Civil Rights Leader Visits Messiah

Civil Rights Leader at Messiah
Posted on 02/03/2019
Civil Rights Leader at MessiahRutha Harris at Messiah-SPIRIT Council Learning Experience
Daniel Cody
Staff Writer

There is little knowledge that has physical tactility. Most is contained in books or files, their lessons interpreted in the brain of the reader. As Ms. Rutha Harris walked to the podium at Messiah college, it was one of those rare occasions that wisdom was tangible. When her figure entered the stage, light beams bounced off of her frame. She looked as though she came from the divine, a messenger from the past. Ms. Harris opened her voice, and she passed on a glimpse from her perspective.

She sang the songs of souls lost before and after her, protesting the system that condemned, jailed, and the cruel judgements of her containers.

She said, “Without civil rights songs, there would be no civil rights movement.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a revolutionary for his time, illuminated in history as a leader of the greatest revolution in the twentieth century. With him stood the Freedom Singers, a musical group known or creating the most iconic civil rights songs. The freedom singers was a group of white and black individuals that toured the South, spreading the message of equality everywhere they went. Most notable was their performance in Washington D.C. when Dr. King delivered his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech. Rutha Harris was the youngest among these revolutionaries. She regularly tours schools around the country.

This experience was especially notable for sophmoreLacey Ray who regarded her conversation with Ms. Harris as life changing, “I felt like I just got the key to life, like, here you go.”

Junior Council member Max Astrachan also felt impacted by Ms. Harris’ performance, especially in reference to her advice about the recent Colin Kaepernick inspired protests.

“I thought it was very powerful and moving, how everyone came together over something like that. I think that’s a good way to distract people from the problems we have and unify. She told me regarding Colin Kaepernick: 'It has to come from the heart. You have to make it individual.’”

Sophomore council member Haya Khan had a enjoyable and educational experience.

“It was very nice- really religious, and it was nice to learn about another religion and culture. It made me realize (as a muslim) that everyone has gone through stuff in history. It was nice to learn more about the civil rights movement especially from a direct perspective.”

The council widely regarded the experience as educational and hopes to host more people from Messiah College in the future.

The freedom singers are a group founded in the city of Albany, Georgia, a hotbed for the civil rights movement. Ms. Harris was known by the city’s mayor and chief of police, who routinely arrested the singers on various and unfounded civil disobedience charges. Their style of singing is a mixture of black gospel and protest chants. The jazz-like rhythmic style was catchy and easy to remember, hence their infamous Oh Freedom and We shall overcome. It is the opinion of Harris and her long-time friend Congressman John Lewis that without Civil Rights songs, there would have been no Civil Rights movement.

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