Monthly Archives: December 2008

A letter from Carlos A. Moreno

If you haven’t already heard the news or seen it through out the Bay Area, ten university students, including myself from San Jose State University, will be going on a ten day journalism project covering historic civil rights landmarks in the southern states of the U.S. starting from Memphis, Tenn. all the way to Washington D.C. to cover President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration (which ties into the coverage as a historic triumph for the African-American community and all Americans).

We have raised a large amount of money thanks to self-financing, multiple self-fundraising efforts by the students, SJSU professors, and by corporate sponsers which have donated not just cash but video and camera equipment for us to use on the trip. Multiple media outlets will be involved in ensuring that we will arrive there with all the needed essentials to collaborate coverage with them on this very important day, among them are The San Jose Mercury News, USA Today, CNN and more. We will be featured as “labtop correspondents” showcasing our coverage from the Deep South and D.C. with multimedia work, photographs and writing articles for The Spartan Daily (SJSU’s school newsaper) and the media outlets mentioned above.

Students each need to raise for the winter season at least $300-500 dollars in order for us to pay the costs for vans to caravan across the country. If you can donate something to this cause we would all greatly appreciate it – I know these are hard economic times, but we would like to let you know that this is for a good cause and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for empowering student voices, not only at SJSU, but through out all journalism programs in the country.

The group needs financial donations, but will also accept frequent flier miles, equipment, and vouchers for hotels. Contact: Amy Freitag at SJSU’s School of Journalism, 408-924-3241.

OR you can send your donation by mail at:
School of Journalism & Mass Communications
Amy Freitag – Office
San José State University
One Washington Square
San José, CA 95192-0055
Phone: 408-924-3240 / Fax: 408-924-3229

*All checks should be made out to the SJSU Research Foundation and given to Amy no later than Monday, January 5, 2009. If you could at least provide a minimum donation of $5-10 it would be greatly appreciated.

San Jose Mercury News –

CBS 5 Bay Area –

If you have any more questions about this trip or where your money will go for this trip contact Dr. Michael Cheers, SJSU photojournalism professor and head coordinator of the trip at 408-391-5343 and at

Thanks for your contributions.

– Carlos A. Moreno


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San Jose Mercury News article on the trip

Dana Hull – Mercury News
Dec. 9, 2008

For college senior Justin Allegri, the civil rights movement is a sepia-toned jumble of historic places, people and events that forced a reluctant America onto the long road toward electing its first black president last month.

Selma and Montgomery. The Tallahatchie River and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till. A sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. The Ku Klux Klan bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls.

Now Allegri, a broadcast journalism student at San Jose State University, and nine other students are preparing for a rare road trip back through some of the bloodiest and most intense corners of America’s racial and political history. But this journey, through key civil rights landmarks in the American South, will culminate in Washington, D.C., with the group joining a throng of millions celebrating Barack Obama’s historic inauguration Jan. 20.

“All I know of civil rights is what I’ve read in books and seen in video clips,” said Allegri, who grew up in Santa Cruz and has never been to the Deep South. “But this way I’ll be meeting people who were actually there.”

San Jose State’s journalism professors Michael Cheers and Bob Rucker, both African-American, are leading an ethnically diverse group. The journalism students had to write an essay detailing their understanding of civil rights history as part of the application process, and the professors selected students who have a strong command of multimedia technology.Throughout the trip, the students will meet with and interview local residents who were part of the dramatic events as they unfolded. The students will blog, write stories, shoot photographs and video and edit multimedia packages as part of a special independent study project through San Jose State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The group is now feverishly racing against the clock to raise about $25,000 to cover the cost of plane tickets, a rental van, and inexpensive hotel rooms. The students and the two professors hope to fly to Memphis for the start of the road trip on Jan. 10.

“The morning after the election, I saw how energized and moved the students were by the historic night,” Cheers said. “By midday, the idea of the trip just came to me.”

Cheers’ grandfather was denied admission to the University of Mississippi 30 years before James Meredith integrated “Ole Miss” in 1962. As a teacher in Mississippi before coming to San Jose State, Cheers has been to several of the civil rights landmarks numerous times.

He planned the trip to begin in Memphis, Tenn., at the Lorraine Motel, the site of King’s assassination in 1968 and part of today’s National Civil Rights Museum. Because King was killed 44 years ago, the slogan of the road trip is “44 Years to the 44th President: Connecting Our Civil Rights Past with America’s Historic Future.”

From Memphis, in one large van, the group will drive through the Mississippi Delta and stop at the Tallahatchie River, where 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Photographs of his mutilated body, first published in Jet magazine, haunted and inspired an entire generation of civil rights activists.

Other stops on the road trip will include a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where armed officers attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators in 1965. The group will also visit Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, and the original Woolworth’s whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where college students launched the first sit-ins.

After 10 days on the road, hours in a cramped van and more than 1,200 miles, the group will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19. They will earn three academic credits for the trip, which will count as an independent study program. They plan to fly back to San Jose on Jan. 21.

“I’m most interested in meeting people in the South and getting their take on the past, the present and the future,” said Derek Sijder, 25, a photojournalism major from Los Angeles who has never been to the South. His only time in D.C. was on an eighth-grade field trip. This time, he says, it will be a more profound experience.

“I didn’t vote in the last election, but I voted this time,” Sijder said. “I heard there are going to be about 3 million people there. It was a watershed event when Obama was elected in November. But to be there when it’s made official — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Throughout his nearly two-year campaign toward that presidency, Obama always made it clear that his improbable political career — as the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya — was only possible in America. And he regularly thanked the men and women of the civil rights movement, whose willingness to march, protest, withstand beatings and even die made his success possible. “I’m here because you all sacrificed for me,” he said in 2007. “I stand on the shoulders of giants.”

A journey through civil rights history that is topped off with the historical inauguration will be special in so many ways.

“I have never been to the South in my entire life, I’ve never been to an inauguration, and this election was the first one I could even vote in,” said Nick Dovedot, 21. “I was trying to figure out a way to get to D.C. on my own, but this is the best idea by far. It’s going to be magnificent. I may not experience this type of exhilaration again in my lifetime.”

Time is short: The students and professors have less than six weeks to raise money, and are holding car washes and bake sales to generate desperately needed funds and attention.

“There’s not a lot of money flowing around this place,” said Bill Briggs, director of San Jose State’s journalism school. “When an opportunity like this comes along we’d love to be able to say, ‘Do it, and we can foot the bill.’ But we can’t.”

Briggs supports the trip because he has strong memories of attending the March on Washington in 1963 as a high school student. The Mall was so crowded that he couldn’t see or hear King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and he ended up sleeping in a church basement with dozens of other teenagers.

“I had never seen so many black people in my life,” said Briggs, who grew up in San Mateo. “I had never felt that kind of energy. Everything about it was overwhelming. It made an indelible impression on me for the rest of my life.”

In many ways, Obama’s inauguration will be this generation’s March on Washington. Experiencing the day in person will far surpass any learning that would take place in the classroom. At the same time, the pioneers of the civil rights movement are aging and dying — and this might be the last chance for San Jose State students to talk to those who began blazing the trail for Obama in the 1950s and ’60s. Obama’s inauguration is historic by any nature; arriving in Washington via the Deep South will make it all hit home.

“In 2012 or 2016 we might elect more black people to high public office, but this is the first time,” said Briggs of the presidency. “I want our students to be able to participate in this piece of history. It ain’t gonna come around again. We have to seize the moment.”

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Tentative trip schedule

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (subject to changes)

Saturday, January 10 – depart S.J. for Memphis, TN. Tour Beale Street. Overnight Memphis.

Sunday, January 11 – AM Church services; PM visit to the National Civil Rights Museum; Depart 3pm for Jackson, Mississippi. Drive through the destitute towns Tunica, Tutwiler, Marks and Clarksdale along the Mississippi Delta. We’ll stop along the Tallahatchie River to reflect on Emmitt Till, who was killed by whites in August 1955. Arrive 10pm Jackson, MS. Overnight Jackson, MS. Four hour drive.

Monday, January 12 – Interview Ronnie Agnew, Executive Editor, Jackson Clarion Ledger. Agnew is the only African American editor at a major daily newspaper in Mississippi. Depart Jackson for Philadelphia, MS (Neshoba County) 87 miles (two hour drive) and view the area where the KKK killed the three civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who died registering black voters. Drive three hours to Selma, Alabama. Overnight Selma, AL.

Tuesday, January 13 – AM walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Meet and interview locals that were part of “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965. Walk a portion of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Trail. Visit the roadside memorial of Viola Liuzzo, a white housewife from Detroit, who had traveled to Alabama to fight for the rights of blacks to vote, and was shot and killed by the KKK on March 25, 1965. PM arrive in Montgomery and tour Southern Poverty Law Center and interview director Morris Dees, concerning the spike in Hate Crimes since the election. Evening two hour drive to Birmingham. Overnight Birmingham, AL.

Wednesday, January 14 – visit Birmingham Civil Rights District aka ground-zero for the Civil Rights Movement. The area includes the landmark 16th Street Baptist Church. The KKK bombed the church on Sunday morning, September 15, 1963 killing four girls. Interview with church pastor and members. Interview editors at Birmingham News. Overnight Birmingham, AL.

Thursday, January 15 – AM departure for Atlanta. Three hour drive. Early afternoon tour of Martin Luther Center. Interview Christine King Farris, sister of MLK, Jr. Meet with Morehouse (Dr. King’s Alma Mater) and Spelman College students. Overnight Atlanta, GA.

Friday, January 16 – AM Tour CNN headquarters and interviews with Hank Kilbanoff, managing editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and co-author of Race Beat, and Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor. Ms. Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for Commentary. PM departure for Greensboro, NC. Five hour drive. Overnight Greensboro, N.C.

Saturday, January 17 – AM tour of Historical Museum, site of Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins by four North Carolina A&T State University students. Interview
with local newspaper editors and visit NCA&T campus. Overnight Greensboro, N.C.

Sunday, January 18 – Church services and afternoon departure for Washington, D.C. Five hour drive. Overnight D.C/Virginia/Maryland area.
Monday, January 19 – tour Newseum and partake in pre-Inaugural activities. Conduct interviews. Overnight D.C/Virginia/Maryland area.
Tuesday, January 20 – AM assemble on the Mall for the Inauguration of Barack Obama

Wednesday, January 21 – AIR departure to San Jose, CA or late flight on January 20.

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Welcome to the blog

This blog will be a place for San Jose State Journalism and Mass Communications students to chronicle their trip through the American South en route to Washington D.C. and Barack Obama’s historic inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.

Students are free to post any writings or multimedia segments from the trip on this blog.

Other members of the media, or interested persons, can view this page and its submissions. The uploading and deleting of content, however, will be the sole task of the students and professors participating in these events, as well as myself.

Thank you.

– Mark Powell, webmaster

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