By Doaa Dorgham
As I sit here on this Greyhound bus, in the exact location where the original Freedom Riders were greeted with pure hatred, flames, and beatings, I feel as though I have been hit with a whirlwind of indescribable emotion. Today the scene was entirely different from the one fifty years ago. We were greeted with cameras, smiles, and a sign that recognized the atrocity that took place in Anniston, Alabama.
Although I was experiencing such painstaking raw emotion, celebration was the last thing that was plaguing my heart. Although the Freedom Riders made magnificent strides, I grapple with the façade that we as a country no longer live with discrimination and are free of internal hatred.
In the shuffle of media, congressmen, and student riders, I got off the bus and stepped on the very ground of heroes and foes. I then realized one of the youngest original Riders, Charles Person, remained on the bus. The moment that we shared together was one that I will never forget. As I sat next to him, I was immediately drawn to his eyes, which were filled with tears that were unable to surface. As we began to reflect, I was able to see the pureness of such an admirable soul.
I struggled to find the right words to explain my gratitude. The words “thank you” are not enough to honor someone who risked his life for change. He spoke to me about the love he had in his heart and how amidst an angry mob threatening his life he never felt hatred, simply love. It was in that moment that I adopted a new philosophy of life.
The idea of love is something that is so glamorized in our society, that it has lost context. Love to me is something that represents sheer strength. Pure love is found in forgiveness and reconciliation. Pure love is so extraordinarily rare, that it is no surprise that the Freedom Riders were able to use that emotion to conquer the abhorrence ingrained in the doctrine of segregation. He then turned to me and told me that it is up to me, and this generation, to continue the civil rights movement, because it is far from over.
It was at the moment that I vowed to myself, that I will attempt to live my life with this idea of pure love, and use that raw emotion to administer change. There is so much hatred, bigotry, anger and discrimination in this world, but I refuse to feed into that commonality. The problem with this generation is this idea of apathy. But when young adults are able to interact with older generations, who believe in us full-heartedly, the idea that we cannot administer change is quickly dissolved. The words “thank you” are not enough to honor these incredible heroes, but continuing their legacy by adamantly moving forward is a start.