Posts Tagged ‘ Francisco Diaz ’
By Francisco Diaz
As this journey comes to a close, I reflect on the last ten days on the road. I have learned much from the people I have met, not only from the Freedom Riders and other civil rights veterans, but the other students on the bus and the myriad viewpoints and causes we all keep close to our hearts.
Much of our trip has been spent mulling over how different our struggle is compared to back in the ‘60s. The Klan has traded in robes for suits, and night riding for aggressive lobbying. The challenges and adversaries we face are more superfluous, ambiguous, and globalized, they are not as obvious and the challenge seems daunting. Fortunately, the approaches people are taking to take on these problems are diverse, even if they sometimes seem disparate.
On this bus we have people passionate about education inequality, environmental justice, immigrant rights (or as I call it, the right to migrate and the right to stay home), the prison system and so on. Some of us are amazing orators, some can sing, some write, some make films. But we all have passion. We all look to tackle the world’s problems in a different way.
The level of discourse and debate on this bus is of the highest level I have experienced anywhere to date. It gets to the point that someone like myself, who has always considered himself a fierce intellectual, has gotten almost weary of talking politics! From the days of conversation, I can only think of one phrase to bring it together: “Many roads, one journey.”
We all have a place in the world, a role to play in the “Grand Act” that is the human experience. Shakespeare once said, “all the world’s a stage, the men and women are merely players.” We all have a crucial role to play in the upcoming act. I can see some people on this bus holding political office. Some might go into law, or become great educators, or incredible labor organizers. Some will undoubtedly reach high accolades or widespread recognition. But as we have learned on this trip, the struggle for freedom has countless nameless, unsung heroes. For each Martin there is a James Farmer or Bayard Rustin. For each Rosa Parks, an Irene Morgan. No matter how, we will all contribute an essential part of ourselves to the ongoing struggle for the Beloved Community.
By Francisco Diaz
Anniston, Alabama. The name has developed a strong notoriety in my consciousness. It conjures up images of angry mobs and violent intolerance. It was the first escalation and first stark expression of raw hatred against the original Freedom Riders, the place that produced the image of a burning Greyhound that has been ubiquitous thru-ought our journey.
Before this trip I would say to my friends, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in the South.” What I had heard of the region conjured up a view of angry, hostile racists lurking around every corner, every southern accent concealing contempt for those they deemed different from them. It’s no surprise, I reasoned, that the current swath of anti-immigrant legislation states are trying to enact across the country are strongest in these former Confederate states.
While I am the first to reiterate that there is still much work to be done, I am now happy to say that my own views were flawed, prejudicial, and incomplete. I say that I’m happy because I have now begun to move past that view.
At dinner I sat next to an Anniston local named Richard Couch. I couldn’t help but think that he was the stereotype of the South that I had developed in my mind, a burly, blue-eyed man with a thick southern drawl, whose father had been a Klansman, one of the mob that had been there on that day of terror in 1961. Richard was also one of the funniest and most sincere men I have met, a public defender who advocates for the poor of Anniston, who was genuinely happy to meet me and an Oakland Raiders fan and general lover of the San Francisco Bay Area to boot.
When Richard Couch gave an impromptu and tearful welcome to Hank Thomas, who had been on that bus the day it was burned and when they embraced, I viewed the full power of nonviolence. The son of a Klansman hugging a man who his father hated and wanted dead was a greater victory than any violent counter-attack that could have been done at the time to the mob had surrounded that bus. If the Freedom Riders had not been nonviolent, and they fought back and perhaps killed Richard Couch’s father, this true moment would not have occurred.
The genuine power of the moment we saw was a brief, luminescent glimpse of the beloved community Mr. Thomas and the other Freedom Riders sought. Where I once saw hate, bigotry and violence, I now see love, understanding and hope. Later on, some of my fellow student riders told me that the comment page in the local newspaper’s website was full of comments about “stirring the race pot” and “unnecessarily bringing up old wounds.” This could have discouraged me, because we have not completely overcome, but I saw the true power of love, and as we continue, no amount of hate and continued ignorance will take that away.
San Rafael Man One of 40 Students Selected for PBS’ ‘Freedom Ride’
By Jessica Bernstein-Wax
Public Broadcasting Service has selected a San Rafael man to participate this week in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride, a 10-day journey that lets young people retrace the original bus route civil rights activists took 50 years ago to protest segregation on transit.
Francisco Diaz, a 25-year-old filmmaker, community activist and anthropology student at Santa Rosa Junior College, was one of 40 students to win a spot on the “American Experience” ride out of a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants. PBS chose just three other students from California, two from Stanford University and one from Santa Monica College. Read more…