Our Active Trails journey has taken us beyond the borders of East Chattanooga and into uncharted territory for our East Chattanooga youth! On March 12th Glass House Collective, The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park (CCNMP), and a coalition of partners treated 12 Glass Street youth to a historical and cultural experience at The Bessie Smith Cultural Center and introduced them to the magnificent views and trails of Craven’s House on the side of Lookout Mountain
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center has partnered with the Mary Walker Foundation and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park to host “Gateway to Freedom,” an exhibit highlighting the contributions made by the 1st U.S. Colored Brigade in the Chattanooga area and beyond. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center said the goal of the exhibit “is to stimulate interest, to motivate good human relations through understanding and forgiveness, and to instill learning through the mistakes and triumphs of the past.” On this day too, the CCNMP presented “A World Turned Upside Down,” a presentation about how 1863 Union controlled Chattanooga “became a destination for freedom-hungry African Americans.” Twelve East Chattanooga youth couldn’t have been a more appropriate or well-behaved audience for such knowledge. It is hard to say what each took from their time there. We – the youth in attendance and the one’s reading this – may not be able to fully know the significance and generational effects of slavery. But the lives of our youth are its direct result. History has now introduced the youth to the horrific conditions in which their ancestors lived, but an understanding of history offers hope. But history offers hope in the innumerous courageous acts committed in working to overcome this injustice.
We took this hope up to Craven’s House. They had never been up the enchanted, windy roads of Lookout Mountain or seen the northern view of their city. It is, and has always been, a privileged view and these are underprivileged youth. It is our hope, experiential education of this kind will elevate the hopes they hold for themselves as they create history of their own.