Posts Tagged ‘ Rachael DeMarce ’
By Rachael DeMarce
Even on a warm day in Atlanta I felt the heat from the Eternal Flame across from the tomb of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The plaque states “The Eternal Flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s ideals for the ‘Beloved Community’ which requires lasting personal commitment that cannot weaken when faced with obstacles.” The warmth the flame provided reminded me that his legacy and philosophy live on today.
We continued down Auburn Avenue, on a sidewalk that I could visualize Dr. King walking on, into Ebenezer Baptist Church. Opening the doors was like stepping into history. I sat in the front pew looking directly at the microphone that he used when preaching. I could not help but feel touched and wonder what it would be like to hear his voice in person. Ernest Rip Patton reminded us how fortunate we are as students. I glanced across the street to see Rip, an original Freedom Rider, who was talking to a group of about fifty elementary students and thought, “what a treat for them.” I have learned that the original Freedom Riders take each opportunity, even if it’s an impromptu one, to share their stories.
In elementary school, I often found myself the only student of color, and because of this I discovered a personal connection to the struggles of African Americans during the civil rights movement. These events however lived only in textbooks. The students in the grass across Auburn Avenue were living history, and they were living it with us.
By Rachael DeMarce
Standing next to Bob Singleton at the site where a Freedom Rider bus was firebombed in 1961, I listened to a photographer from Anniston explaining the struggle that “we went through” to an original Freedom Rider. I found it difficult to interpret exactly what he intended by the word “we.” With one word he was able to easily insert himself into a monumental event in Anniston’s history. Not far from our conversation, the press asked questions regarding the economic development of the location where the Freedom Riders bus was fire bombed.
Leaning on a distressed white wooden fence a white woman observed our conversation. She appeared out of place in an area that was her home. I wondered if we had unexpectedly interrupted her day. I walked over to stand in the grass with her. Reaching out my hand she hesitantly accepted my greeting. She began to explain that her parents were the only remaining family in one of three homes directly across from where the bus burned fifty years ago. It was in this moment, I realized this was part of her history, and that I couldn’t label who the “we” was in this painful attack. Our brief discussion symbolized dialogue that may not have happened without the creation of the Freedom Riders book and eventual documentary. Certain members in the town seemed to care about this anniversary in a way that they had never done before, and encourage us as students to continue the work of original Freedom Riders saying “it’s now up to you”.
I welcome this responsibility but believe that it is not only up to us as students. The older generation still has an important role to play. During our breakfast in Anniston we listened attentively to the mayor who spoke only of economic development and did not acknowledge the actual attack. Later on, I was disappointed to hear him talking in the back of the crowd with three other white men as an original Freedom Rider spoke. The visible divide was made more apparent when the mayor said “this is not fake.” There were genuine and honest moments of reconciliation in Anniston. I have hope that current leadership in the town of Anniston will take responsibility and not wait to pass current injustices on to students.
by Sanjay Talwani
Rachael DeMarce did well in middle school and at C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls. But she figures if it weren’t for Montana’s Indian Education for All program, she might have never finished high school, with what she described as low expectations for American Indian students and a lack of visible and successful American Indian role models.
But she did graduate — and is now a junior at Carroll College, double majoring in political science and communications.
Next month, she will immerse herself into a major episode of American history, when she and 39 other college students from around the nation embark on the Student Freedom Ride. She’ll retrace the steps of the original Freedom Ride, 50 years ago in 1961, when black and white activists rode through the South on a bus to protest segregation, facing bombings and beatings along the way. Some of the original freedom riders will join the students, offering insights on history to a new generation of engaged students. Read more…