Highlander Research and Education Center also known as the Folks School, was founded in 1932 by Myles Horton. Throughout the years, Highlander has become a meeting place that brings people of color and white allies together to challenge white supremacy. This year I attended the Seeds of Fire Legacy Tour which brought together youth leaders and adult allies from the southern region of the United States who are organizing for social justice. During my time there we collectively developed strategies to combat detrimental issues affecting our communities and built intergenerational connections to fight against state violence aimed at low-income communities and people of color. This experience was more than just exchanging knowledge about different struggles in the South. It was an opportunity to travel to various Southern states to better understand the struggles of working people from the South during the 1950’s and 1960’s who fought for LGBTQ rights, civil rights and voting rights. In addition, we also learned about the immigration reform struggles that young people are fighting today.
As a young adult who has been a part of the Seeds of Fire Living Legacy Tour over the last three years, I’ve personally been transformed by engaging with people who are organizing around a variety of social justice issues. For instance, during the 2016 Seeds of Fire Tour, we visited the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center which held an exhibit depicting the history of slavery in Jackson, Mississippi. The tour guide showed us a replica of a slave ship and had us all squeeze inside of it as if we were a can of sardines. I remember as we stood with our feet plastered to the floor of the ship, the tour guide telling us to observe our surroundings. I observed the way the wax figures were shackled together and how small the porthole was. The guide told us to imagine our ancestors being squished together with limited air circulation and if they had to go to the restroom they would have to go right there. A few of the young people started to cry because they realized the slave’s struggle for the first time. They felt the sense of pain our ancestors had to endure after being stripped from their home and culture. Now I feel there is a difference between being told about our history and another to physically experience what our ancestors went through. This experience has transformed a plethora of young people in the social justice movement.
On another occasion during my time at the tour, we participated in a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop with a predominantly white organization and created theatre pieces about different injustices we are facing in our communities. There was a piece about police brutality where a young man was shot down at the age of sixteen for “looking suspicious,” or in other words, being targeted because of society’s image of a young black man from a low-income community. This piece resonated with Black and Brown youth in the space and also with our white peers who expressed disappointment at seeing how white supremacy plays out in society.
To make a long story short, Highlander’s Seeds of Fire tour has tremendously impacted the lives of young people by shifting the way they view society’s expectations. This experience has given people a broader understanding of what next steps to take to shift a tragic culture that is normalized into a culture that can be transformative where people work together as a collective.
— Shi’kera Carr, Youth and Young Parent Organizer, Power U Center For Social Change