Sojourn Offers Shared History

Lena Kauffman, Opinion Editor

Former history teacher and founder of Sojourn to the Past, Jeff Steinberg, visited Campo on September 27th to speak to juniors and seniors, and invite them on a civil rights history journey.

Sojourn to the Past is a ten-day trip during spring break during which students have the opportunity to trace the steps of the Civil Rights Movement.

Steinberg explained that the $2,600 trip not only includes airline fares, luxury buses, hotels, meals, books and 3 college units, but also the unique opportunity to meet and converse with the people who experienced the Civil Rights Movement firsthand.

Steinberg noted that Elizabeth Eckford, a black woman who was one of the nine black students let into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, would be a featured speaker on the trip.

In September of 1957, Elizabeth struggled with hateful and racist words coming from the mouths of her peers.

During Steinberg’s presentation to students, he called Eckford and asked her to say something about language via speaker phone. Eckford responded, “Language can be a mean thing when you don’t use it the right way. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”

Steinberg said, “I want kids to understand what real nonviolence is about, real compassion, and forgiveness. I want them to understand that language [can be] violent. I want them to understand to not just be silent witnesses.”

Steinberg continued, “going and speaking to a school like yours is challenging because I don’t think that your school is really exposed to all of this. I would argue that your school needs this as much as a school that was for African Americans. I think we all need to know this, Black Latino, White, Asian, all of us. Thus my preface, I think we’ve really been ripped off that we don’t know these people and they’re not in our history books. We are more similar than we are different by far.”

Government teacher Dino Petrocco met Mr. Steinberg 16 years ago at a student teaching class and has been on the trip 5 times. “We become a better society to feel and understand the history,” said Petrocco. “It’s an amazing trip. We have to get out of ourselves to realize that people experience life in different ways.”

Steinberg added that when he talks to young people “some young people don’t get it and don’t realize what nonviolence is. So it’s my job to come and share that [information] in a brief amount of time, which is challenging to do. I would challenge any teacher to get up there in front of 190 students and really try to connect. That’s what I do.

“When a student doesn’t get it, my hope is that he or she stays and tries to understand what it is that I’m saying or maybe, this isn’t the place for them.

“The thing that needs to be recognized is that racism affects everybody including white people. That’s a hard message for a lot of people to hear. It’s not black history, it’s a shared history.”