Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2014

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B M & T ••• September/October 2014 ••• 14 E arlier this summer, I was invited to take a bus tour of several southern states planned by two longtime associates, Shirley Smith and her ambitious son, Marlon Smith. They recently launched their tour company called "Travel and Learn Tours." Based in Silver Spring, Maryland, the company focuses on bringing American experiences alive with emphasis placed on the contributions of African-Americans. When Shirley invited me to go on her "2014 Civil Rights Tour Experience," I hesitated because I had previ- ously visited many of the sites listed on her itinerary on separate occasions. She assured me that this trip would be different: well organized, informative, educational, entertaining, but most of all worry free. Plus she said the trip would include a few new sites I had yet to visit. Being a history and political science enthusiast, I could not refuse. Prior to departing for my seven-day "Civil Rights Tour Experience," Travel and Learn Tours, prepped me for a well- organized adventure I would not forget. The company provided the participants with brochures, conference call opportunities, an easy payment plan, and a website listing the itinerary with short video clippings identifying the places we would visit. These clip- pings not only hyped my interest in visiting the new historical sites but also allowed me to formulate any questions I may have had ahead of time. It would also quench my appetite for more knowledge and allow me another opportunity to step back in time and reflect on the sacrifices so many 1950s and 1960s civil rights activists made so that future generations could be enriched. For the youth going, it was an opportunity to empow- er them with an appreciation of one segment of the American story that is sometimes not taught in school and provide them with a sense of who they are. Our journey started on Monday, June 23rd at a depot located in Silver Spring, Maryland. I arrived there early to allow myself enough time to greet my fellow travelers before embarking on the journey that lay ahead. I could tell this was going to be a spectacu- lar trip. All of the travelers were friendly and on time, allowing the bus driver to depart 10 minutes early. Focusing on the Civil Rights Movement, our tour would begin in North Carolina, continue through Georgia and Alabama, and conclude in Tennessee. Travel and Learn Tours arranged for us to visit over 15 museums and historical sites. Some included: The King Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Center, and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. All of these places are instrumental in preserving and displaying the significant contri- butions of daring civil rights activists, however, I will focus on two: the International BY JUDY MILLER THE CIVIL RIGHTS TOUR AN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Statute, King Center, Atlanta, GA

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