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Second Annual Faith and Justice Spring Break Trip to Montgomery, Alabama

Members of the Pepperdine Caruso Law community participated in the second annual Faith and Justice spring break trip to visit memorials to the nation’s history of slavery, lynching, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama from March 9-11, 2023. Sponsored by the Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics with support from the law school’s office of Student Life, Diversity and Belonging, the trip was aimed at providing participants with a transformative experience in which to explore challenging questions of faith, justice, race, law, history, and ethics.

The trip to Alabama was an incredibly moving and eye-opening experience,” said Michael Winner. “It helped me to affirm and deepen my commitment to working for social justice by highlighting that hate crimes, lynchings, and other racially based crimes were far more recent than I had realized. This experience affirmed my wish to advocate for social justice and equality in all aspects of my life. I feel deeply grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow, and I will carry the lessons I learned with me always.”

A key highlight of the trip included a visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a public memorial developed by attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and author of the book Just Mercy, to honor victims of lynching and racial violence in the US.  The National Memorial was described in the Washington Post "one of the most powerful and effective new memorials created in a generation." Participants also visited the Legacy Museum, an EJI-sponsored museum that according to its website “provides a comprehensive history of the United States with a focus on the legacy of slavery” and held a private discussion with an EJI senior attorney. A special treat for participants who arrived a day early was their trip to the Freedom Rides Museum, where they met Bernard Lafayette, an original Freedom Rider from the 1961 movement to desegregate travel in the South.

“The trip serves as a powerful reminder of our nation's complex past, a current need and capability of change, and instills the deepest hope of a better future,” shared Gabriella Liace.

On Saturday morning, Professor Baker led participants on a walking tour of downtown Montgomery, which included visits to civil rights landmarks such as the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (led by Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1954-1960), former slave auction blocks, the final steps of the Selma to Montgomery march, and the site of Rosa Parks’ initiation of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.  Professor Baker powerfully highlighted the role of faith and African-American churches during the civil rights movement.

“This trip offers a singular opportunity for our community at the law school (students, faculty, staff, alumni) to be transformed and to grow closer as a community by experiencing and processing together how the role of 'faith' impacted this country in addressing social justice issues in the past and what role it can play in addressing such issues moving forward,” stated Courtney Caron, who also attended the trip.

The trip was planned by Students, Diversity, and Belonging dean Chalak Richards, Professor Baker, Nootbaar Institute co-director and professor Jennifer Koh, and Nootbaar Institute manager Allyse Wesolowski.

Faith and Justice trip 2023