Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Posts Tagged ‘ Day 4 ’

Day 4: My Story

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Sarah Cheshire

As we cross the Virginia-North Carolina border, moving south towards Greensboro, I look at the faces around me. Each person on the bus has a story. I have spent the past few days listening to these stories, trying to soak them all in. There are stories of hardship, stories of strength, stories of bravery, stories of defeat, stories of passion and of humor, of loss and of gain, of oppression and of privilege, of the past and of the now– we are all here because we are grappling with the now, and we all have stories that we bring to this struggle.

My story starts here, in this soil.

I was born in North Carolina and raised in North Carolina, as was my father, and his parents, and his parents’ parents, and generations of ancestors beyond that. I know my history because I’ve heard prideful stories about it from relatives, who’ve heard about it from relatives, who’ve heard about it from relatives, and so forth. There are stories of cavaliers, of founders, of plantation owners, of generals and of intellectuals.

These are the people who I read about when I open history textbooks.

I rarely hear about the slaves who toiled endlessly in the cotton fields. I rarely hear about the cheap labor exploited to build our country’s infrastructure. I rarely hear about the women who worked behind the curtains during movements and protests and wars. In the telling of our collective history, these stories have frequently been omitted. The fact that I can trace my ancestry back to Jamestown, the fact that the narrative of history is told through the lens of people who bare the same skin color and cultural background as me, has made me privileged in America.

As we walk through the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, I see pictures of lynchings and bombings and firehosings, of men in white cloaks setting fire to erect crosses. I am tempted to avert my eyes. I think that often it is easier to look away than to face the pains and shames of the past head on.

For me, the first step towards reconciliation is the ability to look at pictures such as these–to really look at them– and in doing so to look at ourselves. By critically examining our own relationship to the past, and applying the lessons learned from the past to the present, we can begin to articulate a holistic narrative of America; a narrative inclusive of every voice, of every individual story.

Day 4: Samantha Williams

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Day 4: Gaining Perspective

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By John Walker

Today we found ourselves in the historic city of Petersburg, Va. Like many southern towns, it is much more famous for its history than its current state. When we came in, I strangely felt like I was back in Kentucky. There, off the side of the highway, was the long line of strip malls that make up that modern U.S. town. What 20 years ago they called progress is now just a sign of a dying community. Dion Diamond, original Freedom Rider from Petersburg, unexpectedly stopped our bus when he saw the Trailways Bus station was still there. His own amazement came to my attention. Are we that far removed from ourselves?

Dion had the bus pull over immediately and soon enough we were on an impromptu walking tour of downtown Petersburg. Within minutes of reaching the heart of downtown, the comments of fellow student riders came to my attention. Many of the riders who have never been to the South had no words to describe what they were seeing. There were boarded up windows in every other building, traffic was bare, and the nicest place downtown was the tiny diner that defines many similar towns. All I could do was try to explain to my new friends what happened to this town, just as Dion was doing. As I stood there describing the fate of this town there was a realization. I was describing the death of hundreds of communities across this country.

Many times I hear these towns described as dying, bombed out, or ghostly. I call them home. Others see the failure of a once thriving village.  I see the broken promises of a lost generation. So the next time someone asks me if I will ever leave my home I can only answer truthfully. No. Here is where I take my stand. Whether it is the flooded out, gutted out, river towns or the blasted mountain hollows, this is where I plant my stake. There will be others to take the fight to the cities and I respect them for it. But mine is in the forests and by the streams, wherever they may be. Mine is in the towns where everyone knows your business. I don’t mind, because my business will be their wellbeing.

So in short conclusion I say it’s time to wake up these communities. They aren’t dying, just sleeping. And when they finally wake, just maybe America will take a long look at itself and say “Oh, there you are. Welcome back.”

Day 4: Anna Nutter

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Day 4: Benjameen Quarless

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Day 4: New Blood

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Marshall Houston

Joan Mulholland and Bob Singleton have freed me over the past five days.

After listening to Joan speak for 20 of the most compelling minutes of my life on the bus ride to Greensboro, North Carolina, I caught her trailing at the back of the pack in the International Civil Rights Museum. During those 20 minutes on the bus, Joan became my hero and mentor, but she didn’t know it when I caught her and started talking in the museum.

We paused for an extra 45 seconds at the Mississippi books exhibit and immediately connected over our love for books. I am an avid collector of books on nearly every subject, and I normally can’t leave a bookstore empty handed. As Joan started discussing her books from the movement, a spark flickered in her eyes, and she said that her favorite books are the hidden treasures—ones you don’t go to the bookstore to find—and that when you find them, you seize the moment! I mumbled something in agreement, too overwhelmed with joy that my hero embraces these serendipitous moments just as much as I do. “Not everyone understands this. Soulmates,” she exclaims.

Speechless. I wrote her quote in my notebook as fast as possible; how else could I react to Joan Mulholland telling me that we were soulmates?

As we came to find out over lunch, Joan and I share more than our love of chance encounters with books; we share a Huguenot heritage by way of Charleston. I’m stunned again! This can’t be happening.

Joan marched me up to the front of the crowded banquet hall and, with a piercing shrill, quieted the room to tell everyone that we are family. FAMILY. With Joan Mulholland……

As a white male from Birmingham with a family history as deeply tied to Alabama as the thick, sticky humidity, I have not had guidance—philosophical guidance—on how to feel when I see gruesome pictures of lynchings where people with faces like mine beam with pride. Joan gave me this guidance.

Through her actions over 50 years ago, Joan, as my newly reconnected relative, gave me the confidence to escape any baggage or regret that I was holding onto, thinking that holding onto some notion of shame in Alabama made me like the Freedom Riders. This mindset of regret and shame is a sickness, and I can’t help but laugh at the mindset that I once held so dear.

After only five days on the ride, I have made a startling revelation; I have a white mother from Virginia in Joan Mulholland and a black father from Los Angeles in Bob Singleton that link me with hundreds, if not thousands, of brothers and sisters of every race and creed and heritage in the family of deep love! Together we celebrate the individuality of each relative’s heritage, and I have no more shame or regret.

As they say, blood is thicker than water, and I have new blood.

Day 4: Lily Astiz

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Day 4: Missed Call for Action

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Michellay Cole

Since embarking on this Freedom Ride journey, I have been interviewed by numerous reporters all asking the same question, “Why did I decide to get on the bus?” After being on the bus for four days, I was inspired to answer this question through poetry. The following piece is a self-reflection on the struggles and realizations that I have come to since “getting on the bus.”

Missed call for Action

This call is for Action, who’s not in right now
Maybe I’ll leave a message for him anyhow
See I really need to reach him, he’s been on my mind
He’s the one I’ve been lookin for but just can’t find

I gotta tell him how I’ve been spending time with this other guy
Who’s appreciative, supportive and listens to me
You might know him; his friends call him Complacency?
Well anyway, I just thought I should let you know
This thing we got goin on, its movin too slow

You always want me to stand up for you,
Like I’ve been called to do that or something
It’s not my right or my fight
I don’t need to shine “this little light”

All you do is cry about how life aint fair
How we need to take responsibility and do our share
Im not tryna hear all that, this aint the time
Catch me in a few years, after I make a few dimes

Maybe then you’ll be more like him,
You know, Complacency would never
Ask me to do the things you beg of me
He knows how I am and doesn’t ask too much from me

In fact, he doesn’t ask anything at all
He sees no struggle and continues to fall
In the presence of violence he turns the other cheek only to look away
When our nation faces desperation, his cure is procrastination

I’m starting to see his true colors now
His ignorance reflects a fluorescent glow of damnation
His brightness is an illusion exposed through a flawed spectrum of distorted light
How could I have let myself be with him?

No longer am I blinded by the light of his darkness
I’m breaking up with Complacency and I’m calling you back
Forgive me, for I have forgotten my purpose,
But now I remember what my place on this earth is
Today I stand tall with my back off the wall
This time Action, I won’t miss your call

Day 4: Collis Crews

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011