such as Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Yelena Bonner.

Human Rights Champions

There was an exhibited dedicated to the Civil Rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. This part of the museum was also interactive with videos, recordings of the different stories, but the most involved part was the lunch counter simulator. This simulation helped give you a taste of what participants might have experienced during the events such as the sit-ins.

They sat you at a diner table, had you place your hands in a designated spot and listen to a recording of people antagonizing you, whispering in your ear, saying whatever they could to try to get you to fight or back down and leave. The seat jostled like they were bumping up against you. They encouraged that you closed your eyes and though I knew it wasn’t real, I just was just too scared to do it.

What is Your Ethical Footprint?
What is Your Ethical Footprint?

My favorite part of the museum, partly because it’s something I’m passionate in learning about and one day hope to be apart of the solution in a major way but also because it’s something I have never seen in a museum before, was a portion of the human rights exhibit. It didn’t have a name I could find, but it had the sign “What is Your Ethical Footprint” posted.  It gave information about the process for every day products such as electronics, chocolate, clothing, etc., and how the how the process to get those products violates human rights. It is a fight that isn’t commonly acknowledged like the Civil Rights Movement, but it’s something that’s very real even now.

Civil and Human Rights Exhibit
Civil and Human Rights Exhibit

The electronics portion (Not shown in picture) was one of the many processes that caught my attention. Many, if not all, electronics are made in factories that use child labor and workers that have to work impossible hours at ridiculously low wages. Many of the product lines have leukemia causing substances like benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic and radioactive material, in addition to hazardous working conditions, medical services are not covered through these companies.

Not only do these company use sub par conditions to make the electronics, but they also have to mine for these materials. Commonly used materials are copper, cobalt and coltan and children between 5 and 14 are commonly used in these mines. The numerous health risks associated with mining these materials are why the UN’s International Labor Organization called mining one of the worst forms of child labor.

I found this section of the exhibit to be very fascinating because it’s not commonly talked about or even thought about. Our actions have consequences in many areas and it’s important to consider others when making these decisions.      Martin Niemoller Quote

 

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