After the winter storm delayed our first meeting of the Spring 2021 semester, we were at last able to meet. We had an excellent turnout, with 20 new members joining, bringing us to a total of 50 PLS members this semester!
President Quinn Kobrin introduced the officers to the new members and kicked off the meeting.
After a brief overview of how the Texas court system works, we were introduced to our guest speaker of the evening. We were fortunate enough to have Marcy Greer, an appellate attorney currently employed at Alexander, Dubose, & Jefferson. Greer joined our meeting to share with us some insight about her career and what it takes to be an attorney.
We learned that she studied History and French at Emory University where she graduated with her B.A. After starting law school at the same university, she decided to uproot and move with her fiancé to study law at the University of Houston Law Center.
Next, we learned exactly what being an appellate attorney entails. Mrs. Greer’s job is to find potential errors from trials which could warrant an appeal, such as inadmissible evidence being presented to the jury or improper jury selection being practiced. Greer will work with a client’s team during trials to guide them and tell them what might be grounds for an appeal, which she said is one of the best parts of her job.
She explained that a large portion of her job is also to persuade, by a written brief and possibly oral arguments, an appellate court to evaluate the trial court decision and to reverse or affirm that lower court decision. Mrs. Greer informed us that we can watch these arguments via Zoom and YouTube to see how the cases work and how the decisions are made.
Toward the end of her interview, she gave us some tips about law school. She said it might be in the best interest of a student who feels unprepared for law school to take a gap year and work, which can give the student the chance to mature and experience a professional environment. She told us to try our best in law school; to find a great study group with the same mentality and goals as you, go to class prepared and to treat law school as a job, because you will likely succeed and have better options when it comes to job opportunities if you do.
Once her speaking portion was complete, she did a Q&A with Pre-Law Society members:
Q: When did your daughter take her gap year?
A: She took it after she graduated from undergrad and before her first year of law school. During the break, she decided to start her own baking business which has taught her a bit about responsibility. She loves it.
Q: What can you tell us about your experience working in a clerkship?
A: Clerking for a judge is a lot of hard work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Greer explained that the judge she clerked for would not tell her what she expected, nor did she want to be told what people thought she wanted to hear. Greer was given complete autonomy to research cases and present her honest answer to whatever case was at hand.
Q: When is the best time to seek out Clerkships?
A: Try to find and apply during your 2L year.
After the Q&A, we thanked her for her information and advice. To finish off the meeting, President Quinn discussed upcoming events, including a Mock Trial that is expected to occur at the end of the Spring semester. The PLS members were stoked to sign up. This gives us all a great opportunity to study our roles and put them into action, all the while learning about the legal process! Our next meeting will be on March 24th, 2021.
As we entered the grounds of our third state capitol building of this trip, we were instantly taken aback by its impressive stature. Just like the Mississippi capitol, the Arkansas capitol stood tall, with a golden crown-like statue at the top.
Of course, like the other two capitols we visited, the Greek and Roman influence on the architecture was noticeable immediately from the large pillars and pediment at the entrance. The Arkansas capitol building’s construction began in 1899 and finished in 1914, making the capitol over 100 years old.
After making it through security, we made our way to the rotunda, where we were greeted by Ms. Cheryl Augustine, who was so kind to give us a quick rundown of where all the rooms were located, and we also got a glance at Governor Asa Hutchinson, who walked right by us.
Cheryl then led us to the fourth floor, where we entered the “Senate” gallery to watch the Senate convene. Getting to see the Senate in action was a fun experience because we had a closer look at what was happening, and we even watched as the State Senators voted on a bill.
So, we would like to extend a huge thank you to Cheryl for getting us in!
After seeing the senate proceedings, we thought we would take our chances and head over to the “House of Representatives” gallery to see if we would be able to go in there as well. Luckily, we were able watch the House in action too. The gallery of the House of Representatives is a beautiful large room with a tall gold chandelier hanging in the middle of the rotunda. The rotunda was also nicely crafted, with stained glass at the top that let in the light and brightened up the whole room, not to mention a pretty impressive VIP room.
Outside, in the capitol rotunda, the 4,000-pound chandelier hangs suspended from the ceiling, incorporating over 2,000 brass, copper, zinc, iron, and glass parts. On the third floor of the building, right above the grand staircases that led us to the House and the Senate, were four murals that each had a different theme. Over the south – which is where the Senate is – the “Education” and “Justice” murals stood. Over the north – where the House is – the “War” and “Religion” murals were.
Across the archway, we spotted two capitol officers that I just had to get a photo with, and lucky for me, they were nice enough to do so, which pretty much made my whole day.
After that, we headed to the old Arkansas Supreme Court room, which also embodied a lot of the Greek architecture that is visible throughout the rest of the Capitol, such as the pediments over the doors and the large pillars surrounding them.
As a final stop, we toured the grounds of the Capitol to see “Testament,” by John and Cathy Deering. This a monument to the Little Rock Nine, and it features statues of each of these civil rights’ heroes.
Compared to the other three capitols that I’ve been to, Arkansas has made its way to the top of my list, and I’m happy to say that I am now 4 out of 50 of the state capitols down!
The Little Rock Nine
Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, not all states were eager to begin the desegregation of public schools. Little Rock, AR was notably reluctant, and with the support and “leadership” of Governor Orval Faubus, this reluctance turned to outright rebellion. So it was in 1957 that Dwight Eisenhower sent in federal troops to force integration at Little Rock Central High, bringing international attention to the civil rights movement in the United States.
When inside the Little Rock museum, we quickly realized how fearless the nine African Americans had to be to make it through the obstacles they faced. Although only a small minority of the community, and clearly not enjoying the support of most of Little Rock’s citizens, they remained steadfast.
Of the many inspirational quotes populating the museum…
…the one that most resonated was a paraphrase from the spiritual “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” The concept of continuing to move forward despite exhaustion has a significant meaning within the African-American community, and it made me think where we would be if Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the Little Rock Nine hadn’t battled on.
Making this even more poignant was visiting the high school grounds. The campus is beautiful, and very large! Although under construction, we were able to get some photos of us at the structure where civil rights history was made.
This visit was a good reminder of how far we’ve come, while still being cognizant of how far we have to go. But, of course, we will not get tired!
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
After visiting the Little Rock High School Historical Site, the LEAP students embarked on what seemed like our toughest adventure yet: hiking. Just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas sits Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The state park covers 2,356 acres and the mountain has an elevation of 1,011 feet. Additionally, the park encompasses both biking and hiking trails.
Our hiking trail of choice was the East Summit Trail! With strong will and determination, we started our 1.5 mile trek up East Summit Trail in a race to watch the sun set!
The beginning of our trail was a breeze, walking up a staircase of rocks. However, we came to the base of the mountain and faced what seemed like a sea of massive boulders. After digesting the overwhelming view, we started our ascent. Maneuvering our way through the rocks was very strenuous, so we took well-deserved breaks, which gave us a chance to enjoy the beautiful rolling plains behind us.
Finally, we reached the pinnacle, and it was breathtaking! The hard work that we put in to reach the top was fulfilling and well worth it. Being able to look out at the orange and pink hued sky and the expansive rolling hills gave us the opportunity to reflect on everything that we have experienced and allowed us to acknowledge how fortunate we are to take part on this trip. To paraphrase MLK, “we have been to the mountaintop,” and our experience was indescribable.
This morning, the LEAP students started the day with a visit to Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama. This memorial park, which holds a lot of history and tells many stories from the Civil Rights Movement, is named after Kelly Ingram, a firefighter and the first Birmingham service member (U.S. Navy) killed during World War I.
The Kelly Ingram Park was historically a meeting place for student-led protests. These protests were sparked after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four African American girls. There is a sculpture in the park dedicated to the four girls.
During the time of the bombing, Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor was Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham. Bull Connor was not in favor of the Civil Rights Movement and during one protest, ordered that fire hoses and police attack dogs be used against protestors. Both of these actions are depicted through emotion-invoking, interactive sculptures that force visitors to walk through them to emulate the experience the protestors endured.
Many sculptures in the park replicate the momentous moments of the protests of the time. One that really stood out to me was that of jailed children with the inscription, “I ain’t afraid of your jail.” These words, referring to Bull Connor’s jailing of many children after a protest, seemed so powerful to me. The opposite side of the sculpture is an upside-down jail inscribed, “Segregation is a Sin.”
The meaning behind this sculpture is so strong to me because it depicts the courage these children had and conveys how they refused to back down. I believe the upside-down part of the sculpture represents a world upside-down, showing that it is wrong; directly across is the “perfect” world where things are done fairly. This sculpture, and others throughout this park, capture in time the powerful impact of the Civil Rights Movement.
Birmingham Museum of Art
After concluding our stroll around Kelly Ingram Park, the LEAP students headed to their next destination: Birmingham Museum of Art. Birmingham Museum of Art was founded in 1951 and is considered one of the best regional museums in the United States. It is home to a collection of approximately 27,000 pieces of art from a diverse set of cultures, and includes Asian, American, European, African, Pre-Colombian, and Native American art.
For our first stop, we began our exploration in the American Art gallery. Unlike other countries, America only has a few art forms that are unique to the region, like jazz music and western movies. However, American painters were inspired by landscapes, especially Western American landscapes. This is best represented by Albert Bierstadt’s “Looking Down Yosemite Valley,” which gives a breathtaking view of sunrays beaming through Yosemite Valley, California.
Additionally, “Grand Canyon, Yellowstone River” by William Louis Sonntag shows a beautiful illustration of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, which one of our LEAP students has visited!
Another notable artist in the American Art Gallery is Charles Eugene Shannon. Although uncommon during the 1930s, Shannon liked to capture the everyday life of African Americans. His work entitled “Conversation Piece” depicts a shoeless African American couple drawn into conversation during the 1930s. Shannon took his inspiration from European style “conversation pieces,” which involved a group portrait of 17th century couples, family, and friends engaged in casual conversation.
Next, we moved to the most gratifying exhibit of the day: Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. This exhibit includes a series of 30 panels that illustrate a narrative of people of color struggling to fight for social equity from 1775-1817 in America.
The Paintings which I propose to do will depict the struggles of a people to create a nationand their attempt to build a democracy. – Jacob Lawrence, 1954
Among the 30 panels, Panel 5 stuck out to me. This panel portrays an enslaved African American man who looks disheartened after requesting the liberation of all enslaved people in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This panel highlights the use of nonviolence, which alludes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy and means to fight against injustice.
In Panel 8, Jacob Lawrence shows the image of a Native American family reuniting with each other. Sacagawea, who is depicted in red with a long, unraveling braid, is reconnecting with her brother, Shoshone Chief Cameahwait, after having been separated during their childhood. This image that Jacob Lawrence has created juxtaposes the images of the reunification of brother and sister with the horrific tragedies that would unfold against Native Americans, which included forced relocation, separation, and assimilation.
In this series, Jacob Lawrence also wanted to emphasize and honor the role that women played in American history. Panel 18 presents a woman at battle, who has a pistol strapped to her waist. She stands tall, although to the side, taking over her slain husband’s post, exuding courage and strength.
Jacob Lawrence’s exhibit gave a clear visual account of the struggles many Americans faced. This exhibit allowed us to revisit our nation’s past and recognize how far we have come, all while looking forward to our future.
We didn’t have much time, but we did get to walk through the sculpture garden where we saw a kinetic sculpture by George Rickey, a sculptor whose work we’ve seen before, and on this trip (Besthoff Sculpture Garden, NOLA). After concluding our time at BMA, we headed outside for a bit of a nature walk!
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens spans 67.5 acres and is made up of more than 30 thematic gardens. As we entered the white gates that led us into the gardens, we were met by yet another Jesús Moroles granite art sculpture. This one was called “Granite Garden,” which I thought was very fitting for the site. (Interestingly, we learned that the Japanese Garden was donated by the Japanese Ambassador to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.)
As we made our way to the Japanese Garden, we took in the garden’s stunning scenery along the long, spacious, winding path that leads to the various gardens. We knew we had arrived when we made our way onto the graveled path that took us under and through a beautiful red torii, a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entrance of a shrine. Symbolically, the torii marks the transition from mundane to sacred. The path led us through some breathtaking places, but our first stop was at a tea house, originally called a chashitsu. This house perfectly reflects the traditional Japanese architectural space that was used for tea ceremonies.
After marveling at the koi pond, our time in the gardens – and sunlight – began to run low, so we quickly made our way through a bamboo path (which was my favorite part of this garden).
It was a quaint trail loop and a great place for a photo op. The bamboo stood tall over the pathway, casting shadows, and when you looked up, the sun sparkled in between the branches, making the view even more enthralling.
Our final stop in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was the Dunn Formal Rose Garden, which was aesthetically paved with red brick. We came to look at the Moon Tree, which was grown from a seed that once orbited the moon. The Moon Tree is an American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis tree and its seed came from a part of a space study that examined the effects of weightlessness on seed germination and growth. Of the 450 “moon seeds” planted, 420 of the trees were successful in growing. This Moon Tree was dedicated and planted in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens on February 25, 1976.
Although our visit was short, it was nice to get a breath of fresh air while walking through the garden.
Vulcan Park & Museum
To wrap things up on this sixth day, we ventured to the Vulcan Park & Museum. If you are wondering why there is a statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, it is because Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and forge, which is symbolic of the steel and iron industrial origins of the city of Birmingham.
The Vulcan Statue was built seven months before the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair to “represent” Birmingham, which puts it at well over a century old. Due to its massive scale, the Vulcan had to be constructed and built in two different cities. The statue is 56 feet tall and was designed by Giuseppe Moretti – a Tuscany sculptor who moved to Alabama in 1903 – as an indoor display, but when it was moved back to Birmingham, a pedestal and tower were built for it to stand on.
After seeing the tower from below, we were pumped to rise to the challenge of taking the stairs to the top of this tower – which is roughly 160 feet high – but to our disappointment, the staircase was closed. Instead, we took the beautiful glass elevator, which allowed us to see just how high we were going. Toping off the elevator trip was a see-through (metal grate) bridge that also allowed us to see the ground walking from the elevator to the tower’s observation area. I found this cool; others thought it scary.
The sight from the top of the tower was very beautiful and a sight worth seeing, especially since it ties back to the origins of the city of Birmingham. A very fitting end, I believe, to our day in this historic city.
On Day Five of our learning experiences with LEAP, we visited the Montgomery Riverfront Park in Alabama which runs along the bank of the Alabama River, which turned out to be a great start to our day!
We toured a few of their major attractions such as the Harriott II Riverboat, the Amphitheatre, and the Union Station Train Shed. The Harriott II Riverboat has a 19th century structural design and was originally named the Alabama Star.
Within walking distance from the docked riverboat is the Riverwalk Amphitheater, built in 2003, with an intentionally unique design that allows it to sustain flooding from the nearby river. In that same area was a small mural of Alabama’s State Capitol Building designed using tile blueprints of the Capitol, which I thought was very creative and neat.
At the pavilion, we had our picnic lunch from a local restaurant, Cahawba House, and were treated with a train traveling past. (Interestingly, the Union Station Train Shed, built in 1898, once housed six different train tracks from six different railroads up until it stopped operating in the 1970s.)
The pavilion is located right across and uphill from the amphitheater. It was too enticing, after lunch, so, in the area in front of the amphitheater, Jayelynn and Quinn had a race downhill. This race did not result in a winner; it was a two-way tie!
Montgomery Riverfront Park was also filled with storyboards telling the history of domestic slave trade. In 1808, Congress banned the importation of slaves. Although importing slaves was no longer legal, the demand for labor in the South increased because of the fluctuating price of cotton and the creation of the cotton gin. For fifty years, the slave traders transferred slaves from the upper south to Alabama. From 1808 to 1860 the slave population started at approximately 40,000 and increased to more than 435,000.
Rosa Parks Monument
After concluding our time at the Montgomery Riverfront Park, we strolled to Court Square to honor a leading figure who helped spark the Civil Rights Movement in the United States: Rosa Parks.
The statue of Rosa Parks was revealed to the public on December 1, 2019 and is located near the bus stop where she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955. Parks sparked the motivation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The Boycott asked all African American residents in Montgomery, Alabama to refuse to use public transportation. The Bus Boycott put a strain on the public transportation’s finances until the Supreme Court, in Browder v. Gayle, ruled that it is unconstitutional to have segregated busing, which forced the City of Montgomery to repeal its segregation law. On December 21, 1965, one victory of many had been won for the Civil Rights Movement due to Rosa Parks’ strength to stand firm for what she believed in.
Rosa Parks’ statue represents an enormous amount of strength: I found it inspiring and I’m sure it inspires many others.
I believe that this was a great step in history for African Americans that will never be forgotten, and it still resonates within society today. Rosa Parks left us with a lifelong lesson that is best captured in her words, “To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.”
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
After visiting the Rosa Parks statue, we LEAPed to our third art museum on our trip. The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) had an array of exhibits for us to see. The “Blow Up II” exhibit was filled with inflatable contemporary art, the Caddell Sculpture Garden was a beautifully front entrance designed to walk through before entering the actual museum, and a “Fact or Fiction” exhibit offered pieces designed to create a narrative and tell a story. Along with these exhibits, there were many permanent works on display as well, although the second-floor galleries were closed.
As we entered the Caddell Sculpture Garden, we immediately noticed a sculpture by an artist whose works we had seen before. (As a fun little twist, Professor Yawn offered a $10 gift card to whoever could guess the artist first. Sadly, I could not think of the artists’ name fast enough, but Ilexus did, so she will enjoy some free coffee soon!) The sculpture for the win was “Chance Meeting” by George Segal.
Next, we wandered on to the “Rough n’ Tumble” sculpture by Patrick Dougherty, which was made from cherry laurel, Ligustrum, and sweet gum. for a quick photo op.
We then stopped for a closer look at James Grimes’ sculpture of a dandelion that seemed to be blowing over the glistening water beneath it.
Once inside MMFA, the first exhibit we viewed was “Fact or Fiction,” which was filled with many interesting pieces. My favorite piece from that exhibit was one by Albrecht Durer titled “The Beast with Two Horns Like a Lamb.” This piece was made in 1511 by woodcut on heavy laid paper; with its ominous vibe and lamblike creatures, the artwork seemed to jump right off the wall.
The next room we made our way into was very spacious with abstract art pieces hanging from wall to wall, but the most breathtaking part of this room was the painted murals on the glass windows that shined as the sun beamed brightly through.
The most exciting exhibit for me came next, “Blow Up II.” This exhibit was filled with different kinds of inflatable artwork. The coolest inflatables were the movie or TV show characters dressed as noble knights! There was an inflatable Batman, Shrek, Spiderman, Mickey Mouse, and Bart Simpson. The inflatables were so well detailed; I could hardly tell they were inflatables and thought they were made from stone.
As we got further into the museum, we started seeing more and more pieces from artists we recognize. We saw a piece from James Surls, Sam Houston State graduate.
Also, “New York Office”…
…by Edward Hopper who is most famous for his painting called “Night Hawks,” one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. And, we all knew we had seen the Gilbert Stuart “unfinished” painting of George Washington, but no one had a $1 bill with which to compare!
I personally made a huge connection today between one of my favorite paintings in the Dallas Museum of Art and my favorite in the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. My favorite painting at MMFA was the “Clown with Long Nose” by Walt Khan; when I saw it, I thought I had seen that style of painting before. Sure enough, it was the same artist as my favorite painting in the Dallas Museum of Art.
As we explore more and more museums, looking at art begins to feel a lot more meaningful and educational. Making even small connections between a painting and the artist makes me realize how much I am actually learning.
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
As the sun was closing down on us, we left MMFA for downtown Montgomery again. Just a couple of blocks from the Rosa Parks statue we stopped at earlier in the day is a National Historic Landmark, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.
The church opened in 1877 and is particularly famous for being the first location where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. The church is a National Historic Landmark because of significance during the Civil Rights Movement. It was a center point during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was led by Dr. King. The church has held up for many decades and is normally open to the public for tours (well, before COVID-19).
All I could think about during the time we were standing out on the front sidewalk was how accurate it is when people say, “gone, but not forgotten.” That statement is so true for Dr. King.
He left a prodigious legacy behind and will permanently be relevant to our history because he paved the way for so many lives, for so much change. His drive is admirable in so many ways—it is not easy to find people so willing to boldly stand up for what they believe in. That realization stuck with me and inspired me to want to become the best version of myself.
Alabama State Capitol
After taking in the history of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, we walked the last short stretch of the 54-mile path that Dr. King originally led from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL to reach the Alabama State Capitol.
I fell in love with the Greek Revival architecture style of the Capitol. The view is striking, especially at sunset, overlooking downtown Montgomery. The Alabama marble stairs leading up to the Capitol adds a special look to the building.
We did not get past the stairs leading to the Capitol, though—it was blocked due to worries arising about potential protests. However, I (we all) still enjoyed viewing this site.
Day Five has been filled with incredible opportunities to immerse ourselves in civil rights history, as we recognize that we still stand in the long shadows of Dr. King and Rosa Parks.
You can’t visit New Orleans with stopping by Café du Monde, so the LEAP students did just that. This morning, we made our way to Café du Monde for breakfast and got some beignets. Beignets are essentially fried dough with powdered sugar on top, and they reminded me of a funnel cake.
Café du Monde is located near the French Market and Jackson Square. The cafe has been open since 1862 and has become the most famous shop serving beignets in New Orleans.
I personally am not a huge fan of sweets so I also got some breakfast at Monty’s on the Square, which is right across the street. We enjoyed our breakfast and the music performed outside Cafe du Monde, after which we explored Jackson Square.
After breakfast, we walked to the French Market, which is a really nice spot for souvenirs. All three of these spots are popular areas for tourists.
An Afternoon in Biloxi
After spending two days learning about and experiencing the historical significance of several sites within the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, we visited the Ohr-O’Keefe’s Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi.
In many ways, it was unlike any other museum that I have seen before. Not only was it smaller, but it was not the typical modern building I am used to. In fact, it has its own unique and very beautiful architectural structure and style. It was designed by the well-known American Canadian modern architect Frank Gehry, who despite designing a modern expressionist structure, incorporated and tied in the history and culture of Mississippi into the design in such a way that it would not awkwardly stand out. He did this by utilizing local materials and historical local vernacular.
Interestingly, Frank Gehry worked around the live oak trees at this site to preserve and minimize any damage to them. What makes Gehry’s work unique is the fact that his structural design would not have been possible without computer programs to create renderings of it.
This museum is named after both Jeremiah O’Keefe, who helped turn the vision of this museum a reality, and George Ohr, known as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi.” Ohr is famous for his modern art and ceramic work, which defied the 19th century convention through its aestheticism which is highly admired by artists today.
In the main building, there was a bust of Booker T. Washington, an African American leader who emphasized education orally and through written text, by Richmond Barthé, a sculptor known for his connection to the Harlem Renaissance.
Booker T. Washington contributed to the civil rights movement in one way by being the first African American to eat at the White House, having been invited Teddy Roosevelt was the President of the United States.
The first exhibit we saw at this museum featured a New Orleans artist by the name of Sally Heller, a multi-media creator whose art pieces may be openly interpreted.
The exhibit was titled “I can see all obstacles in my way.” It is composed of fabric, clothing, fishing net, plastic objects, and conveyor belts.
My interpretation of this exhibit was bitter-sweet, since I was impressed by the local art pieces since they were abstract, but the web like shape along with the length of it led me to wonder if it represented the barriers she faced and conquered.
The second exhibition was titled a city within a city. Within this exhibit there were photographs and a timeline related to the civil rights movement, and specifically its impact on Biloxi.
The city was heavily impacted by hurricane Katrina in 2005, and many historical buildings were highlighted within the photographs in this exhibit.
It is also in this exhibit that we learned about how Medgar Evers participated in “wade-ins” to attempt to desegregate the beaches – a fact which many of us were not aware of.
The final exhibition was a set of buildings referred to as “the pods,” which held visual and audio artwork that was heightened or emphasized by the acoustics within the building because of its dome-like figure.
While we have visited many museums on this trip, this museum has been a completely different experience, and exposed us not just to the city’s historical significance, but gave us an insight into the cultural and architectural significance.
A Ray of Hope
Later in the day, we visited the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi, and attempted to feed bread to the seagulls, however the seagulls either were not hungry or it was too chilly for them to come out and socialize. I never realized there was a beach in Mississippi, but I was more distracted by how cold I was.
To end the day off, we took a picture in front of Biloxi lighthouse. The lighthouse was established in 1848 and has become a well-known feature of the city, symbolizing both hope and resilience.
I felt this was an appropriate end to our day on the eve of the weekend before Martin Luther King Day.
The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, The Best of Sculpture Gardens
To kick off day three of our trip, the LEAP students went to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff sculpture garden, where we picked the picked morning to stroll through and look at all of the captivating pieces of art.
This garden sits on 11 acres of land and is filled with a variety of artwork, everything from abstract pieces to figurative ones and all from many different artists with varying artistic style. Just as you enter the garden you cannot miss Henry Moore’s reclining woman and child sculpture standing next to the tall gold sculpture of a woman with a crossbow and arrow.
As we proceeded further along the path we crossed over the Morris G. and Paula L. Maher bridge, which led us to the fascinating escalating brushed stainless-steel sculpture of humans stacked on top of each other. This piece was called “Karma” by Do-Ho Suh, and we all had mixed feelings about this piece; some loved it, like Quinn, and others like me, found it a bit scary to look at.
After a while, it was nice to be able to start recognizing and connecting specific artists to their artwork, now that we have started to become familiar with the artists’ styles. One of the artists featured here was Jesús Moroles, who also has pieces of his work on display at The Wynne Home and at Sam Houston State University back in Huntsville!
My favorite piece in the garden was the life-size blue safety pin created by Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.
This pin is known as the “Corridor Pin,” and it stands at a whopping 21 feet tall. Further into the garden we passed many other interesting sculptures such as an oversized spider and even a Greek sculpture called “Hercules Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle, which tied into our mini theme of recognizing Greek and Roman influences on architecture, art, culture, and government on this trip.
Even though we didn’t get a chance to see every single one of the sculptures in the garden, we still gained a lot of new information to reflect upon in the many other art museums that we are going to visit during this trip.
With that said, there are over 90 sculptures in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff, garden so there is bound to be a sculpture in there for everyone to like, and it’s definitely a place that I will come back to the next time I visit New Orleans!
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Art is a beautiful avenue for understanding other cultures, life experiences, and history. And, to that end, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art displays many artists that highlight African American life, history, and social justice issues, giving patrons insight into the creativity and culture of African-Americans in the south. (Not to mention many other cultures that are represented in the south and in this museum.)
Benny Andrews is an American figurative painter with both African and European Ancestry. Not only is Benny Andrews a talented artist, but he is also a social justice advocate for African American artists. In 1969, Andrews helped to establish the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, which is an organization that was created to advocate for greater representation of African American artists in New York. Additionally, as the director of visual arts for the National Endowment for the Arts, Andrews pushed for opportunities such as fellowships and grants to be awarded to promising African American artists who rarely received recognition for their work.
A perfect representation of civil rights is Benny Andrews’ piece entitled Death of the Crow. This piece depicts an African American man peering down in disbelief at a dead crow in the dirt. With Death of the Crow being created in 1965, the dead crow is symbolic of the end of Jim Crow Laws and the evolution of civil rights in the United States.
The viewer wonders: is the older man satisfied? Is he thinking of what might have been, if only this had occurred earlier? Perhaps the verdant garden setting promises a “new leaf,” a brighter beginning in the realm of race relations and equity. Or is he simply astonished?
The next piece, Born Scared by Mike Hartnett, spoke to the growing concern for African American lives, police brutality, and racism in America. “Born Scared” shows a black and white image of a pregnant woman with the letters BLM written on her stomach.
This image illustrates the fear that black mothers have of bringing their children into a world full of racism and injustice. No matter how hard black mothers try to protect their children from the ills in the world, they know that it is impossible to protect them from everything.
Kara Crowley is an African American artist who uses her art to give reverence to black culture by highlighting social issues. Kara Crowley’s piece, Exertion, portrays a beautiful collage of hands in various hues of brown and tan joined together.
Exertion is the perfect representation of finding beauty in diversity and embracing our differences in skin tone. With colorism being a crippling issue in the black community, Kara Crowley piece effectively demolishes the notion that certain skin tones are better than others and emphasizes that beauty comes in all shades–while also emphasizing that integration is better than segregation.
These three artists gave unique perspectives of African American history, lived experiences, and culture., and this could have served as a complete visit. But there is much more to see at the Museum, from photographs from the civil rights era…
….including at least one photo of Martin Luther King…
…the work of Clementine Hunter…
…and much more!
It is wonderful that the Ogden Museum of Southern Art captures the diverse group of lives, peoples, and cultures reflected in the South.
Lunch at the Auction Market
After exploring art at the beautiful Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the LEAP students headed to the Auction Market for lunch. Inside this market there were different cuisines available, including Indian food from Tava, where we ordered their Tikka Masala Chicken Panini and the Tikka Masala Chicken Rice Bowl, and an Asian cuisine from Asian Licious, where my peers ordered a Louisiana Spicy Roll and a Poke Bowl.
When attending trips through the LEAP Center, students are encouraged to be adventurous in their food selections and to always be open in trying new things. This was my first time trying a dish of Indian cuisine, and the exposure to new and diverse foods is only a gateway to understanding new cultures, traditions, and perspectives, which is what trips like this one are all about.
So Many Exhibits, So Little Time
Next we visited the enormous World War II Museum in the heart of New Orleans. In my 19 years of life and several history courses, I did not realize how uneducated I was about World War II until I confused it with a different war entirely!
World War II began in 1939 and lasted until September of 1945. Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland, prompting an international response that ultimately led to this worldwide conflagration.
The Germans, under the Nazi regime, employed the Blitzkrieg strategy, which translates to “lightning war,” and was a tactic involving tanks and a massive use of air support. This often resulted in a quick victory for Germany; in 1940 Germany successfully overtook Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, and France.
The two sides in the war were the Allies and Axis. The Allied powers consisted of the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. The Axis Powers included Germany, Japan, and Italy. Something that really caught my attention was the harsh practices used by Japan during the war. The Japanese would engage in banzai charges, killing as many as they could before they died. This was due to the Japanese commitment to honor, and their refusal to be taken prisoner.
One of the most compelling stories in the Museum is that of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who hid in an attic throughout the majority of the war to avoid the atrocities of the Holocaust.
I actually had the chance to read her diary entry about D-Day. Her description of it is that of hope, and she wrote in her diary, “Today is the day…I have a feeling friends are approaching.”
Of course, she would not live to see her freedom; her family was discovered and eventually taken to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister would die of typhus before the war’s end.
One of the most significant moments of the war in my opinion was the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that both the bombings approximately killed over 200,000 civilians. It is unimaginable to understand how difficult the decision to use such a lethal and unforgiving force must have been, and it forces one to consider the heavy burden felt by military commanders on all sides, but especially that of President Harry Truman, who made the decision to use the bomb.
This was a great learning experience for me, giving me the chance to learn about the major countries involved, their military leaders…
…their political leaders…
…not to mention a guy named Doris Miller…
…a hero at Pearl Harbor, who was the first African American to win the Navy Cross. Interestingly, he was from Waco, the same home-town as my co-traveler, Ilexus Williams.
After our somber and overwhelming historical visit to the World War II Museum, we took a trip down to the corner of Royal and Press Street, which is the site where Homer Plessy, the civil rights activist most well-known for the Plessy vs Ferguson court case, was arrested for “violating” the 1890 Louisiana Separate Car Act, which separated passengers by race.
On June 07, 1892, Plessy went to the “whites only” section of the train, and when it was discovered that he was of African descent, he was taken out of the train he was aboard. This act of “civil disobedience” was intentional, as Plessy was asked to get himself arrested by a group called the Citizens’ Committee in 1892.
During the trial, Plessy’s lawyer forcefully made the argument that removing him from the train violated his 13th and 14th amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution; however, as we may remember from previous history courses, Plessy lost the case, since Ferguson’s policy of Louisiana having the right to regulate their railroad trains was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. This landmark case marked the first “post ‘reconstruction’” legal challenge to the use of the 14th Amendment, and led to the unfortunate establishment of the “separate but equal” doctrine.
Near this location there is a mural with civil rights related artwork, and amongst them are two of Ruby Bridges, the first African American female to be integrated into a public school. One of these depicts her mother and her along with a newspaper telling her story and the other adapts the iconic image of her walking to school, a tryptic in three separate colors constituting a single mural.
Ruby attended the all-white William Frantz Elementary School at six years old and had to be accompanied by the U.S. Federal Marshalls because of all the threats and negativity she would receive. Interestingly enough, Ruby Brides is very much still alive at the age of 66.
This historical site and murals of crucial figures of the Civil Rights Movement was our last stop of the day, and we all appreciated its historical significance. We also caught a glimpse of a train that would have passed through the same railroad tracks where the train Homer Plessy was aboard would have been. This was a perfect way to end our day. As the sun set, we took in the immense power of the site juxtaposed by the memorialization of the beginning of “separate but equal” and the mural depicting the end of segregation in schools.
With another day completed, we look forward to what lies ahead on the both historical and ever-persisting journey to civil rights and equality.
The Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics has taken students to the last five Presidential Inaugurations. Given recent events in the capital and to travel safely within numerous COVID precautions, this year’s LEAP Center-led trip will focus instead on sites outside of Washington, DC that are politically, artistically, educationally, historically rewarding–especially with regard to civil rights.
Day One: January 12, 2021
Texas’s Downtown Treasures
To start our Inaugural Trip, we visited three small towns on our way through Texas. We focused mainly on the historical and cultural contexts of the downtown areas of Nacogdoches, Marshall, and Jefferson.
Nacogdoches is known as the oldest town in Texas and tourists are drawn to the town because of its unique history. One example we learned about was the story of the Marx Brothers, a comedy team from the early-20th century. Apparently, their comedy career began at the Old Opera House (now the Cole Art Center) in Nacogdoches, when a runaway mule upstaged them, causing the audience to leave mid-performance. When the audience returned, the Marx Brothers spent the remainder of the show insulting the crowd, which resulted in laughter. Thus, their trajectory toward stardom had begun.
The red brick roads in Nacogdoches beautify the city’s downtown area…
…and were a regular sight in the other towns we visited today, including Marshall, Texas. Marshall has a historical legacy as well, being one of the key cites in intellectual property cases in the US. In fact, out of the 93 US Federal Judicial districts, it leads the country in such cases! For a group of five pre-law students, this kind of thing is interesting!
Lastly, we stopped for lunch in Jefferson, at Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue. After lunch, we explored downtown and a general store, which had all sorts of goods including a gift shop, a cafe, and an ice cream parlor. What stuck out to me was their huge variety of flavors of candy and soda fountain drinks.
After visiting all three downtown areas, we noticed how each downtown storefront had its own unique style, which makes that area of a city special and personal. Most towns, for example, have numerous strip malls that dot their interior, with chain stores offering the only shopping to the community. These towns, however, offered various shopping options–none of which were chains, at least in the downtown–and they also stamped the area with their own unique architectural and cultural styles.
The Starr Home
For one of our first historical stops, we visited the Starr Family Home State Historic Site, a state-owned and -operated historic site, where we received a great tour by Joe. The main structure of the site, Maplecroft, was home to Frank and Clara Starr, a wealthy couple living in Texas in the 19th century.
The house was built for the couple by Clara’s parents, and the inside décor – much of it consisting of the original furniture and art – is just as elegant as the architecture itself. This family home was built in the 1870s, and is filled with many portraits, tools, and household items that illuminate the life that once occupied the home.
My favorite part of the home was the east wing where Clara Starr’s mother moved into. In this part of the house, we gained a closer look into the lives of the Starr family and the lifestyle of the time period they lived in.
The European-styled hanging portraits on the walls told stories of the lives of the Starr family, and some, like the ones hanging in the east wing, shed light on the hardships that the family endured, such as losing a child.
The next room we ventured into (which I also greatly enjoyed) was the parlor, where any guests that came to visit would gather. The color scheme in the room consisted of yellows and golds, which seemed to mimic the cheerfulness that would likely take place in that room. I found it intriguing how unique each room was decorated and how they all were painted different colors depending on what was in style at that time.
Another one of the aspects that I found interesting about the Starr Home was that the home was divided, meaning that the workers/staff of the home were kept out of sight from the family and guests as much as possible, which was a common practice during this time. This meant that the staff’s rooms and corridors were separated and unseen in the back portion of the home. The staff even had a separate staircase to use that was less elegant and narrower than the main one.
In a strange way, each room in the Starr Home was calming and inviting, and it was nice to put ourselves into that time period and imagine what it would be like living there. Although this was only one of many exciting stops, I know this home is going to make my “Top 5” list.
Caddo Lake Tour
After leaving Jefferson, we made our way to Uncertain, to tour Caddo Lake., which is a lake and bayou located on the Texas-Louisiana border. The origin of the lake’s name is derived from the Native American Tribe, Caddo, the first inhabitants of the area. We had a great tour guide who was brimming with historical facts about the lake and area. (Many thanks for a great tour, Mr. McFarland!)
(Editor/Professor’s note: Prior to leaving for the trip, the students watched the documentary “Uncertain,” a fine film about the lake and some of its inhabitants. The locals are, at times, presented a bit unfairly, but the story is compelling and the film succeeds in prompting people to learn more about Caddo Lake. Educationally, such pre-trip activities prime the students to learn, a process reinforced by the direct experience, and further reinforced and crystallized upon reflection, as in this blog.)
Caddo Lake is credited with being the only naturally developed lake in Texas, formed as a result of the New Madrid Earthquakes from 1811-1812. Although Caddo Lake is a naturally made body of water, it has been altered to make the transportation of goods more efficient. For instance, Government Ditch was a canal that was created to ship cotton by steamboat from New Orleans, Louisiana to Jefferson, Texas.
Caddo Lake is filled with interesting vegetation. The swamp-like water is home to Bald Cypresses, which are tall canopying trees with wide trunks and branches.
And all are covered in Spanish moss. Their roots, called “knees,” are found extending like spears just above the swampy water to supply the trees with oxygen.
Salvinia is another variety of vegetation that is found at Caddo Lake; however, this plant should really be classified as a pest. Salvinia is an invasive species that doubles in size every seven days. If it is not properly controlled, Salvinia can overtake native vegetation.
Interestingly, Caddo Lake is a hot spot for filming movies, manyof which are horror films!
Some of the movies include The Long Hot Summer, The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Ghost of Cypress Pass and many more!
Not only does Caddo Lake offer amazing scenery, but it is also filled with beautiful wildlife that we were lucky to capture.
We may have traveled to Uncertain, Texas, but we are certain that this tour was breathtaking!
After traveling through Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi just in day one – some of us visiting these states for the very first time – we are eager and excited to see what the rest of our journey has in store!
Postscript: The students also take any targets of opportunity they can. So, in passing by Gibsland, LA, we stopped to see what Google maps calls “the death site of Bonnie and Clyde.” (That’s actually what you type in to get directions). By this time in our travels, it was nighttime, but we did get to see the site and the two markers that commemorate the occasion.
Just before Thanksgiving break, we held our last meeting of the Fall 2020 semester. In spite of the challenges and unprecedented measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pre-Law Society was able to continue its program with safe and innovative activities to engage our members in the law school process.
Following some announcements, the evening’s activity was explained. We were told we were going to simulate a law school admissions committee panel, which would give us an opportunity to see what it was like to be sitting on the other side of the table.
President Quinn Kobrin Tackles the Agenda
We formed small groups – socially distancing of course – and were given five mock students’ applications, which ranged from well-formatted and to many grammatical errors. Some were well-formatted, with strong letters of recommendation; others had spelling or grammatical answers, or did not have compelling personal statements. Once each group read the applications, they ranked them to decide who would be admitted into their law school and why.
All of the attending PLS students seemed to be very interested in this activity and each team had great discussions that both developed their understanding of the admissions process and enhanced their teamworking skills. The exercise led to an organization-wide conversation about what a strong application looks like, and we came to understand why admissions committees make the decisions they make.
Of our activities this year, this and the witness interrogation simulation were some of our most successful. As we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, we hope to improve upon old activities and find new ones that will offer our members a fun and educational introduction to law school and the legal profession.
To wrap up the final meeting of the semester, Professor Yawn announced the following four LEAP scholarship recipients: Jase Brazzil (senior), Kiera Scurry (senior), Jocelyn Aviles (junior) and Ben Breckinridge (junior).
This was a great way to end our Fall semester. Our next meeting is not yet announced but will be at the start of the Spring 2021 semester. We are very excited to see what the new year brings!