Congressional delegation set for civil rights tour - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Congressional delegation set for civil rights tour

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Organizers say a pilgrimage from Memphis, Tenn., to civil rights sites Mississippi should give members of Congress a chance to reflect on the state's painful past and consider its possibilities for the future.

The March 28-30 trip is sponsored by the Washington-based Faith and Politics Institute, and the hosts are two of Mississippi's U.S. House members, Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Chip Pickering.

"Pilgrimage is a term that really comes from the religious world, the spiritual world. And we use it very deliberately because when we go on a pilgrimage, we step onto sacred ground," said the Rev. Cletus Kiley, a Catholic priest who is president of Faith and Politics Institute. "The pilgrimage that we are organizing with these two congressmen is a trip, indeed, to sacred ground."

About a dozen members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans - will join an estimated 70 other people on the bus tour that starts Friday in Memphis, at the place where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated nearly 40 years ago.

Through Sunday, the tour will make several stops in Mississippi.

In Clarksdale, the group will visit the Delta Blues Museum. In the rural Delta, they will see the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

In Jackson, the group is scheduled to visit Beth Israel Congregation, Tougaloo College and the home where Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in June 1963.

The group will visit Philadelphia, where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were killed by Ku Klux Klansmen in June 1964.

And, in an effort to focus on Mississippi's continuing recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the delegation will go to the coastal town of Waveland, which was nearly wiped off the map by the surge of the 2005 storm.

"During the season of Easter, it is a season of resurrection, of reconciliation, of restoration and of redemption," Pickering said. "And we have a long and rich history that's filled with the creativity in the birthplace of our music and great writers in literature. We've also had some greatest historical struggles."

Thompson said the journey will offer participants a chance to seek racial and spiritual reconciliation.

"Part of that reflection will be talking about the past as well as going forward to the future," Thompson said.

In the past 10 years, the Faith and Politics Institute has sponsored eight pilgrimages to civil rights sites in Alabama.

Kiley said journey should focus attention on "the courage and the creativity of the people of Mississippi."

"We acknowledge that Mississippians in the United States are recognized already as the most generous people per capita in the entire country," Kiley said. "There is much to celebrate and recognize in Mississippi."

On the Net:

 The Faith and Politics Institute: http://www.faithandpolitics.org

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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