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Posts Tagged ‘ Ryan Price ’

Day 10: Living Memorials

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

By Ryan Price

American Experience has truly allowed the 40 of us college students to live through a vital American experience. As I sat Saturday night in the fifth pew in First Baptist Church in Montgomery, I admired the men and women in the four rows ahead of me. In the first row sat some of America’s greatest treasures: the Freedom Riders.

Jim Zwerg, Helen and Bob Singleton, Rip Patton and Joan Mulholland comprised that first row. After spending multiple days with them, I can confidently say that their idealism for America might match that of our founding fathers. These five courageous American citizens have dedicated their lives to forming “a more perfect union,” and still, tirelessly, continue to do so.

In the next three rows sat some of America’s greatest promise: the 2011 Student Freedom Riders. I recognized the back of each of their heads and I can recall each of their stories. Each of their idealistic fires will lead them to invigorate Civic Society (Peter), protect laborers (Meghna), or save the environment (Zilong).

The communal feeling among our five rows was real. As we watched the documentary and celebrated with the original Riders that night, I began to intimately understand the civil rights movement’s ideal of the “Beloved Community.” We were in it.

In our circle, with our brothers and sisters, we could share anything. For example, I have even sung multiple times on this trip despite being diagnosed with stage-five tone-deaf disorder (and only got a little ribbing about it). I may have shattered windows when I belted out “This Little Light of Mine” in New Orleans, but no one in our small family cared.

We have spent the last ten days with Pulitzer Prize winners, an amazing travel agency team, passionate members of the PBS crew, 39 friends and allies, and multiple American heroes. It has been an absolute privilege to live through this American experience. I have no doubt that we will recognize the unparalleled opportunity this ride has afforded us and will honor it by giving back.

It is neither pure coincidence nor justice’s inevitability that enabled the 40 of us diverse students to ride on a bus together in 2011. It was just 50 years ago that justice’s inevitability was in question, when the 40 of us could not simply ride a bus side-by-side. Indeed, justice in 1961 looked like thirteen-year-old Hezekiah Watkins sitting on death row for integrating buses. Just 50 years ago those who “protected and served” did so by granting the Klan 15 minutes of free time to ravage the young nonviolent Freedom Riders.

The forty of us understand this well now. One of the original Freedom Riders looked at us the other night and defined our duty:

“Memorials can not be confined to buildings or artifacts. Memorials must be living. The 40 of you will go out into this world when you’re done here, and whether you know it or not, you will be a memorial to what we did in 1961. You will be walking, living, breathing memorials.”

The responsibility that demands of us is, quite-literally, monumental. If we go on to serve as living memorials to the sacrifices of the Freedom Riders, we will love all of our brothers and sisters, stand firmly for human dignity, and organize to protect constitutional rights. We will also teach our respective communities that one of the best ways to overcome injustice is to laugh at it, as Joan, the Singletons, Rip, and others did in 1961. And I don’t know about the other student riders, but I’ll have freedom songs stuck in my head for another three months. So Des Moines, Iowa, be ready to learn some new music!

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: thank you American Experience for educating and empowering our younger generation. You have enabled diverse friendships while renewing the young idealistic spirit in us that is so central to actualizing the American Dream and the Beloved Community.

The 40 good-looking new monuments across the country will go out into this world as a testament to the value of your education. Take a bow American Experience, and, more importantly, original Freedom Riders ,because your work has earned you the right to do so. Thank you.

Day 8: Our Noun > Our Adjectives

Monday, May 16th, 2011

By Ryan Price

So we continue to travel through many small towns and big cities, practically to the fanfare of trumpets. The cameras come out, filming. The citizens show up, smiling. The mayors are present, handshaking. The museums and universities are great places for us students to learn and grow, while these receptions are often great times for communities to heal.

Here’s the tension I feel though: the original Freedom Riders wouldn’t have behaved as perfectly as we do. As they traveled through these cities, they would have asked things to the tune of: “We’re really happy that our brothers and sisters, black and white, can ride buses together now. But how do you treat migrant workers? Do the children in your high school still viciously bully their gay peers? Do the members of your community paint all peaceful Muslims with the wide, inaccurate and phobic brush of terrorist?”

There’s nothing revolutionary in 2011, thank God, about different races riding buses together. Just fifty years ago, it was revolutionary. Today though the notion of segregation seems laughable. The lesson we learn from the Freedom Rides isn’t that we reached racial justice in the 1960s. No, the lesson we learn as students is that for us to make positive social change, we shouldn’t constantly behave so prudishly, properly and politely (which our generation tends to do).

It would have been rude for me to ask a leader in Tennessee, “Well I’m glad you’ve generously made room for black citizens in the front of buses. But what are you doing about the outlandishly high suicide rate among your LGBT youth? And while you answer that, how does your state do on housing discrimination?” Yet those questions need asking. Speaking truth to power – that’s the best way we could renew the spirit of the Freedom Riders.

What boggles my mind the most in the realm of social justice is this: our complete inability to unite against oppression. One famous civil rights icon told us several days ago that, “Illegal immigration is the worst thing to happen to the black community.” As she continued, the explanation sounded too much like “Hispanics are bad for blacks” for me to be remotely comfortable with it.

Nor can I begin to fathom explanations for the rampant homophobia present among some racial minorities. We have learned of the response to integration fifty years ago where segregationists said, “If God wanted races to mix, he would’ve made them mixed.” Yet, certain minority men and women barely notice the irony when they label homosexuals “unnatural.”

Our sisters couldn’t even cast a vote in the United States until relatively recently, yet they had no problem shouting, “kill them niggers” in Montgomery fifty years ago. Some women have no problem calling gays a threat to the family, when arguments leveled against women’s suffrage just ninety years ago centered on the demise of the family that suffrage would inevitably bring.

How did we become so confused as a society? If I were to write a personal social justice manifesto, it would be this: All of our varied and beautiful adjectives (black, white; skinny, fat; straight, gay; man, woman; poor, wealthy, and on) are nothing compared to our shared noun: human. To fully realize the American Dream, and live up to America’s promises, we must focus on the noun we share while showing greater respect for the adjectives that we don’t.

Day 6: Equality?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Day 3: Laughter, Sweat, Tears

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Ryan Price

Today I laughed often, sweated gallons and wept openly.


Whether it was John Walker’s (better known as JWalk) ridiculous story of his mountain-top coal mining protest or laughing with Joan Mulholland at her pride in going to jail, humor pervaded the day.

The offhand jokes all day on the bus, coupled with the way the original Riders resisted with humor 50 years ago brought levity to a heavy day. Amid learning of their struggles and oppression, they taught us the real power of laughter. Hell, if the jailer is going to take your toothbrush for singing, keep singing at ‘em. Just don’t open your mouth as wide.


Early this afternoon, the laughter gave way quickly in the stifling heat. There are few words we dread hearing on the bus more than, “The air conditioning is out”. I might even prefer, “We got a flat” or “The lavatory is out of order.” The heat quickly shot up to over 90 degrees while the sweat beaded down our faces during our intense workout, sitting.

The joyful ruckus of debate, discussion and laughter was for the first time silent in the heat of the mid-afternoon. For the first time, our condition was similar in one way to that of the original Freedom Riders. We were still safe, at ease and in the company of friends. All of us could sit wherever we wanted on the interstate bus without fear of retribution. But for the first time, the trip wasn’t entirely comfortable.

The heat already set my nerves on end. I felt short tempered as I packed and unpacked my bag on the bus. Imagine the confluence of variables the original Riders faced- environmental heat, the heat of oppression, social ostracism, threats of violence and death. It all made me think- if we can barely handle the heat, how could we ever measure up to them? What we realized after the Civil Rights Museum, quite explicitly, is that we can’t.


It’s been at least a year since I last wept openly, but I have no shame over the tears I tasted today.

In solemn silence our tour group entered “The Hall of Shame” in the International Civil Rights Museum.

We were greeted with the image of a burnt human soul on the ground in front of a sea of happy faces. A burnt black body lied dead amidst the crowds of the happy faces.

This was followed by the image of two men hanging from a tree, their once healthy bodies clearly beaten by clubs before their hanging. The tour guide explained lynching, forgetting that the image in front of us was a more vivid definition than she could ever hope to give.

The tour guide then moved on, and the thick silence was interrupted as Rip Patton (original rider) cleared his throat, “Hey,”

The group paused and guide said, “Yes?”

“Hey, wait,” he said, clearly choking up.

We all waited eerily as the strongest, most respected man in the room gathered his ability to speak. Moments turned to seconds as the air thickened.

“There was a lynching in December of 2010, December. That’s all.”

The Civil Rights Movement needs no dramatization or hyperbole. An accurate look at American History, taking away the revisionist celebrations as we travel through these states, clearly reveals our own capacity for evil.

The Civil Rights Movement was a peaceful response of human dignity against the violent machines of human evil, and the stories of those two hanging men, Emmett Till, Viola Gregg Liuzo and the other victims I learned of today testify to it.

That’s where I shed my first tear.

If we could gather even a fraction of the courage these past idols had to stand up for civil and human rights, just a fraction of it, we will be able to move mountains.

As Bamidele Demerson, the director of the museum said when we entered, “We’re hoping that this generation, the generation of today, can take us even further than the original freedom riders.”

Through laughter, sweat and even tears, let’s move mountains.

Day 2: Diana Mahoney

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Day 2: Robert Sgrignoli

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Day 1: Ryan Price

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Meet Ryan Price

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Radio Iowa

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Drake Student Chosen for Student Freedom Ride
by Matt Kelley

A Drake University sophomore is the only Iowan chosen to take part in a cross-country bus trip next month that mirrors a 1961 trek which historians say was a turning point in the Civil Rights movement. Ryan Price, a Quad Cities native, is among 40 college students who will be taking part in what’s being called the 2011 Student Freedom Ride.

Price says, “While we’re sitting on the bus, it’s meant to be a classroom experience to provide us with a learning opportunity where we get to talk with these courageous people who went on the original Freedom Rides and they can tell us just how different their ride was from the one we’re going on.” Read more…

Meet the Riders!

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Drake University News

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Drake Sophomore is Only Iowa College Student Selected for Historic Freedom Ride

Ryan L. Price, a sophomore at Drake University, is the sole Iowa college student selected to participate in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride, from May 6 – 16. The students will retrace a 1961 bus trip through the Deep South that historians credit as a turning point of the Civil Rights Movement. Read more…

Student Rider: Ryan Price

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa
Hometown: Apple Valley, Minnesota

Watch the full episode. See more Freedom Riders.