EJI grand opening ceremony draws large crowd

EJI grand opening ceremony draws large crowd
Many who attended the grand opening for the EJI Memorial heard from several U.S. leaders. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Thursday people from all walks of like gathered at the Montgomery Convention Center for Equal Justice Initiative's grand opening ceremony.

WSFA 12 News was not allowed inside for the event. People who were inside tell us they heard from U.S. Congressman John Lewis, EJI Founder Bryan Stevenson, Alfre Woodard, and Ava DuVernay. We are also told there were musical performances by BeBe Winans and Patti LaBelle.

When English teachers Charlene Rauch and Gretchen McTavish read Bryan Stevenson's book "Just Mercy" they knew they had to share it with their students.

"Last year we had all of our seniors read it over the summer and spent about the first six weeks talking about it. It was so impacting they loved it and we loved it," said Charlene Rauch from Pennsylvania.

When EJI announced the opening of the museum and memorial, one of their student's family volunteered to send them to Montgomery from Pennsylvania.

"It is an experience of a lifetime. It really is," said Rauch.

"To hear so many powerful speakers and powerful singers it has been a spiritual experience," said Gretchen McTavish from Pennsylvania.

Attending the grand opening ceremony was also big for Kyle Martin. He is a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater out of New York City. They also performed during the event.

"There is so much joy and pride that is in this atmosphere that just builds this fire inside of us. That allows us to want to go on stage and give to the audience," said Martin.

Alabama U.S. Representative Terri Sewell hopes every person in the state embraces this painful past so we can begin the journey of moving forward.

"I am really excited to see so many people from around the world who are here for this opening, but I really want Alabamians to come see this as well," said Sewell.

Many people who attended the opening ceremony Thursday are looking forward to Friday's EJI concert.

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