Sam uses Tour Selma to explore the city

VFA Fellows pose for a picture on the Edmund Pettus

VFA Fellows pose for a picture on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Pictured left to right: Sam, Ben, Hailey and Edan.

Last year we finished building Tour Selma, an app and website for AC, an artist, real-estate developer, and advocate for everything Selma. I always wanted to go to Selma and felt like now was the right time to take the journey with the recent national protests, the passing of Rep. John Lewis, and the recent national climate around voting rights.

Visiting Selma

From the MotionMobs office in Birmingham, I learned a lot about Selma by building and testing the Tour Selma mobile app, but this was a great chance to test the app in the field. Also, taking tours via the app was a COVID-safe activity!

So I enlisted a few Venture for America Fellows from Birmingham to join me on a trip to Selma. After a warm welcome at AC’s art studio, we walked across the street and started the AC Selma Sampler Tour at the Centre of Commerce. We learned about the beautiful churches on Lauderdale St., stopped at the Coffee Shoppe on Broad St. for some great BBQ, and saw a few beautiful homes (my favorite was the supposedly haunted Weaver Castle).

Sam and AC Reeves (founder of Tour Selma) inside AC's Woolworth Lofts. Sam and AC are socially distant, wearing masks, but leaning towards each other with thumbs up. Light floods the room as their backs face, large rectangular windows with stain glass half circles above them. In front of the windows is a sofa with lamps on opposing sides and a side table. In front of Sam and AC is a coffee table with magazines and softball sized die inside a decorative dish.
Sam and AC Reeves
Weaver Castle. Despite its name, Weaver Castle looks like a large Victorian home. It's brick on the outside with a sharp, pointed metal roof.
Weaver Castle

My favorite spot on the tour was Temple Mishkan Israel. Before going to Selma, I reached out to Ronnie Leet, the President of the temple, to (COVID-safely) schedule a tour and learn more about the Jewish history in Selma. Ronnie, one of the 4 remaining members of the temple, told us about the vital role the Jewish people played in the economic development and prosperity of Selma in the pursuit of the American dream. After the tour of the Temple, we walked downtown, visited the Selma Interpretive Center, and crossed the Edmund-Pettus bridge, reflecting on the heroic actions of those that crossed the bridge almost 60 years ago. We ended our trip with a tour around the Old Live Oak Cemetery (placing stones on the Jewish headstones as is customary) and headed back to the Woolworth Lofts, some beautiful AirBnbs hosted by AC.

Ronnie of Temple Mishkan Israel stands at the front of the temple overlooking the rows of brown pews. Behind, is a balcony that overlooks the temple.
Ronnie of Temple Mishkan Israel
VFA Fellows: Ben, Edan, and Hailey sit in the wooden pews of Temple Mishkan Israel. They're staggered in different rows and distanced without their masks on. In the background, a stain glass Star of David sits high on the wall with three rectangular stain glass panes below it.
Inside Temple Mishkan Israel. Pictured left to right: Ben, Edan, and Hailey.

Using Tour Selma

I’d tested this app dozens of times during the development process, but getting the opportunity to use the Tour Selma app like any other user gave me a real appreciation for the work that we do at MotionMobs. As a project manager and our primary user-tester, it’s easy to focus on the improvements we could build, but this was a great chance to simply enjoy one of our apps, something I definitely recommend to all project and product managers.

Even though we were only in Selma for a little while, I feel like I have a much better understanding of the many layers of history in this town. If you are looking for a great COVID-safe way to explore a new city, I definitely recommend the Tour Selma app (even though I may be biased). Make sure to check out AC’s Picks and reach out to local guides to enrich your experience there. And if you are not in driving distance, the app is still a great way to learn about a town ingrained in the history of our country. You can find the app on both iOS and Android, and find more resources on AC’s website.

Thank you AC and Ronnie for the warm welcome to Selma!

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