Students participate in opening of national civil rights memorial

Cheyenne Sykes ’20 and Mariah Ashby ’19 were in Montgomery, Alabama where they were invited to attend the two-day grand opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration on April 26-27.

“Because slavery is a huge part of American history and also part of my distant family's history, it's important for me to learn all that I can so that I know what happened,” Cheyenne says. “Critical thinking will be an important skill throughout this experience and Dominican has definitely helped me with that skill, mainly though my classes, but also through the Black Student Union and guest lectures.”

Cheyenne and Mariah were among 20 members and alumni of Performing Stars and the Phoenix Project based in Marin City who traveled to Montgomery as delegates.

“I’ve been involved in Performing Stars since I was about four years old and I’m also a fourth generation from Marin City,” says Mariah, who is enrolled in the Adult Degree Completion Program at Dominican and intends to become an elementary school teacher next year.

“Through the workshops I hope to gain more knowledge and motivation on ways to overcome oppression. I was excited to see if Barack Obama would be there because I feel like the museum is a powerful way to pay homage to the African American culture.”

Mariah, who recently visited San Quentin Prison as part of the "Shakespeare and Social Justice" arts-in-corrections program, and Cheyenne participated on a civil rights journey in Selma and in two days of workshops at The Peace and Justice Summit at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center. Among the scheduled speakers were Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

“I'm really inspired by DuVernay's movies and who she is as a director and person, and I aspire to be like her when I start my career,” says Cheyenne, a Communication and Media Studies major in the School of Liberal Arts and Education. “I’d seen Gore in person before and I thought he was really charismatic and humble. I really wanted to hear what he had to say and learn what he's done or will do to help people of color.”

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the nation’s first comprehensive memorial dedicated to racial terror lynchings of African Americans and the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in America. Oprah Winfrey and CBS’ 60 Minutes recently profiled the memorial.

“I feel like this trip will humble me in the best way. I want to be able to help better my community at home and communities all over the world,” Cheyenne says. “I'm going as both a student and as a journalist for The Dominican Beat, so I'm hoping to be able to write about my experience and share it with my peers here at Dominican and with my friends and family.”


April 25, 2018