Eau Claire (WQOW) – The students at DeLong Middle School learned from a civil rights leader who was well into her activism by the time she was their age.
Eight DeLong Middle School staffers went to the UW-Eau Claire Civil Rights Pilgrimage Program in the South, where they met JoAnne Bland, a nationally known civil rights advocate who grew up in Selma, Alabama.
Those staffers wanted their students to benefit from her experience during Black History Month. Bland spoke about what African-Americans went through in their childhood, segregated facilities, no right to vote and racial violence.
By the time she was 11, Bland had been arrested 13 times because of her civil rights activism.
“History is important because you need to know the things that happened before you came. When you were born, you were afforded all the rights that someone else had to fight for, and you should wear them arrogantly because people died for you to have them. Maybe this time, if your children knows the history and know what’s right and what’s wrong, it gives them the foundation to make the decisions to take us forward,” Bland said.
DeLong Middle School has an African-American empowerment group, and the visit from Bland means a great deal to them.
“We grew up not learning about our culture and what happened in the past, and how we got to where we are now, so I feel like what we are learning right now in the group is important, to teach everybody that we are not different because of our skin and we are all human beings,” said Averyon Sands, African-American empowerment group member.
Bland is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama. Bland speaks all over the country.