Zach Washington '11- Peace and Justice Studies Association- Memphis, TN
This past weekend (Oct. 20th-23rd) ten students, one graduate, Katy Gray Brown and myself attended the Peace and Justice Studies Association conference in Memphis, TN. For many of us this was the first academic conference that we had attended. There was so much to do that we had out plates full of activities. There was an array of sessions to attend, everything from community gardening, alternative spring break trips in rural Appalachia, to Manchester's very own student led panel about organizing a peace studies program. There were plenary sessions with notable speakers such as Clayborne Carson (Director of the MLK Jr. papers project), David Bacon (a photojournalist and activist), and many other wonderful speakers. The conference kind of reminded me of the Manchester Peace Studies community we have here on campus. The peace study community here at Manchester is small and committed to peace and justice. Being small and having a commitment to peace and justice brings us together. This was the same sense that I got from the people involved in PJSA. Academics come from schools around the country to this conference once a year to discuss topics and issues in peace and justice. The attendees are part of a small and committed group of individuals, just like we have at Manchester. It was reassuring to see people who were professionals acting just like we do here at home.
We were also able to see some of the sights in Memphis. One night we went Beale Street, to some of the coolest blues clubs I've ever seen. This was a great experience to be immersed in the local culture. We were also able to go to the National Civil Rights Museum. Luckily on our way to the museum we fortunate enough to be able to walk through a local art festival that was taking place. For many of us, this was our first trip to the NCRM. It was located at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. For me personally this was a really moving chance to see a integral part of history. Walking through the NCRM was like taking a trip through time, down the road of civil rights. They had an exhibit for the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. You were able to walk through and sit down on a bus. You got a real feel of the situation: the tense moments, the conviction of the people taking part in sit-ins, strikes, and non-violent demonstrations. It was very moving.
Next year the PJSA conference will be held in Boston. We are hoping to be able to take a group of students out again.