YES Programs



U.S. Civil Rights Movement Discussion

YES alumni and YES Abroad participants

By Hana Pirovic, YES 2018-2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by AFS in Eden, NY

During my exchange year, I learned a lot in my U.S. History class, especially about the Civil Rights Movement of which I had very little knowledge previously. The Civil Rights Movement isn’t a very common topic in history classes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as we focus more on topics “relevant to us”. What I appreciated about studying in the U.S. was the engaging and interesting approach professors had. My professor told us unique and touching stories on that topic and many of them stayed in my memory. She showed us clips from various films regarding this movement, one of them being the movie Selma.

Alumni Coordinator Merima Muhic presenting on Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Alumni Coordinator Merima Muhic presenting on Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

I was brought back to those memories and was reminiscing on those days on January 23, when I attended an event at the American Corner in Sarajevo. I was joined at this event by a couple of high school students, alumnae Merima Krivokapa (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by PAX, Cottonwood, AZ) and Milana Micic (YES 2018-2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by CIEE in Coldwater, MI), and YES Abroad students Ayush Suresh, Emma Holmes, Natalie Chalona, and Noah Richter. Alumni Coordinator Merima Muhic (YES 2015-2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina, hosted by ACES in Apex, NC) began the event with a presentation. The presentation, given in honor of both Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, informed us about the struggles of African Americans throughout history: their fight for equality and against racial segregation and discrimination. In addition to Martin Luther King Jr., we learned about other prominent historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and others. After the presentation, we watched the movie Selma. The movie is based on the marches of 1965 from Selma to Montgomery led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lewis. During the movie, I had flashbacks to my U.S. History class when my professor showed us certain parts that were quite impactful. I remember my professor in the U.S. saying that everyone should watch this movie. After seeing the whole movie now, I couldn’t agree more. We held a discussion session after the movie.

To me, the movie is an incredible representation of the efforts to end racial discrimination. It’s very intense and thought-provoking, especially because it emotionally ties you to the characters and makes it impossible to feel indifferent toward the cause. Their persistence to keep fighting amazed me. The presentation and film discussion were not only a way to connect people and have a fun evening, but also a motivation to learn more about African American history and to encourage others to do the same. I am very thankful to our Alumni Coordinator and the American Corner staff for making this event possible. I also would like to thank the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for the experiences I was lucky enough to have while on program and for the opportunity to share the knowledge acquired during my exchange year.