By Collis Crews
As we travel towards New Orleans, the intended final destination of original Freedom Riders, I realize that there is still a journey that we must continue. That journey is the struggle to eliminate the racial and social injustice that still persists today. Firsthand exposure to the living historians who traveled with us and visits to many of the key civil rights museums and churches across the South broadened my understanding of all that was sacrificed, and touched my heart in ways I never thought possible. I shed many tears along the way.
The Freedom Riders played a key role in the civil rights movement. If not for these brave men and women, African Americans and other minorities would still be living in segregated societies, suffering the adverse effects of racial oppression. It is troubling to see that, in spite of all the post-segregation gains made by civil rights activists such as the Freedom Riders, many young African Americans have either forgotten or are ignorant of their efforts. This is often demonstrated within our community by the lack of motivation to seek higher education, and failure to exercise civic responsibility due to voter apathy.
Today’s African American youth feel that we do not have anything to fight for, but they are wrong. Spending ten days traveling through history and being exposed to both past and current civil and human rights issues left me certain that there is still much work to do. Unlike our predecessors, we have the advantage of reaching out to millions through use of modern technology. We must act! In some ways our job will be harder because racism and discrimination is more disguised than it was fifty years ago. However, through education, acceptance, and understanding, we can continue the efforts of the Freedom Riders and other civil rights groups who paved the way for our generation. As the new generation, it is our mission to continue the fight and I look forward to applying all that I’ve learned to help bring a positive change to the world.