By Will Dale
The bus’ wheels are a-turnin’ to the rhythm of our freedom songs. They turn round, round, and round. The bus’ wheels are a-rollin’ down this highway, spreading our mission and the Freedom Ride story. They spin, spin, and spin around. These wheels are constantly turning, turning, and turning – a-takin’ us down South, our destination.
This notion of a destination struck me this morning as we pulled out of Anniston. To me, a destination is the ultimate end and purpose to what we seek to be realized. The original thirteen Freedom Riders’ intended destination was New Orleans, yet they were hindered by the violence they encountered in the Deep South. As a result, their mission evolved from their journey to New Orleans to the start of a movement that challenged social and legal norms in the South.
The belief in a destination is seen throughout the civil rights movement, most commonly conceptualized in the ideas of freedom and justice. Dr. Martin Luther King often spoke of the “Beloved Community” as one of his ultimate destinations. In this “beloved community,” the formerly oppressed seek to reconcile with their former oppressors. This community would be characterized by the ideals of justice, freedom, and unity. Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” has yet to be realized, but that is why the student freedom riders are here.
Over the last few days on the bus, the other student freedom riders and I have had trouble coming up with our own destination. In this destination, we can find our purpose and future, and I think that the current state and future of civic engagement and social activism lies in this search for this destination. I think we can find our mission in the history of our past, our actions in the present, and the events of the future.
For now, we continue towards Nashville and on to New Orleans. We will also carry on our journey towards our own destination, our own purpose. It is impossible to see what impact we will have on the world in five, ten, or fifty years. But if my predictions are right, I know we will keep the wheels of change a-turnin’, a-rollin’, and a-takin’ us towards our own vision of the Beloved Community.