Commemorating Northern Ireland Civil Rights

$2,270 of $4,000 goal

Raised by 36 people in 3 months
"Nonviolence is noncooperation with evil. Nonviolence examines history and the human condition; it dissects issues, speaks truth to power, and develops a strategy to arrive at humane solutions, including policies. Nonviolence is active and courageous." ~ Martin L. King, Jr.

This year will mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 People's Democracy March from Belfast to Derry, in Northern Ireland.

Follow me on my next Walk to Freedom journey, to Northern Ireland, in April, as the Amherst Irish Association’s 2018 Margaret Maher Award recipient.

 In Ulster, I will be:

●     Commemorating the 1969 People's Democracy March by retracing the steps of the original Civil Rights marchers from Belfast to Derry, about 114 km (70 miles)

●     Reflecting on how the People's Democracy March was modeled on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Right to Vote March led by Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. 

●     Learning how this march galvanized the political "Troubles" of Northern Ireland when peaceful civil rights protesters were ambushed and attacked by Ulster loyalist mobs and part-time B-Specials with rocks, wooden cudgels, iron bars, and bottles as they neared the Burntollett Bridge outside of Londonderry. 

●     Talking to people born before and after the “Troubles” to learn about their concerns for peace today.

With the winds of time at our back, we know the Civil Rights struggle for nonviolence lost out to the more militant voices heard across Northern Ireland. While retracing the original march route, I hope to learn why Truth and Reconciliation after 30 years is in peril today as the Brexit deadline nears.

To accomplish this undertaking, I am asking friends who are interested in learning more about the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, at a critical 50 year mark in time, through my Walk to Freedom journey, to consider donating $50, $100, or more to help me reach my goal of raising $4,000 to cover necessary camping and hiking equipment, hotel rooms for when sleeping outdoors is not possible, meals, recording equipment, and communication and transportation expenses. The Amherst Irish Association is providing airfare.

The walk will start in Belfast on April 10, the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and include stops in Antrim, Randalstown, Hillhead, Toome, Gulladuff, Brackagh, Glen Shane, Dungiven, Feeney, Claudy, Burntollet Bridge, Altnagelvin, Irish Street, Spencer Road, Crossing of Foyle River, and conclude at Free Derry.

Lastly, I look forward to learning about Ireland's myths, legends, and stories of its magnificent culture.
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A day after arriving in Derry a riot broke out and sadly a journalist covering the mayhem was killed reporting on the incident. A few have asked if I was okay. I am safe and had left Derry for the Republic of Ireland a day before the riots.

I decided to leave the tense North to begin the the second leg of my Walk to Freedom journey. It was a remembrance walk dedicated to the victims of the 1847 Famine here in Ireland. I walked 24 miles in 11 hours from Louisburgh to the Delphi Lodge in County Mayo retracing the Doolough Valley Famine Trail. It was grueling but deeply meaningful.
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Last night several members of a local farming community, outside the town of Maghera, met me at the Brackaghreilly Community Hall about 28 miles from Derry. They opened the hall to allow me to stay for the night because of it’s historical significance to the March.

On the third night of the Belfast to Derry Civil Rights March the marchers were turned away from entering Maghera by Protestant Unionists who threatened violence. Catholic supporters of the march transported up to 200 marchers to Brackaghreilly where they stayed for the night.

I’m grateful to have had a roof over my head last night. Camping the past two nights have been cold and extremely windy. I sleep with all my clothes and jackets on and remain cocooned like in my sleeping bag.
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A very nice story was published yesterday about my upcoming peace walk in the national online publication, Irish Central. And the story has already received 130 shares. Here's a link to the story. https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/belfast-to-derry-selma-to-montgomery-trail-civil-rights-movement-similarities
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"Dia dhuit a chara" (Hello, my friend)

That was the opening message I received today from my Irish language teacher, Chip Costello. I wrote him to say thank you for his going away gift. At the end of class last night, Chip presented me with a gift he knew I would need. An Irish/English pocket dictionary.

Receiving messages in another language always scares me - because its foreign. Like many Americans, I wish I had been exposed to more languages as a child so I could talk to more people outside of my own community of English speakers.

I sort of freak out, take a breath, and then begin the process of decoding the message using online translators. I was never a strong language learner growing up in either English or later French in high school. I have an auditory processing issue that scrambles the sounds I hear making it difficult for me to decode unfamiliar languages. Its been a very frustrating disability to live with at different points in my life and I've given up at times, but I've always keep trying even if it's sort of fragmented.

Chip is a very kind and dear instructor. He cares very much about all his students regardless other their language abilities and opened his class up to me even as a beginner, who signed up one week after the start. Many of the other students in the class have been taking Gaeilge for at least year, and have been encouraged to continue learning the language after traveling to Ireland.

Truthfully, I haven't been a very good student, and I'm glad its a non-credit course without tests and quizzes. Due to work and preparation for my trip (sounds like excuses to me) I haven't kept up with my homework assignments.

How is a teacher supposed to help a student that doesn't prepare for class?

I explained to "mo mhúinteoir" (my teacher) that my goal was to become familiar with the sound of the language and hopefully be able to order from a menu. With just eight weeks of class time under my belt, or 14 hours, I delighted it's beginning to make sense. With notes in front of me, I can sort of construct a sentence in Gaeilge out loud.

In "mo mhúinteoir" message to me today he went on to say:

"Bain súp as do thuras! Tabhair dúinn an scéal iomlán nuair atá tú ar ais. Go n-éirí an bóthar leat. Le gach deá-ghuí, Chip." Which translates to: "I hope you enjoy your trip. Give us the full story when you return. Good luck on the road. Best wishes, Chip."

I'm looking forward to seeing how my enthusiasm will soar for the language after I return from Ireland.
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$2,270 of $4,000 goal

Raised by 36 people in 3 months
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