Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, of Youngstown, Ohio. Our organization, which currently participates in conjunction with of founding Director Jeff Steinberg, takes High School students on a leadership development, life changing, history immersion journey to the Civil Rights sites of the South. Our student leaders, meet the “foot soldiers” of the Movement and learn the lessons of social and racial justice, nonviolence, civic responsibility, hope compassion and tolerance.
Our student leaders learn to “NEVER BE A SILENT WITNESS” with the goal of aiding the next generation in incorporating each of these lessons into their daily lives and become ambassadors of nonviolence and leaders for social and racial justice in their homes, schools and community. Students travel to Atlanta, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Meridian and Hattiesburg (Mississippi), Jackson, Little Rock and Memphis, and they meet many of the people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement such as:
- Jo Ann Bland, who participated in “Bloody Sunday” at age 12
- Sarah Collins, who lost much of her eyesight and lost her sister in the bombing of the 16th St. Baptists Church in Selma, Alabama
- Investigative reporter, Jerry Mitchell
- Daughter of James Chaney, who was murdered during Freedom Summer in 1964
- Reena Evers, daughter of Medgar Evers who was the head of the NAACP in Mississippi and was assassinated by a Klans member
- The McNair family, the remaining relatives of one of the four little girls killed by the Klan in the church bombing in Birmingham
- Elizabeth Eckford and Minnijean Brown Trickey of the Little Rock Nine.
They learn the lessons of the Movement such as:
- Civic responsibility
- Not being a silent witness
Jeff Steinberg, creator and director of Sojourn to the Past, visits Youngstown high schools to speak to students about the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and the week long Civil Rights journey called Sojourn to the Past. Students are then able to fill out an application to participate in the week long experience. In order to be considered for the journey, they must write a 300 word essay explaining why they want to participate and what they are willing to do when they return to Youngstown. Students are selected based on their essay as well as teacher and principal recommendations. Students must be willing to attend weekly sessions to read and discuss Congressman John Lewis’s book, Walking With the Wind, and to work on fundraising. Students represent each of the three Youngstown high schools.
You can view executive summary of Sojourn to the Past by clicking this link: Sojourn-to-the-Past-Executive-Summary-1011-1
Students from other school districts as well as adults are welcome to join the Youngstown group. Students have participated from Howland, Columbiana, Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney.
Youngstown Sojourn students meet weekly for several months before taking the journey to help with fund raising and to prepare for the trip. They read Congressman John Lewis’s book, Walking With the Wind, and answer study guide questions. In the spring, students fly to Atlanta where they meet Jeff Steinberg, creator and director of Sojourn to the Past, as well as many students from California high schools. This is a working journey for the students. They have lessons before meeting any speakers or going to any historical sites, and they have homework daily such as articles to read, questions to answer, letters to write to speakers, and a journal to keep. In Atlanta, they have workshops on the principles of nonviolence and institutionalized racism. They learn that during the Civil Rights Movement, people were willing to suffer, even die trying to gain equal rights.
Students are constantly asked, “What are you willing to put your life on the line for? How are you going to make a difference when you go home?”
In Memphis, students meet as a school system to develop an action plan to implement when they return home. Youngstown Sojourn students’ action plans included:
- In 2007 and 2008, Youngstown sojourn students registered over 500 high school students to vote and provided voter education since many died in the South just trying to register to vote.
- In 2009, the students registered over 300 high school students to vote, designed a nonviolence week for Youngstown schools, wrote a nonviolence workshop, created nonviolence work walls, wrote PA announcements focusing on a principle of nonviolence and highlighting a person who exemplified that principle, designed nonviolence t-shirts for students to wear during the week selling over 1700, distributed large posters of the principles of nonviolence for principals to hang in their building, Five nonviolence billboards were placed around Youngstown and Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine, came to Youngstown and taught the Sojourn students to be facilitators for the workshops. The mayor and city council passed resolutions declaring the week of October 2-8, 2009 Nonviolence Week in the city.
- 2010 Sojourn students petitioned the school board, city council, county commissioners and YSU trustees asking them to make the first week in October annually Nonviolence Week, which they all did.
- 2011 Sojourn students organized the First Annual Nonviolence Parade and Rally in downtown Youngstown. At the students’ request, Congressman John Lewis spoke only to high school students at East in October.
- In 2012 the Mahoning County commissioners passed a resolution making the first week in October Nonviolence Week in the county.
- 2013 – at the request of Youngstown Sojourn students, Senator Schiavoni introduced “Nonviolence Week in Ohio” bill in the Senate in January. It passed the Senate in April. Two Sojourn students testified before the House of Representatives in May. The House passed the bill in June. July 11, 2013 a bus load of Sojourn members were with Governor Kasich when he signed Sojourn’s “Nonviolence Week in Ohio” bill, making Nonviolence Week permanent in Ohio.
- 2014/2015 speakers were Joan Mulholland, freedom rider, Clark Olsen, Simeon Wright, Emmett Till’s cousin, Dale Killinger, FBI agent who reopened the Emmett Till case.
- 2016 Sojourn to the Past received the Coretta Scott King A.N.G.L.E. Peace Award recognizing accomplishments of Youngstown Sojourn students.
- 2017 -Nonviolence Week expanded to seven days of activities in , including the Simeon Booker Award for Courage.
- 2018 students led walk-outs in support of students in Parkland, Fl where 17 were murdered. Participated in March for Our Lives in D.C. Rallied for gun legislation.
- 2019 – Sojourn partnered with EJI and Sandusky NAACP to gather dirt at site of lynching of William Taylor.
- 2020 – Sojourn commissioned and dedicated a Civil Rights mural in Selma, Alabama. They helped organize a rally for justice in memory of George Floyd. They led a vigil after the death of John Lewis and in December held a vigil for two Black men murdered by law enforcement in Columbus. In June they presented a Black Lives Matter resolution to the CEO of the Youngstown City Schools, which he approved. This let to the creation of YCS Equity Committee. Members spent the summer researching and writing an “Antiracism: Be a Difference Maker Workshop.” They have presented to all of the Youngstown City School staff, ALTA, administrators in Boardman and Austintown school districts, two organizations in Canfield, Mount Olivet Church in North Lima along with other organizations. The participated and spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally and a public forum in Canfield.
- 2021- In celebration of MLK Day, Sojourn students read a book about about Dr. King to third graders with a culminating activity for students to illustrate how they can be of service to others. Sojourn purchased the book Dear Martin and read it to eighth grade students at MLK Elementary school. Sojourn students continued to present their workshop including to 135 administrators and administrative assistants at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas.
This is a life changing trip! Students realize they have the power to make a difference in their own lives and in their schools and communities, and they can make that difference right now.
Principles of Nonviolence
I. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
II. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
III. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
IV. Nonviolence hopes that suffering can educate and transform.
V. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
VI. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.