Memphis Civil Rights Museum
Exhibit- A Culture of Resistance: Slavery in America

 

My family and I were excited to take a mini-vacation to Memphis over Spring Break. I had a conference to attend the latter part of the week, so we rushed all the family activities we could into the first three days of the break. We had a blast. A highlight of our trip was our visit to the Memphis Civil Rights Museum. Now to know why this was a big deal to me, you must know the part that civil rights history has played in my life. My father was a history teacher, and I spent much of my childhood soaking up books and resources that he had lying around the house. My great grandfather provided me with tours, introductions, and oral histories of many of Jackson’s most prominent figures and stories. It’s no surprise that I ended up studying history in college and starting my professional career as a U.S. History and American Government teacher. So, for me to take my family to the civil rights museum wasn’t just a trip, it was a chance for me to expose my children to some of the things that had been so formative to who I am. But how would they take it? As blessed as I have been by many of these resources and stories, I also understand the hard realities that were central to these struggles. How would my 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter process these images?
I walked with my son because he is like me in nature and asks a ton of questions. I reverted to history teacher mode and tried to give commentary on each piece we passed by. As we moved through the exhibit, I could see my 4-year-old daughter from across the room. She had the look of an inquisitive 4-year-old on her face as she stared at an exhibit that displayed slaves huddled together below the deck of a slave ship being brought to America. I walked up to her and just stood beside her as she looked.  As I waited, it was my daughter who broke the silence asking ” Daddy, are those God’s children?”
Educators know that people learn through connections. Our brain’s dendrites fire and connect as we understand things. These learned connections happen when our minds are able to use the information we are already holding onto, to anchor and solidify new experiences. I know that my daughter was not able to accurately process most of what she saw in the museum that day. I won’t pretend that I even have such a comprehensive knowledge of civil rights history that I was able to accurately analyze and reflect on all I saw. However, it blessed me immensely to see how and what her mind was processing. When Avery asked were those God’s children, I knew exactly what she was connecting her present experience to. As a K4 student at TRS, she has heard God’s word daily. Her teachers have told her and modeled for her what it means to honor God and to love others as he has loved us(John 13:34). These are things that my wife and I have taught and prayed through with our child, but she told me it was her teacher that had talked to her about how we treat people created by God and made in his image.
As we start year 4 at TRS, we know there is a whole world of ideas and experiences outside of our school. We know that our students must take real knowledge and apply it in meaningful ways in a variety of situations. However, we also know that God’s word is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We believe that in rooting our school in God’s word, we’re giving sight and light in the most sensitive and difficult areas in the lives of all involved.  My prayer is that God will continue to do this work in not only my daughter’s heart but in the hearts of all of our students. I would hope that we could all learn from my little girl and speak and see the truth of God in the hardest of places.

 

By DeSean Dyson, Head of School