Jonathan Daniels Pilgrims Reflect
My name is Kevin Browne. I’m 21 years old and currently a senior at Bridgewater State University majoring in Aviation Management. I also receive flight instruction at Horizon Aviation Flight School. I graduated from Alfred E. Smith CTE High School in the Bronx. My church is St. Andrew’s, Castle Hill. In the summer of 2014, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Jonathan Daniels Youth Civil Rights Pilgrimage sponsored by our Diocesan Antiracism Committee.
Little did I know that this trip would be an experience that would forever have an impact on my life and how I navigate through it. This short three-day trip would teach me more than I have ever learned about “MY” history in all the years of studying history books. One of the main focuses of this trip was learning about our civil rights martyrs. What did they do, and what did they stand for? But most importantly, why did they die and what change has come since then?
To answer these questions, we toured sites where this history happened, and we observed that some of the culture was still very much alive. One of my favorites was in Atlanta where we visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. home. Here, it was interesting to learn the life of a pastor who was also a civil rights activist. This was the house that he grew up in and made memories in, just like any regular kid would. In that moment I learned it really can be anybody, and that one person has the ability to impact people around them. My respect grew for King as I continued to realize how much of a humble and respectful man he was.
We later traveled to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. While driving there from Atlanta, I could see houses with both Confederate flags and American flags flying, both weird and new for me. It was strange seeing something translate from television to reality for me. Selma, Alabama was the location of one of the most impactful moments in the civil rights movement, the Selma to Montgomery marches. It took my breath away and absolutely blew my mind to see the videos and read and listen to the stories of survivors from these protests. Seeing the bridge in person made the experience even more mind blowing. Back then I never really understood exactly what racism was. I grew up in the Bronx, probably one of the most diverse communities in the United States. Leaving that bubble of mine and experiencing new places with new people gave me a chance to look at life differently. That experience affects my outlook today. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to go on this trip and thank Ms. Kay Grant and Mr. Earl Francis for encouraging my parents to give me the opportunity to participate in the Pilgrimage that year.
I was honored and so very appreciative to be chosen as one of the first to visit and participate in the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage to Hayneville, Alabama. My experience from the start of the trip in Georgia at the home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, and finally participating in the march itself in Hayneville was very humbling.
Meeting and being paired with other youths in Alabama also gave me the sense of being a part of something that not too many teens ever get the opportunity to experience.
Finally, it was an extraordinary privilege to be able to walk the path where Jonathan Daniels walked, and to learn about his life, and how he saved the life of Ruby Sales by selflessly stepping in front of a shotgun that was aimed at her.
Now as a young adult and attending college, I have become more focused on what is happening with our youth and adults in the Black community, how we have become so marginalized and the racial disparity that we as people of color face every day. Because of this I have made it a point to attend marches in support of BLM and the National Action Network with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Washington, DC.
I will always be grateful to our diocesan Antiracism Committee for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a great learning experience.