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Day 2: “We have not finished the job of making our country whole.” – James Farmer

By Lu-Anne Haukaas Lopez

We walked past the man under the padding. Walked past the bench bed, the carpet coverlet. We walked past singing, cheering. We were the Freedom Riders, and he had picked the wrong corner to sleep on, the wrong bench to wake on. This morning would be no different for him — rousing to the roll and rush of traffic, the glow and gold of a D.C. morning sun. No different except for the sea of hope and faces, the force and click of cameras, the rise and ring of Ray’s story telling voice — the voices, our voices, the singing. We walked past him and drove away. The South was waiting. Celebration 50 years in the making was waiting. But I couldn’t help wonder as we left him, his bench bed, his carpeted curb: What about him? What about them? What about us?

Our days are filled with the gild and glory of the sacrifices of the past. No bars, no blows for us — the greatest discomfort is getting Wifi to work on the bus. Tonight I sit typing this, propped on my hotel bed, stacks of white towels at its foot. In our capital, he’s finding a bench. He’s pulling a carpet over his head. No songs, no freedom. In our capital, he sleeps.

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  1. 2011 Student Freedom Ride


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