Volunteer Spotlight: Gwendolyn Clinkscales
What inspired you to volunteer at The Center?
I am inspired to volunteer at The Center for a number of reasons. One reason is that it is an opportunity to help myself and others become global citizens of change in a world where there are injustices and harmful inequalities. My primary reason however, is to be able to tell the story to others; how the struggle for Human and Civil Rights during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s personally benefitted me and my family. My grandparents and parents (black Southerners) were part of the “The Great Migration” in the 1940s. They stole away from LeFlore County, in the delta of Mississipp,i to escape beatings, lynchings, cotton picking, share cropping, Jim Crow laws and all the other terror heaped upon black citizens during this era. My father and mother migrated to Harlem, NY, where I was born and raised. I am so inspired that there is an institution like the Center for Civil and Human Rights paying homage to struggles and triumphs of my family and many families like mine. I feel honored to be one of the many awesome volunteers.
What was your perception of The Center prior to visiting and how has your perception changed since your experience at The Center?
I expected The Center's exhibitions and galleries would focus primarily on people, organizations, and events like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokley Carmichael, NAACP, SNCC, Voter Registration, and marches of the Civil Rights Movement. I was pleasantly surprised to see how The Center seamlessly included the American Civil Rights Movement as a part of the Global Human Rights Movement. I think Jill Savitt’s “Spark of Conviction” Global Human Rights exhibit is so spot on in regards to human trafficking and Immigration.
What has been your most inspiring moment during you time at The Center?
The most inspiring moment during my time at Che Center was at the end of one tour I conducted for group of students from a High School located in one of the northern Metro-Atlanta counties. We ended the tour after leaving the “Action, Movement, Freedom” multi-media gallery. I began the short summary of the tour with the group by repeating the words “action, movement, freedom” three times. The group picked up the words as a chant. These students were so fired up and inspired that they spontaneously began sharing what their actions would be to make a difference. Some of their actions focused on LGBT and human trafficking issues. I have since incorporated the chant as a regular part of the tour.
What do you enjoy most about interacting with visitors of The Center?
I love the questions young people ask; they are often quite provocative. I conducted a tour sponsored by the State Dept. of young leaders from the Middle East. One young person asked, “Why did we feature Augusto Pinochet as an offender of human rights, when the United States was one of his supporters?” Another H.S. student asked why didn’t we include indigenous, Native-American or the Palestinians in our exhibits. Other H.S. students were curious about why their country of origin was represented in red or orange on the world map located in the human rights gallery. Many of these questions inspired me to research responses resulting in more learning on my part.
If you could spend time with any leader featured in The Center, who would you choose and why?
I loved to spend time with Bob Moses. Bob Moses featured on the “Then and Now” panels in The Civil Rights gallery created a program called the “Algebra Project”. My experience as a middle school math teacher leads me to the belief that if a student succeeds in Algebra, s/he will succeed in college. Succeeding in college is a civil rights issue. I would love to talk to Bob Moses about how he made the project work and how scaling it to all inner city and rural schools in the US might be possible.