A Transformative Journey: Reflections on the Civil Rights Trail

Feb 10, 2024 |

At Brighton Jones, we celebrate Black History Month (BHM) to honor, recognize, and celebrate Black Americans’ achievements and to elevate the diverse backgrounds and history of our clients and global community. Celebrating BHM is one aspect of our commitment to creating an inclusive culture. 

As a firm dedicated to social and racial justice, the experience of a transformative journey to Albama was more than a trip; it was a profound exploration of the past, a reflection on the present, and a call to action for the future.  It reaffirmed our collective commitment to advancing racial justice and equity. 

Before setting foot on the historic Civil Rights Trail, travelers were prompted to consider its place in the ongoing Civil Rights Movement. The significance of this introspection became evident as we stood in the house of Valda Harris, a pivotal figure whose family home served as a refuge for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders. The walls echoed with the stories of those who risked everything for justice, sparking a realization that their connection to the movement was not merely historical but a living thread intertwined with the present. Our visit to The Legacy Museum and Memorial for Peace and Justice added more texture to these stories with powerful exhibits and narratives. 

Josephine Bowling McCall’s poignant account of her father’s lynching in 1947 underscored the realities faced by Black entrepreneurs during Jim Crow. The visceral impact of hearing these stories firsthand left an indelible mark on the travelers, forcing us to confront the deep-seated roots of racial injustice. Equal Justice Initiative Senior Attorney Tatiana Bertsch shed light on the racialization of the U.S. carceral state, offering insights and urging a reevaluation of systemic issues. 

We were grateful for the opportunity to relearn the nation’s history alongside clients and team members. The stories of resilience and sacrifice shared by Valda and Josephine fueled a personal commitment to creating a more inclusive and just society for future generations. The experience was a reminder that positive change often requires risk and unwavering dedication. 

Travelers, including Brighton Jones Lead Advisor Melanie Arena, appreciated the distinction between learning about racism through various mediums and physically being present at historic sites. “Standing in the kitchen where Freedom Riders gathered and crossing the Selma-Montgomery bridge provided a visceral connection to the struggles and triumphs of the past,” said Melanie. “The Legacy Museum and Memorial for Peace and Justice left me speechless. It highlighted the urgent need for continued progress despite the sacrifices made by those who came before.” 

Tina Adelstein, VP of People, shared her unique perspective as a former educator, emphasizing the power of place-based education. “Experiencing the history of enslavement, dehumanization, and racism in the very spaces where they occurred strengthened my resolve to work on social justice issues,” said Tina. “The trip reinforced the importance of connecting personal experiences with the broader mission of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work at Brighton Jones.”  

Greer Smith, Senior Lead Advisor, underscored Brighton Jones’ commitment to JEDI and MESI (Mindful, Emotional, and Social Intelligence). “The trip revealed surprising aspects, such as firsthand accounts from individuals who experienced critical history during their childhood,” said Greer. “The encounter with Josephine Bolling McCall, whose father was lynched, was a poignant reminder of the countless untold stories and the responsibility to confront, rather than ignore, this painful history.” 

The honesty and vulnerability displayed by our teammates and clients during this journey fostered deep connections within the Brighton Jones community. We extend gratitude to those who joined and contributed, recognizing that this experience was not just a trip but a priceless opportunity for meaningful engagement. 

As we look ahead, we anticipate that the lessons learned from this journey will continue to shape our collective understanding of justice and equity. We are committed to bringing more people on future trips; reflecting our dedication to ongoing learning and collaboration toward a more just and inclusive society. Find out more about our upcoming transformational trip to Alabama. 

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