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Saint Mary’s community members to tour local African-American historical sites

| Friday, March 22, 2019

Saint Mary’s students and faculty will travel through time by visiting African-American historical landmarks throughout the South Bend community Saturday.

Director of the Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) Rebekah DeLine said she created the event for the first time this year. She was aware that the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center offered an online, self-guided tour of African-American historical sites in the South Bend Community, so she contacted members of the organization to transition the tour to a guided one. DeLine said the attendees will be transported to the different sites on a bus and will be provided lunch.

“The tour has been available on the Civil Rights [Heritage Center’s] website for many years, but this is the first time that we are offering it in real life with the interim director of the Civil Rights Heritage Center,” DeLine said.

She said she recognizes that African-American history is only one part of South Bend’s history and the tour could feature many different subjects, but she values the timeliness of this particular issue.  

“This moment in time is important to be thinking about history — especially the not always good history — in the local community,” DeLine said. “We also have a not always flattering, somewhat shameful history here in South Bend, and until we are willing to own that and to really look at the injustices that have occurred and even continue to occur and say that we want to do something different or better, I don’t think things will change.”

DeLine said she is happy that there is an increasingly diverse group of people who registered.

“There are a couple of faculty members who have registered. Then there are students, and I just realized that some community members have registered as well,” she said. “I think that will be nice because it will be more complex in the information that is shared and the conversations that are had.”

Sophomore Tori Weston said she thinks the event will serve as an opportunity to connect, converse and build community.

“It will hopefully open up a dialogue about cultural differences and how this community has been impacted by the work of African Americans,” she said. “More open communication brings communities closer together. It allows us to understand each other and to open our minds to the experiences of others.”

Weston said she also hopes that the event will connect students to the South Bend community and with people and histories outside of their normal sociocultural groups.

“Most students never have experiences outside of their in-group or communities they grew up in, and this is an opportunity for students to expand their horizons and learn about a group they may not know much about, and especially may not know about in the context of South Bend,” Weston said.

DeLine said she wishes for students to be inspired by the history of South Bend to create a world that values inclusion and justice.

“I hope they feel challenged to be part of creating a world that is more welcoming and more committed to equity and not just equality for all people in the world and people here in our community,” DeLine said.

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