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The end is only the beginning

Note: A team from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire joins the 2015 winter Civil Rights Pilgrimage to document students' experiences and stories on the 10-day journey through history. Writer Shari Lau, videographer Glen Mabie and photographer Heidi Giacalone will provide daily updates from the pilgrimage, highlighting the historic sites and people who fought for equality during the civil rights movement.

All stories from the winter 2015 Civil Rights Pilgrimage can be read on the UW-Eau Claire news website.

Jan. 18, 2015

We began the Civil Rights Pilgrimage in Atlanta at the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., traveled to Montgomery, the "Birthplace of Civil Rights," and relived the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which helped give birth to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  

On this last day of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage, it's fitting that we followed Dr. King's final footsteps in Memphis. We marched down Beale Street, the last place Dr. King marched, and viewed the ill-fated Lorraine Motel where he took his last breath. 

Seeing this progression through civil rights history brought out many emotions and reactions from everyone on the trip. We shared tears, laughter, anger and hope, and built friendships that will last through time. Many were inspired to return to Eau Claire with a determination to carry on Dr. King's work and quest for equality.  

"I respect Dr. King for what he did and really saw his work on this trip," said Dennis Beale, a UW-Eau Claire graduate student from Chicago. "He fought and stood for nonviolence and his legacy forever lives on. That's something we really have to embrace. I will forever teach nonviolence."

Reliving the violence inflicted against African-Americans as they fought for their rights to be equal members of society empowered Beale to embrace his ability to make a difference.

"We have the freedom to make a change, but how many people are embracing that?" Beale asked. "We have that power now, that freedom now, those rights now to make a change. Equality is happening, but segregation is still out there. Together, we can take on an army. We can change this world. We have to keep this movement going and keep each other uplifted and motivated."

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage may have come to an end, but for the students who made the journey, it's only the beginning.