Posts Tagged ‘ Day 1 ’
By Michael Tubbs
“Fifty years later, Oh yes. Fifty years later oh yes” was my rendition to the popular freedom song, originally sung by the Freedom Riders. They looked at me and smiled as they added their expert voices to the chorus, and we stood united in front of the Newsuem celebrating and marveling what they had accomplished when they risked death to desegregate interstate buses. The entire first night of the Student Freedom Ride was a blur but included a heart to heart with original freedom rider Earnest “Rip” Patton, a brief conversation and photo with one of my personal heroes, Congressman John Lewis and my first time viewing the documentary that got me on the bus, Freedom Riders by Stanley Nelson.
The Student Freedom Ride is an awesome opportunity to reflect on how far the country has progressed but also poses a challenge. It is a challenge that Freedom Ride coordinator Diane Nash characterized as “what history will require of [me].” At the very least, I know that history will require that I give back and pay forward the amazing opportunities I have been given, including this one, as a direct result of the blood, sweat, and tears of those that came before me. Additionally, the training we received from the Children’s Defense Fund’s Director of Youth Leadership and Development Jalaya Lyles Dunn forced me to consider the question, “What am I called to do now?” and to use this trip as a time to begin to chart a new route for freedom and justice in my generation.
At 20, I am the same age as many of the Freedom Riders were in 1961. I can’t fathom facing death or even expulsion from school, but I am passionate about social justice, especially in regards to equal education and ending the cradle to prison pipeline. I am certain that this is what I am called to do and I look forward to hearing the answer to Jalaya’s question from my fellow rides as we embark on this journey. As the night came to an end, original Freedom Rider Robert Singleton said that he has been jailed for his participation in the movement on August 4, 1961 and that a baby named Barack Obama was born on the very same August 4, 1961. The lesson from this was that history is made in the present, and the decisions and sacrifices that I make on May 6, 2011 will impact a child who is just coming into the world on this day.
By Davis Knittle
There are several questions that have been pervasive, almost haunting, since our kickoff event last night at the Newseum. The first question I asked of Diane Nash today, and have since spoken about with many of the student riders: “Who gets to police American collectivity?” The second question: “What is America’s understanding of itself?” And with that “What does it mean, 50 years later, for us to be getting on the bus?” has also been guiding my experience so far. I’ve been speaking with a number of the student riders as to our collective and individual conceptions of what we’re doing here — of what it means of us to be on the bus.
Diane Nash spoke today, in the context of our impending ride, about needing to understand a clear collective goal in order for non-violent action to be effective. What’s difficult about generating effective non-violent action in our current American moment is that the systems and the questions of this moment need to be taken apart before they’re parsable in a way that lends itself to any kind of direct action. For us, being here is a meta-action. We’re getting on the bus to puzzle out civic engagement. To think about where America will be in 50 more years. I’ve been impressed, today, about how scary we all think America is, about how scared we are of what a misuse of resources might look like in 50 years, of what will happen to our country if we don’t figure out effective systems of providing the basics social needs of, for example, healthcare and education.
All day, I’ve been wondering about what this time, this American breaking point will look like in a decade. Getting on the bus, with that in mind, is an opportunity to have these necessary conversations about what collectivity could look like, about our hopes for America. I have a complicated relationship to patriotism. I’m proud to be an American, and I feel lucky to be able to see these sites of history, and to see this basic American land, as we extend into the south. The question I’ll travel with is: “Who’s America is this?” Who lives here? What did the electoral politics of the 1980s become? What do we vote with now? What’s an act that’s more than a vote, if a vote isn’t enough?
The initial Freedom Ride, was, in my understanding, a production of late modernism. A post-modern reality wouldn’t allow for such an uncompromised action. Civic display is something else now. Each of the 40 of us are active, in some way, in our school and surrounding communities. When we take responsibility for being Americans, what will that look like? What will we need to do? How do we begin to sort out what our civic reality looks like? What our American reality is, even before we start to puzzle out what and how it could be?
By JoyEllen Freeman
After the screening of Stanley Nelson’s film Freedom Riders at the Newseum in Washington D.C., Diane Nash made the important point that as citizens, we do not have to wait on legislators or politicians to fix our communities; we have the power to affect change. From my own experience, I have found that between exams, applications, homework, and the everyday stresses that result from being a college student, it is easy to develop an attitude of complacency or acceptance. Life can become a cycle of robotic motions that we follow just to make it to our ideal academic or occupational destination. If we take a step back, however, and evaluate the pressing issues in our communities, these problems may require more than just another degree. For the original Freedom Riders, the issue of injustice and segregation in their communities required so much more, and I learned from the film that in many cases, Freedom Riders left behind school, their families, and an entire way of life in order to fight for the justice that their nation promised. Although it was expected of them to get an education, become productive citizens, and abide by the laws of society, the Freedom Riders chose, as John Lewis put it, “to get into trouble.”
I have decided that on this trip, I need to make some of my own trouble. To me, making trouble means stepping out of my comfort zone for the sake of justice. It means sharing the story of the Freedom Riders with everyone that I meet. It means shedding all sentiments of fear, reluctance, and complacency in exchange for courage, eagerness, and restlessness. Diane Nash said that “we can’t change others; we can only change ourselves,” and that is my personal goal for the 2011 Student Freedom Ride. During his talk about documenting the Civil Rights Movement, Stanley Nelson said that “you don’t have to be superhuman to make change.” Explaining the 1961 Freedom Rides to the man sitting next to me on the plane to D.C., smiling at a stranger in the Newseum, and accepting new ways of thinking are all ways that I can and have affected change in my community. As I embark on this new journey, I am just as excited to make change as I am to be changed.