KANSAS CITY, MO — Two Kansas City area schools recently went on a field trip together to learn about history, as told in black and white.
One of the first of many powerful stops during this week-long field trip was to Money, Mississippi.
Students from University Academy, a predominantly Black school, and Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, a predominantly white and Jewish school, both took the trip.
They stood at and viewed the area where Emmett Till’s lifeless body was thrown into and eventually removed from the Tallahatchie River.
It was an uncomfortable moment for these teens and their teachers. Still, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s not just sitting in the classroom listening to somebody telling you,” Susie Jackson, the operations manager at University Academy, said. “You’re actually seeing those things.”
Noah Bergh is a ninth-grader at HBHA. He too embraced being uncomfortable.
“Uncomfortability is a good thing, and you only find peace," Bergh said. "And you’re able to reconcile when you find an uncomfortable moment, and you sit in them, savor them and seek why they’re uncomfortable.”
As we continue to learn about race, and unfortunately racists, these two schools found themselves equally immersed in an uncomfortable experience as a group.
And separately, with equal impact in a world that claimed to be just that — separate but equal.
A few weeks after that trip, the students sat down with KSHB 41 News Anchor Kevin Holmes to talk about how lessons learned will help shape them to make our society better.
“We went to a park, and it was talking about how they used to use the hoses and stuff on us to keep us away or keep us segregated," Donyae Watson, a senior at University Academy said. "And it was really important for us to see that.”
Holmes asked the students what the biggest thing they learned about each other was.
“There’s just a lot of work in being a listener," Ellie Glickman, a senior at HBHA, said.
Holmes also asked what them what the biggest lesson they learned was.
“We need to recognize the humanity in everybody," Watson said.
For Alesia McFadden, a junior at University Academy, one particular moment stood out.
"When we were going toward where Emmett Till’s body was being dragged from a river, it was quiet," McFadden said. "Because we know we’re about to see something that will definitely stay with us for the rest of our lives.”
For Glickman, it was another teachable moment.
"It was a very uncomfortable moment, but I think it’s important and there’s value just sitting in that uncomfortableness," Glickman said.
The two schools also learned about Jim Crow and the history of lynching.
They also learned the story of the Little Rock 9 integrating Central High School, important protests and so much more.
And while so much of this trip was serious, there were moments they learned about and embraced what makes them different.
“They’ve never been to a church, like ever," Watson said. "And it makes sense though, cause they’re Jewish. I’ve never been to a synagogue.”
“Yeah, we can really do fun things on Saturday," Glickman said. "But we didn’t get to show them the beauty in Judaism. Like bro, you haven’t had Matzo Ball soup yet."
The trip provided plenty of food for thought in more ways than one.
The two schools have partnered and done this trip a few times before, this being the first since the pandemic, and a year of racial reckoning in which we were forced to take a hard look in the mirror as a society.
The trip left these young people inspired to make a difference.
"A lot of folks in the Civil Rights Movement were kids our age,” Watson said. “We have the power. We have the voices, and it really encouraged me to know that we’ve contributed to America a lot more than we get credit for.”