Re-tracing Martin Luther King’s footsteps

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The U.S. Embassy has announced that two teenagers from Portstewart are among ten UK students who will fly to the United States this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Coleraine High School’s Lara Millar and Ramel Flores, who attends Dominican College in Portstewart, will explore the history and legacy of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement while visiting Washington, DC, Huntsville, Birmingham, Alabama and New York.

The students fly to Washington from London on August 16 and will learn about African-American history and discover the social and political contexts of the Civil Rights Movement.

They will also explore the legacy of the movement and learn how other sections of American society (for example, disability and LGBT campaigners), inspired by Civil Rights activism, have continued to campaign for social change.

Upper sixth student, Lara (17), who lives in Portstewart and is studying History, Politics and Georgraphy at A-Level, said: “I’ve been interested in politics for the last couple of years so it will be really good to learn all about the Civil Rights Movement.

“I’m just really excited that I’ll be meeting congressmen and state officials and talking to them about issues such as racism and bring that experience back home.”

During the 15-day trip the group will experience the broad dimensions of U.S. political life, society, and culture, and gain a thorough understanding of the basics of the American political system, the electoral process, and the role of the media, civil society and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

They will also learn about organisations that promote young people’s and minority participation in the political process.

Beyond the basics, students will get practical experience by visiting key historical sites, for example, attending the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama - the target of a racially motivated bombing in 1963.

They will also learn about the continuing importance of race in 21st century U.S. politics through discussions with influential groups such as the National Conference of Black Mayors.

As 2014 is an election year in America, they will get a chance to participate in electoral events, look at citizen participation at the local level, and observe the connections between the politics and the people.

Furthermore, the students will get to learn about civic engagement and activism, and get a chance to visit other university campuses and high schools to network with students involved in activism and student government, and politically involved student groups.

The programme will highlight geographic, socio-economic, and cultural diversity through interaction with Americans of all ages and, particularly, with other students so that they may share information and learn from each other.