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Students visit USA as part of Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s anti-racism message

6 September 2023

Students walk together
Cardiff University students have worked with Urdd Gobaith Cymru on its annual Peace and Goodwill Message

Cardiff University students are travelling to the USA as part of their work with Urdd Gobaith Cymru on its 2023 Peace and Goodwill Message.

The trip will see the group of 13 students, Urdd Chief Executive Siân Lewis and Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething, visiting Birmingham, Alabama, to learn about its rich Civil Rights history and show solidarity with the African American community 60 years after the bombing of the 16th St Baptist Church.

Following the terrorist attack in 1963, the people of Wales donated a stained-glass window to the church.

Urdd Chief Executive Siân Lewis explains: “We are delighted to continue developing our relationship with the African American community in Birmingham, Alabama and to give Urdd members the opportunity to learn more about the history and events of Alabama.

“Earlier this year, our young people created a powerful Peace and Goodwill Message which throws a spotlight on anti-racism, clearly stating that if people see racism, we need to ‘Call. Them. Out’. It’s fitting that we’ll be visiting Birmingham on this important anniversary with the students who created this impactful message, which was heard and shared by thousands across the world.”

During this month’s trip to Alabama, the group will visit the 16th St Baptist Church, as well as a number of other historically significant buildings and organisations that were key to the civil rights movement, such as Rosa Park’s House, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the A.G. Gatson Motel and the Legacy Museum.

They will also be present for a wreath laying and tree planting ceremony in Kelly Ingrim Park.

Vice President Welsh Language, Culture & Community for Cardiff University Students’ Union, Deio Owen, who is part of the group that worked on this year’s Message of Peace, said: “It's been an eye opening and inspirational experience taking part in this year’s message and hopefully this trip will help us to learn more about the history and story of the USA and how it impacts us all to this day. This is also an opportunity to show how we, here in Wales have a voice on an international stage to show and share our values and what we hold dear as global citizens.”

Sian Lloyd, senior lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture, who is accompanying the students on the trip, said: “We feel privileged to be travelling to Birmingham Alabama with Urdd Gobaith Cymru, as we explore the history of the Civil Rights movement, fostering new friendships along the way. The students, who worked on this year’s Message of Peace, are passionate about using their voices as a means of change. I have no doubt that this trip will inspire and motivate them even further.”

Cardiff University Academi Gymraeg Manager Catrin Jones said: “It’s been inspirational to see the students working together on such an important issue such as anti-racism over the course of this year. Sadly, we still live in a society where racism exists and it’s only by having open discussions and tackling the issues head on that we can make progress. I’m looking forward to hearing about what the group learns from this visit, which is sure to bring home to them the relevance and urgency of this year’s Message of Peace.”

On the 15th of September 1963, four children were killed in a racist attack at the 16th St Baptist Church, which was carried out by the Klu Klux Klan. There followed an overwhelming response worldwide and when the news reached Wales, glass artist John Petts decided to pay his tribute by designing a glass window as a gift to the church.

After a fundraising campaign in the Western Mail, the window was installed in 1964 and is called 'Wales Window' by Birmingham residents to this day.

In 2019, a partnership between the church and the Urdd was created to foster links between the people of Alabama and young people in Wales. In June, the University of Alabama's (UAB) Gospel Choir travelled to Wales to perform and learn more about the country's history, language and culture.

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