Gripped by History

Hi Friends,

My name is Adina Crawford and I am a avid fitness enthusiast, traveler, Yoga teacher, Runner, Triathlete, Ambassador to many groups i.e. Black Girls Run, Zooma, Black Girls Do Bike Shero, HoneyStinger, Nuun, Asweatlife just to name a few, Social Media handler for Girls on the Run Washington DC, Wife, Mother and mentor to many. I would of  never in a million years thought that I would have this opportunity come my way. Recently I was invited to know and visit Montgomery Alabama (I have never been) through the Chamber of Commerce and Black Girls Run. What an experience I had! History! Culture! Food! Relay from Selma to Montgomery! I experienced it all in four days. I am no expert blogger but follow me on my journey of the four days. If you have not discovered Montgomery Alabama after reading my short journey you will be ready to pack your bags for a mini-vacation.

Day One- I arrived early in the morning hours to Montgomery Alabama. I was expecting to see an oversized airport like most cities and to my chagrin this airport was quaint and extremely clean. The distance from the exit of the plane to baggage claim was very short. I had a specific agenda and I was ready to follow it through. After arriving at the beautiful Renaissance hotel in Downtown Montgomery I dropped by bags off and started bumping around the area. I strolled to the Riverfront Park which sits right on the banks of the Alabama River and it was directly across the street from the Renaissance hotel. A quaint park with their county’s historic union station and train shed. Everything was in walking distance to most of all the places I had to visit. I walked over to “The Alley” which is situated in a small alcove of various restaurants from Sushi, Mexican, Fast food and elegant dining. I was in search of a cup of cold brew coffee and I stumbled upon  Equal Justice Initiative cafe, Gift shop and Bookstore. The place was a great place to find out more about the attractions around The legacy Museum and the Peace Memorial and also purchase books, logo items (EJI- Equal Justice Initiative) and grab a cup of coffee, pastry etc. I purchased my cold espresso grabbed a seat and watched the steady flow of tourist funnel in and out. As talkative as I am I saw a few ladies that I thought were locals but turned out to be tourists from Richmond were very delighted to talk to me about what brought them to Montgomery. They were Road Scholars and they heard so much about the Museum they wanted to experience it themselves. I later met a young lady in worked at the Legacy Museum. Her name was Pam (NY native) who was gracious enough after talking with her invited me over to the Legacy Museum to take a gander. I politely accepted. I whizzed through the museum rather quickly because at the same time I was going through I received a call from the hotel that my room was ready. I was tired so I thanked her and said I would be back. I checked into my room and by this time I was hungry as I was getting ready to head out and scout an area to eat I received a call from the front desk that guests from the chamber were in the lobby to meet me. I had no idea what to expect but when I went down two ladies Meghan and Ann from the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce greeted me with a beautiful welcoming package. The recommended a great southern style eatery (meat and three) place for lunch. Ironically as I mentioned before several places are in walking distance. I went to the Cahawba House for lunch. This small southern style eatery was packed. Luckily no waiting time I was seated right away. I was offered the meat and three (this time I needed explanation as to what that was. Simple! A meat option, and three sides.  I strolled back to the hotel which was not far. Each person that I encountered on the street greeted me with a hello which in some places is rare. I was there to soak up all the feels.

By the time the afternoon rolled around I was greeted by Meg Lewis who was our guide for the next four days. Accompanying Meg was freelance writer Shauna Farnell. Both of us were partnered together for the History, Culture, Food and Summit ride Selma to Montgomery. I was ready to become fully cognizant in all the history of what I was about to experience for the next few days. We were  taken to the first stop The Rosa Park Museum the site where she was arrested. This  historic museum is situated in downtown Montgomery  and close proximity to the several hotels. We entered the museum and we took the tour along with a large group of school age children. The museum has a guided interactive activities, a film to bring you back to when it started, book store and a reenactment as to what happened on the bus. This was riveting to see what she and other African Americans experienced. I was fully engrossed and imaging in my mind how horrible this must of have been. The words that immediately come to mind are racial oppression, hate, and cruelty.  It is through her efforts and Dr. Martin Luther King that we have the rights now to VOTE! The tour lasted about one hour and then I took a walk to the bus stop area center of town where she refused to move to the back of the bus. I followed the bus route (visually) to where she was physically arrested. This historic site is a MUST SEE.  I was fortunate to be interview some of the locals and here how things have changed since the boycott. 

We later had to the opportunity try some of the local restaurants within the city. I outlined below the places we went to. Thanks to Meg who picked out fabulous eateries each day. With the selections below you will not be disappointed. 

Day Two- 

A very early start to the day. Breakfast at a small quaint spot that used to be a bank. The authenticity of this building was so cool. The actual bank vault and safety I was semi prepared to visit all the Legacy Museum followed by The Peace Memorial (Lynching memorial). This indeed was a heavy day for me. 

The Legacy Musuem EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) The stereotypes, racial indifferences are all told in this museuem. Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. The building itself was once used to warehouse slaves. I felt my throat tighten up as I entered the door. . I toured the various facts, stories,several movies about incarceration of the youth,  A wall of Jars of soil in which slaves were lynched, Riveting!!! Reading the the timeline journey of when it all started. There was so much to see, read and LEARN. Where I felt the wells of my eyes fill up when I entered the area of the slave pen replicas. These were Men, Women and Children from various places awaiting to be shipped out or sold. These replicas were voices were horrid. to imagine the angst,pain and suffering these people felt. The dehumanization of African Americans in any form drowning, burned alive or lynched was enough to make you sick to the core of your stomach. I do understand it is our history and I am glad it being told. Then there was the ” NO BLACKS allowed” wall. Shameful to say the least.  i.e. Imperial laundry-we wash for white people only. There were so many more that were just awful. I could go on for hours but I want you to go and see this amazing history.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice-. This  beautiful memorial sits on a six acre lot overlooking the Alabama State Capitol.The memorial is POWERFUL and MOVING. Me telling the story is just small snippets but this is a place to visualize, think, touch and feel the emotions. As I walked the sprawling property in a fashion that I was directed to. This was  in order to capture all the information in chronological order. This memorial recognizes victims of lynching, murder, drowning, burned alive etc. FINALLY! a place that can tell the story. There are hundred’s weathered steel columns that hang from a roof which symbolizes the lynching victims from various states. In one of the weathered columns Mississippi had two-hundred and twenty nine lynchings in one year.  I am sure there were plenty more but that is what caught my eye. As I continued to walk through there was a wall of the reasons for the lynching and one that stuck in my head “He scared me” so this young African American man was lynched. The reasons, and causes were completely unjustifiable. There is so much to read, see and envelop your mind in this memorial. A TRUE MUST SEE for EVERY American. When I left my heart was heavy but thankful that there was thought to put this astonishing memorial on display for everyone. We then were taken to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Let the uplifting begin!!!

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church-  This historic church is adjacent to the Alabama Capitol. Dr. Martin Luther King was was the pastor of this church from 1954-1960. The tour consisted of a short film about the boycott era,  a visit to the church office of Dr. King. (NO PHOTOGRAPHS) A view of some of the  historic photos of his family all neatly adorned on the wall. Ms. Wanda our lovely tour guide gave all the history information. We were quickly shutter to the main sanctuary of the church where Dr. King preached the good word. We ended our tour with Ms. Wanda saying “How Long—Not Long” gripping the arms or hands of the folks standing next to us we sung a hymn and hugged one another. Sadly, I missed the dedication special service that was scheduled for that Sunday honoring Mrs. Althea Thomas who is still playing the organ. She was hired by Dr. Martin Luther King. What an uplifting moment during this tour. 

The day certainly ended on an upbeat note after absorbing all the atrocities that took place of African Americans I needed a moment to regroup and recenter myself. 

Packet Pick up- Selma t o Montgomery Cycle/Run- The day continues we are taken back to the hotel where we would meet the founders and organizers of the Civil Rights Series (Selma to Montgomery) The room had various vendors. It was certainly nice to see the representation of Black Girls Run, Black Men Run, Black Girls to Bike  and other groups representing strong and were ready to take part in this historic ride and/or run. The packet process was seamless the staff very friendly and as we were exiting several participants were entering to pick up their packets. We moved over to the  Meet and Greet which was directly across the street from the hotel at the Shed. No need to drive if your in one of the two-three hotels in the area. This was a well-planned event. Seeing Sole Sistah’s meet up with Sistah’s from other states, the hugs, laughs and conversations were all so heartwarming. The presence of the , the local politicians, the government officials all present and fully engaged in conversations with all. Photographers, and reports were all on hand to meet, snap and chat with the attendees. The WJR Club had food for all that was participating which was a bonus to several folks. The two highlights of the evening were County Official Tracy Larkin get up and speak and really talk about the race, the struggle and where we are now. The other highlight was Sheyann Webb- Christburg was know to Dr. Martin Luther King as the “youngest” freedom fighter during the first attempt at the Selma to Montgomery march. I was extremely fortunate to interview her about her role in the Selma to Montgomery march. See the interview @Mrsgoody2shoes53 on IG. She told the audience her story and at the end she received a standing ovation and a plaque for her continous and courageous fight on as a civil rights activist. 

It was a LONNNNGGG day but all the information pouring into me and me listening, learning and asking questions was WELL WORTH IT!!!

Day Three- THE RACE- Selma to Montgomery- Early 530am pick up  from Meg to shuttle me to Selma Alabama to start the first leg of the race (running). Arriving onsite to the start of the race was a site to see. The cyclist and runners gearing up for the whole trek of 51 miles or participating in the relay  (like most races) but this was special. It is historic and part of the Civil Rights Series. (http://www.selmatomontgomeryrelay.com) I was able to see the Edmund Pettus bridge with my very own eyes and just for a moment I fluttered my eyes closed and imagined on March 7, 1965 (I was barely a year old) FIRST ATTEMPT- 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma.  Looking at the faces of participants some in sorrow, glee and gratefulness were all what I saw. I found various people to interview whether first time or new to the ride or run it was an elightening experience had by all. Our ancestors sacrificed, died to do what was right. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Peace requires bravery. The race started off with great music blasting and getting folks wound up to do the Damn Thing!!! 

My Leg- I was part of the first leg ( My role was also to evaluate the race) The race parameters are twelve hours, with that being said I will say if you are a walker there will be no way for you to finish the entire fifty-one miles  within the allotted time frame of twelve-hours. The race outline mentions this and they discourage walking for your own safety. The relay exchange is the way to go and if your feeling spry run the whole fifty one miles. The roads are inclined, hilly and a bit lonely on Rte 80 which stretches from Selma to Mississippi. The road is shared with normal traffic so i t is important to abide by the road laws. Relays are the way to go for the run and this is just my opinion not to discourage walkers but it’s a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG stretch to walk within the alotted time frame. After completing the semi first leg I was picked up by one of the founders Vergil Chames so that I can interview cyclist or runners on the route. The individuals I did talk to see to be doing quite well on the bike. I did see consistent steady flow of cyclists and runners on the road. Scattered aid stations with snacks.  I went to Leg #9 and ran from that location to the capitol. I felt less isolated and more comforted that I was in a busy area than on a lonely road whee it’s just you and the pavement.  Before signing up for the race read all the race details to ensure it’s a fit for you. Bonus the medal is EVERYTHING!!!!!

My Review of the race- If this is on your bucket list DO IT!! GRAB a buddy or friend  and run, jog together to the relay exchange. Be along this historic route as s Dr. King and all the rest of our ancestors did. I will say it was organized, police presence, small cones in the road. I think alot more participation would come along with more sponsors, frequent aid stops, cheer station somewhere along the route. 

Day four- Meg, Shaunna and I got to recap about our overall trip to this historic city. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to experience the journey. Thank you Black Girls Run, MCMcapitalcool and Meg for allowing me to share this trip. Thank you WRJClub for putting together the historic race enjoyed by many. EJI for managing to commit to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S.

INTERVIEWS: There were several participants from every level. New Cyclists, New Runners and returning participants. 

I interviewed two  ladies that participated in either the Cycle or the Run Relay. They all possess varied skill levels. . Both ladies are  members of Black Girls Run. 

Andrea B- Black Girls Run Raleigh/ First year participant  

Distance- First Ultra long distance relay

What Andrea  enjoyed  about the race- Andrea was able to feel good that she was on the route that Dr. King and many brave Americans walked and endured the unsafe conditions for equal rights for all. Sheyann Webb-Christberg the youngest marcher on bloody Sunday was one of the speakers at the Friday meetup pre-race fellowship and dinner. The story Sheyann told sparked the reality of how thankful we should be with the opportunities and rights  that we often take for granted.  To participate in this race was a time for Andrea to bond with  her team and cheer for all the other teams.

In an effort to draw more participants to keep this historic momentum going Andrea suggested, Partnerships with larger national running groups i.e. Black Girls Run, Black Men Run and a few corporate sponsors. Having  exposure in print and radio such as Essence, Ebony, Runner’s World and the Urban View channel (XM radio channel 126) the Karen Hunter Show is my fav and she does “wellness Wednesday’s “ about taking care of your mind and body. This race would be perfect to feature. 

Of course we want all races to do well but we know that there is always something that is not always the case. I asked Andrea what would be some areas of improvement.  Start on time, signage for highway drivers to please keep to the left (there were NO signs by my leg, 6 to the end of the course). Have mile markers along the entire route with civil rights, Selma/Montgomery fun facts.  

Melissa G-  Black Girls Run- Huntsville/ a second year participant  (Relay team captain). 
 
When I asked Melissa what she liked about the race she said “She liked the camraderie  that is shared by the fellow racers.  She also appreciate the race directors providing a pre-race dinner and post-race dinner.  It allows for more time to fellowship with your team and other race participants.  
 
In an effort to draw more race participants Melissa said ” it would be nice to have a food vendor at one of the exchange points that is midways through the race”.  My teammates really enjoyed the Legacy Museum.  Maybe the race directors can incorporate this into the weekend events in some fashion.  Also, send out email reminders to all previous race participants regarding their upcoming races.   
 
Interview with Vergil Chames: 
 
I had the fortunate opportunity to sit and interview Vergil (one of the founders of Civil Rights Series) during the race and he provided a broader insight not only on the race but about Selma.   I think some of these questions the readers certainly would like to know. 
 
 Vergil when did the Civil Rights Series start?-  
The Civil Rights Race Series started in March of 2018 with our inaugural race The Selma to Montgomery 51 mile Relay. 
What prompted the founders to start a trail series?
The club wanted to host a race but had not developed the right concept. At a club meeting the idea of crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge via a running event was brought up. The idea was cultivated into a relay event.  This 51 mile Relay event was followed by another Civil Rights Commemorative Run in Anniston. The success of both event led the founders to believe the development of a Civil Rights commemorative race series was a natural evolution and a key differentiator from any other race nationally. 
Who are the founders of the group?
The founders are Mary Gooden, Raynard Lawler, Patrick Towns, David Mahaffey, and Vergil Chames
 
What did you learn from this race that was different from last year? 
This year’s race was more about the race experience. We found that our supporters appreciate the destination just as much as the run/ride itself. The pieces we put together the first year be happenstance are the pillars on which our participants cherish and look forward to. Our focus must be on the further development/refinement of the race weekend experience. We must tell the story through intentional activities from start to finish. 
Selma to Montgomery is Fifty-one miles. For those participants that want to be a part of this historic trail run and they are walkers what do you suggest?
Although this is a relay event potential teams must be cognizant of the 12 hour maximum time to complete the event. Walking is permitted but walking for an extended period of time may result in exceeding the 12 hour threshold and may result in disqualification. 
 
Alot of people have expressed interest in participating in 2019 what advise would you share with our readers?
First time participants should train for the distance. They should hydrate properly and get to know the route in advance. Participants should also take advantage of the scheduled events. Our event is a history lesson so get involved and get to know this integral component of American History. 
 
Where do you see this race particularly in five years? 
 
In five years the founders envision the Civil Rights Race Series will become a major national race series. Hosting events through out the country, touching thousands of participants annually. 
 

Takeaways- Montgomery is family friendly, 1st and foremost  you will get a Civil Rights history experience, bike friendly( roads are not clearly defined  bike lanes), walking to various historic sites are easy, fitness friendly, lots of food options, great trail run Appreciation for the arts, Regional Theatre and the location, easy access (15 minutes) to downtown from the MCM Airport)

Fact*Selma to Montgomery historic trail route is along the route to the airport.

Places that I visited and enjoyed:

Links to Historic Landmarks:

The Rosa Parks Museum-The museum upholds the accomplishments of individuals associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It includes a permanent exhibit, a time machine, temporary exhibit, archives, classroom, auditorium and conference room. https://troy.edu/rosaparks/

The Legacy Museum-From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is situated on a site in Montgomery where enslaved people were once warehoused. A block from one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America, the Legacy Museum is steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where tens of thousands of black people were trafficked during the 19th century. https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/museum

The Peace Memorial/Lynching Museum-The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened to the public on April 26, 2018, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/memorial

The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church-This National Historic Landmark contains the pulpit from which Martin Luther King Jr. first preached his message of hope and brotherhood. www.dexterkingmemorial.org  

Websites:

Eats: http://vymgm.com/ The waitress Jennifer Brookshire (is SUPERB)

http://vintagecafemgm.com- GREAT breakfast options (fresh, natural and tasty)

http://www.capitoloysterbar.com/ If you love seafood and love to be amongst the locals chose this spot.

https://www.central129coosa.com/Amazing options for dinner. A very cool spot with amazing cocktails and desserts

http://burritolounge.com/- Homey and down to earth Tex-Mex spot in a beautiful neighborhood of Cloverdale.

The organization that I belong to and in part made this trip possible. Black Girls Run (women only). Interested in joining the movement?  See the link below.

https://blackgirlsrun.com/

Coming Soon to Montgomery: 

December 14, 2019- Major Collaboration with MCM open house for all the historic sites

Alabama will be celebrating thr 200th anniversary in December for Montgomery

Son of the South- Next Spike Lee movie filmed in Montgomery Alabama

Thank you Black Girls Run and Montgomery Capital Cool for allowing me to experience this journey. 




Jay Ell Alexander
Jay Ell Alexander

Author



6 Responses

Danish Khan
Danish Khan

May 06, 2019

Love the article and an introduction for me about this must do race! Keep blogging, keep running 🏃🏾‍♀️ We as a company are also helping women ease their running lifestyle through headbands and wrist bands with pockets to ease their lifestyle. You are always welcome to have a review at
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Thanks again for the article

Grace Kiyonaga
Grace Kiyonaga

April 30, 2019

Congratulations, Adina! An amazing experience and I look forward to reading more about your journey! Thank you for sharing.

Monica
Monica

April 27, 2019

Congrats Adina! You are always finding new adventures and you gave some great descriptors of Montgomery, AL. I have never been, but it sounds like a great place to visit. I won’t try a 51 mile race (unless my leg of the relay is 1 mile and you do the rest…hahaha), but the museums and connection to civil rights is extremely appealing. Thanks for sharing.

Suzanna Valentine
Suzanna Valentine

April 20, 2019

Congratulations Adina! What an amazing read of your iconic journey from Selma to Montgomery via the relay run team. Your blog highlights very important historical facts that should be shared with all. Keep going, keeping learning, keep inspiring!! 🏃🏽‍♀️✍️🇺🇸☯️🏅

VMoore
VMoore

April 16, 2019

Wow Adina! Reading this blog, I felt like I was there! Thanks for a well informed blog and an introduction for me about this must do race!
Keep blogging, keep running 🏃🏾‍♀️

Jeannette
Jeannette

April 15, 2019

Wow!! Amazing experience. So proud of you Adina, God Bless You, And keep on the you amazing path ✌🏽☮️😍💫🏃🏽‍♀️🧘🏽‍♀️🙏🏽

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