By Jason McGaughey
This whole journey is only just emerging, but already my life has forever changed. Before I left for this trip I was warned not to let it radicalize me. The notion of such an idea I found rather insulting. Why should I fear the becoming of the self that I dream of being? Why should I fear the development of a community of struggle, even if our community only lasts for a short while? This is the sort of community that I have longed for— a community where I know that I can be free, a community of liberation.
I am simply not a man with eloquent enough words to truly describe what all of this has meant to me— to have the opportunity to learn firsthand from the Freedom Riders, a true community of liberation; to hear their testimony of the depth of brutality that they were up against, and their triumph through it all with the courage of nonviolence. It would be too easy for me to say that I would have gotten on the bus in ’61. It would be all too easy for me to say that I would have had the strength to confront such oppression with nonviolence. But the reality is that words are simply all too easy to say. To truly live out ones convictions has never been that easy. So all that I can say with any sense of honesty, any sense of integrity, is that if I were among the Freedom Riders in ’61 then I wish that I were the sort of human being that could muster that kind of courage, that kind of faith to have overcome my own fears and gotten on the bus. I can only hope that I would have had it within me, I will never know for sure.
Though I will never know if I would have had the strength to have gotten on the bus for the original Freedom Rides in ’61 I do know that I have had the courage to have gotten on the bus with the 2011 Student Freedom Riders. Admittedly we are not facing any oppression by taking this journey, but we are still a community of struggle. We are young people seeking to follow in the legacy of the Freedom Riders; we are seeking to acknowledge and confront the ways in which injustice and structural violence still plague our communities, our nation, and our world. We have each accepted the call in our own ways to fight for justice to aspire towards full liberation. This journey has only just begun, but already I have had so many beautiful conversations engaging fellow activists in dialogue about what wrongs must still be righted. We have the opportunity to learn and grow, to develop our own sense of the Beloved Community, to become filled with the Agapic Energy that Diane Nash talked to us about, and to become filled with that call to action that comes from the energy of love for humanity. I am forever grateful for this experience. I am forever grateful for this chance to become, this chance to transform, this chance to know that I have a place within the community of Liberation.