Forced Migrations Trip 2020

middle schoolers visiting the site of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921

Every year during their 18 day field trips, the middle schoolers of Arthur Morgan School create a blog, documenting their trip. The students post pictures and write about what they did each day. They get to choose what moments they want to highlight and show off to their parents and friends at home.  The blog is an awesome opportunity to reflect on what they are learning and articulate their feelings about their journey. 

Right now the Forced Migrations Field Trip is in Texas and will soon be heading to Louisiana and Alabama. In their own words, here is what our students have to say about the trip so far!

Day 1

On our first day we went to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and watched and read stuff about the history of the Native American Cherokee. Then we went to meet a guy who showed us where the Cherokee walked the Trail of Tears. This guy was named Tom and he was also Cherokee. He talked about how white people were racist to the Cherokee. Then our transit got stuck in the mud. I got really excited when the tow truck came. It took a long time and we waited in the rain. We finally got out of there and made it to Knoxville pretty late. We stayed with Brad’s friends. They were nice and great. They gave us all Girl Scout cookies.


Day 2

middle school standing in front of a gold statue of AthenaToday we drove for 6 hours from Knoxville to Memphis. On the way, we stopped at The Pantheon in Nashville where we saw a 50 ft gold plated statue of Athena and a bunch of cool artwork. We also stopped in a park in Nashville to eat lunch. When we got to Memphis, we had trouble backing up the trailer> Izzy was bad at it, but I have never backed up a trailer so I can’t judge. We went to the Dollar Tree store where I bought off-brand root beer and Takis and GREAT souvenirs. We’re staying at the Memphis Friends Meeting and we have lots of space and they are so nice to us.


Day 3

This morning we started in Memphis, TN where we all packed up and ate a healthy breakfast of granola. Then we loaded everything into the van and drove through ALL of Arkansas until we got to a 5 star rated parking lot.  Afterwards, we all piled back in the van and drove to Tahlequah, OK. There we met a lady from the Tahlequah Daily Press. She interviewed us about our trip. Then we met Dr. Farina King, a professor at Northeastern State University here in Tahlequah. We talked about Native American boarding schools and how traumatizing they were for native people. Her 8-year-old son William provided helpful drawings. Then we went to some generous Quakers’ house where we ate spaghetti and meatballs and they gave us ice cream.


middle schoolers meeting with Native American Student Assoc.

Day 4

We woke up and made breakfast burritos and spilled the beans all over the floor. We went to the Cherokee National History Museum. The museum was sad because the learned how the Native Americans were being killed by Europeans when they came over. Then, we went to the Cherokee National Prison Museum. We went to lunch at the Illinois river and Jibril fell in the mud and got all his clothes muddy. After that, we met the Native American Student Association at Northeastern State University. We asked questions to the college students about discrimination and current events and got Dr. Pepper and Coke. After, we went to a student union house on campus and cooked dinner all together. It was fun hanging out with the college kids and annoying each other. Tomorrow we head for Tulsa!!!


Day 5

We started the day at a fundraiser hosted by the Native American Student Association at NSU. We ate Indian Tacos which consisted of fried bread, beef, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and cheese. After that, we hit the road towards Tulsa. Before we arrived, we stopped at Pizza Hut with Brads mommy and daddy . It was a pizza buffet !!!!!!!

middle schoolers talking with Cleo Harris on the street.When we arrived in Tulsa, we went straight to the Greenwood District, formerly known as Black Wall Street. Black wall street was a location where the Tulsa Massacre occurred in 1921, almost 100 years ago. Hundreds of the black residents of Greenwood were murder. This event has gone unrecognized for decades. Many of Oklahoma’s residents including our very own Brad didn’t know about the Tulsa massacre up until recently. We met with Cleo Harris, a business owner and social activist from Tulsa. He taught us A LOT. He talked about how important our generation is in changing the future of our country. It is up to us to learn from the past and change the future.

After we talked to Mr. Harris, we went to The Gathering Place, a MASSIVE park with ziplines, castles and reflecting mirrors. It was built by a wealthy oil baron who is killing our planet, but who cares when we get to have fun . Once we could barely walk from all the crazy, fun times in the park, we went to a MASSIVE church where we played basketball and were crushed by an incredibly skilled team of Brad and Ana (not true). Some people spent the evening at Friday Night Magic while some of us stayed at the church and made killer pita pizzas and watched The Notebook when right at the climax Ana said BEDTIME! Mother truckers!!!! Goodnight.


middle schoolers listening to a presenter talk about privilege and race

Day 6

We went back to Greenwood to the Greenwood Cultural Center and the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Center for Reconciliation. We met this kind lady named Vanessa who gave us a tour of an actual house that was built by the survivors of the massacre. Vanessa talked about the different ways people in power manipulate the rest of the population and race is just one of those manipulation tactics. She said in fact, urban renewal was more devastating than the massacre itself. For example, the highway built over the Greenwood district caused the displacement of people in the neighborhood.
In the afternoon we went to the flea market to hang out and found some cool stuff. The rest of the day we chilled out.


Day 7

middle schooler looking at a paintingWe woke up at the United Methodist Church to Izzy aggressively waking us up because we had to leave by 8:30am because there was a service that day. We quickly went to the Philbrook Museum of Art, which was in a super fancy neighborhood with tons of rich people. We all thought that was where we were staying so we were picking out mansions where we wanted to stay that night.

Turns out that’s not what we were doing-just going to this great art museum with a large amount of cool stuff like a cabin made of funky materials including a chimney made of books. There was a nice pond next to a gazebo where you could sit and watch the fish. There was a painting, the Equestrian Portrait of King Philip IV by Kehinde Wiley, where the subject normally would have been an old white dude, but it had been switched to a young African American man the artist knew.

After we left the museum we went back to The Gathering Place and had lunch in the parking lot, or rather in a nearby parking lot full of white dust. We took a brief break at the Church of the Restoration where we were staying that night, and then went to see a locally-made movie called Black Wall Street Burning about the events before, during, and after the Tulsa massacre. The movie was impressive for its small budget of only $5,000 dollars and local untrained actors. It was very educational in some ways, showing us the events leading up to the massacre and what life was like at that time.

middle schooler looking at a paintingNot to say the movie was without its faults. A lot of people thought it focused too strongly on the main couple’s relationship and whether one of them was going to go to college despite the other person’s “plan”. There were also quite a few filming mistakes such as cell towers, modern planes, and somewhat noticeable stock footage from unrelated events. The biggest takeaway I had from the film was that it is the first full movie adaptation of the events in Tulsa 1921, made by local people who wanted to tell this story. It showed how covered up this massacre has been, especially considering that it was the largest race massacre in U.S. history.

When we left the the movie theatre, Brad’s friend Jason took us to a nearby Mexican bakery and bought us all two treats to enjoy. Then we went back to the Unitarian Church and hunkered down, ate some quesadillas and grilled cheese. Overall a pretty great day.


Day 8

We woke up and had pancakes because it was Eva’s birthday. We sang her “Happy Birthday”, and then Linda Allegro from the New Sanctuary Network came and talked to us about her organizing efforts. She and other people in the area are trying to stop local jails from pairing up with ICE to transfer “aliens” to detention centers and back to Mexico. When they’re deported to the border they’re getting kidnapped or killed, or sometimes ransomed back to their families.

oil rig in the middle of a cityAfter our talk with Linda, we drove to Oklahoma City. There we hung out at a laundromat. They had a pinball machine and we played dominoes. Then we drove around the city and eventually went to the Mennonite church we were staying in. There, we cooked dinner and they let us use their Netflix. There was an oil rig right outside the church on the street. It was a fun day, but long.


Day 9

Today was a long drive. We drove from Oklahoma City to Austin Texas. The drive was about 6 hours. Before we got on the road we stopped at Nappy Roots, a black owned bookstore. Where Camille talked to us about what is going on at Fort-Sil which is an army base in Oklahoma where ICE was planning on holding undocumented children from Latin america. A group that Camille is part of orchestrated a movement of direct action which resulted in the army base not holding and detaining innocent children. After that we stopped at a Valero, Love’s and a Quick Trip. We arrived in Austin at 8:23 PM and we’re staying in a really cool meeting house. Ana made some weird falafel. Tomorrow we’re going to walk around Austin-maybe go to a pool and do community service.


middle schoolers taking a tour of a sanctuary siteDay 10

Today we started in Austin, TX, where we all packed up and ate granola (again). We hung out at the Austin Friends Meeting for a little while and then headed to a pool (that’s right, a pool!) where we swam for 45 mins before heading to Casa Marianella, a sanctuary for immigrants to stay while they are seeking asylum, to volunteer for a couple hours. We talked to two immigrant women from El Salvador, after which they gave us a tour of the three houses that they facilitate. We then helped out by cleaning and then painting a wall for them. After this, we drove two hours from Austin to Fredericksburg, where we met Eva’s grandma Finn, who took us in and fed us an amazing Tex-Mex dinner and some birthday cake (because Eva’s birthday was 2 days ago).

We had a pretty great day today! Also, if you miss swimming in March, just go to Texas!


Day 11

middle schoolers sitting on a dock in a lake

Woke up and had breakfast at Grandma Finn’s. We had left over enchiladas and eggs. I sat out in the sun in the Finn’s yard listening to music with Ana and Brad. A woman came to talk to us about camps at the border of Mexico and the US. These camps held people from Latin America. She talked about how bad, unsanitary, and little services these camps had. This made me feel very sad.

Then we went hiking at Enchanted Rock. I went looking for a cave but Ana and I never found it. We had a picnic lunch at the park and it was delicious. Then we went to someone else’s ranch and splashed around in a pond. I didn’t get in but Brayden did. We went back to Evas grandmas and chilled and had tons of brownies. We are now headed to New Orleans.


Day 12

Today we woke up early at my grandma’s, expecting to be on the road by 7:00 and head to New Orleans. We packed up all our stuff and said goodbye to Grammy Finn and Tazy (the dog), but we had some complications with the trailer lights because none of them would turn on.

middle schooler eating dinner at a dinerBut soon we were off to New Orlean for a 10 hour drive. We drove, we peed, we drove, we peed, we ate, we drove, we listened to music and drove some more. Finally, we arrived to New Orleans around 7pm. We were just a block away from the house we were staying when suddenly we heard a crashing sound and sparks flying (similar to when someone drags their nails on a chalk board). Izzy slowly drove the van around a corner and parked it. We got out of the car to see the wheel of the trailer had popped right off and was spinning around the middle of the road.

We all laughed really hard because we realized all the trailer lights were on! So we loaded all the things in the trailer in the main Transit and drove just one block up the road. After that kerfuffle, we were greeted by the amazing Roux family who let us group of crazy kids stay the night in their house. They took us out to eat at their own restaurant down the street and we had great burritos and tacos! New Orleans is AWESOME.


Day 13

middle schoolers at Cafe Du MondeWe had a crazy awesome day in New Orleans. We all woke up to a pretty New Orleans day. After a lazy morning, we headed to City Park. It’s like this huge park in the center of the city with so many fun things to do. We went to Cafe Du Monde to have coffee, hot chocolate and beignets. They gave us funny hats.

We walked around the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden. It was so big and had crazy sculptures in it. There was a big pond and some cool bridges and it was really nice out so we just ran around. Then we went to the trolly stop and met back up with Brad. He had spent the morning trying to fix the trailer. We ate a bunch of my fruit loops. I had a hard time sharing, but eventually learned the value in giving rather than taking.

We hopped on the trolly and headed down to the french quarter. We walked around and saw this building that was being built to be a Hard Rock Cafe, but collapsed mid-construction and they had yet to get the bodies of some of the construction workers out. It was really sad. The adults let us split up into smaller groups to walk around. We saw some crazy stuff and watched a bunch of street performances. Then we got some good sandwiches with our kitty fund.

We had a really long day and some of us were super tired so half of us went back to the Roux house and the other half went to see Brad’s musician friend perform. They said it was in a this cool place that use to be a church and had really fancy bathrooms. It was one of the most tiring days we had the entire trip.


street performers in New OrleansDay 14

We woke up in New Orleans and then we didn’t do much. We hung out with Evan, one of the kids in the house. He was great! We all ate fruit loops with him and goofed around. Then we ran outside to completely empty the trailer and move it to the back of the van because he had to leave the trailer in New Orleans. Then we tried to go to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1., but they said we had to enter with a guided tour and a tour was $20 a person but we had no money so we had to leave.

Then we drove the trailer to a repair shop and dumped it there. We got back on the highway and noticed an uncomfortable amount of water towers. For some reason Louisiana is like “we’re going to run out of water in ten years” like that’s going to happen. 

Then we began our drive to Montgomery, AL. Throughout the drive, we stopped at a few gas stations. At every stop, I tried to buy a chicken sandwich, but none of them had a chicken sandwich worth $2 which is all I had. I did have a cream cheese & grape jelly pita which was quite delicious.

Then we finally arrived to Montgomery. We had to wait for the pastor to let us in so we hung out in the nearby playground which had 3 slides which is a lot in comparison to the play-set. Then we were let in and this pastor was showing us all the rooms we could sleep in, including one with a lot of couches which is where I slept. Then we planned on watching Twilight but we misplaced the disc and then Brad interrupted and said dinner was ready. We ate dinner and then tried to watch Twilight again but we were tired so we went to sleep.


Day 15

Justice MemorialToday we woke up in Montgomery, AL and went to the Legacy Museum. It was created by the Equal Justice Initiative, which is an organization that helps get people off death row. It was started by Bryan Stevenson. We actually met Mr. Stevenson outside the museum! The museum was sad. It told the history of African Americans in the United States from the period of enslavement all the way to mass incarceration, which happens today.

The most powerful part of the museum were these interactive phone calls. You would pick up a phone as if you were visiting someone in prison. They would tell you their story and how they were wrongfully accused and incarcerated. This made me feel sad. While we were listening to these stories, one of the people on the screen was there in real life. He said he didn’t want to talk about what was going on in prisons because he doesn’t want kids involved with any part of the institution. This experience at the museum doesn’t make me feel any happier about how white people treat people of color.

After the museum, we went to what is officially called the National Memorial of Peace and Justice but is most of the time called the Lynching Memorial. We walked in and there’s a statue of black people chained up and crying out for help. Then you walk up to these giant plaques designated to the remembrance of victims of lynchings. They were organized by counties and had inscriptions of the names of the victims. This made me feel frustrated to see how many people had died at the hands of white supremacy.

After that we went back to the church we’re staying in and hung out all day. It was a tough day filled with many frustrating themes but overall a good time.


Day 16

middle schoolers and teachers posing with Hy ThurmanToday we drove from Montgomery to Huntsville, still in Alabama. We arrived to at the United Church of Huntsville where we met with Hy Thurman, who was a founder of the Young Patriots, a street gang turned political organization formed in the ’60s and ’70s. His group formed alliances with the Black Panthers and the Young Lords (a Puerto Rican group) in Chicago, IL. Altogether they called themselves The Rainbow Coalition. This group was fighting poverty and building class solidarity. They proudly stood against the political machine led by Mayor Daley at the time. We watched a documentary about The Rainbow Coalition which featured Hy Thurman and other survivors of the movement. After the movie, we did a Q&A with Mr. Thurman. We discussed Mr. Thurmans personal activism and contemporary politics. After that we drove around Hunstville, tried to go bowling and got rejected. Then tried to eat at a few more restaurants and got rejected and eventually ate at some Korean restaurant.