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Posts Tagged ‘ Stephanie Burton ’

Day 8: Thoughts from a Note Pad

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

By Stephanie Burton

On May 6, I began a journey of self exploration. In ten short days (that’s the power of this trip), I learned to soak up information, to dissect it in agonizing detail and to formulate new ideas, new questions. I’ve asked “how” and “why” several times along the way, becoming so thirsty for knowledge that I HAD to grab a notepad to keep it all together. Back, forth, up, down; the pen would not stop moving! One notepad led to two notepads, and so on and so on.

Now that the trip is over, I’m left with four notepads and a powerful assignment: to find the answers to my scribbling.

Each question stemmed from a conversation that I had with the people who were taking the journey with me—39 other students, members of the press, and the original Freedom Riders. I’m truly thankful for such an eye-opening experience. Thank you to everyone who uttered a word my way; you have left an imprint in my mental psyche forever.

Listed below are my top 11 questions:

1.     Why do we give others the privilege of interpreting the bible for us? If we took each phrase in the bible literally, would we all be dead? Are there people out there who live out the principles of the bible word for word?
2.     Bless the child that has its own. Why don’t I have an entrepreneurial spirit?
3.     Why is yesterday the 1st time that I’ve had a deep, spiritual connection with a person outside of my race?
4.     Someone said that the “Save the Children” commercials exploit kids because they find the most poverty-stricken kid to talk on camera, which causes the viewer to make generalizations about the entire impoverished group. But if even ONE kid is living so poorly, isn’t it still important?
5.     Does PR have a place in advocacy work? If so, what is the limit?
6.     Do introverted people ever make a notable contribution to society… famous introverts?
7.     Why does it feel so good to tell your story? And if it’s simply about telling your story, why do we get mad when the paper doesn’t print all of our quotes or everything we said?
8.     Am I supporting segregation by going to an HBCU (Historically Black College)? But what is the alternative? What college has diversity all across the board—gender, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc?
9.     Why didn’t the International Civil Rights Museum have an exhibit on American Indians’ struggle in the U.S.?
10. Do I have conflicting narratives?
11. When is it okay to label an event a “celebration?” Can we truly “celebrate” a painful event, even if it is 50 years later (the bombing of the bus in Anniston, Alabama)?


Day 3: One Step Away

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Stephanie Burton

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the urge to cry, yet here I am with that undeniable and highly embarrassing tickle in my throat. We–40 excited college students, certain members of the press and yes, those original, fearless Freedom Riders–are on our way to Greensboro, N.C., a historic stop on our ten-day journey, and a single loan tear is fighting to make its way south toward my cheek, mimicking the route of the rolling bus. The culprit? Meghna Candra, 19, a University of Pennsylvania student and my bus partner for this 2-hour trip to N.C. Born in India, Meghna came to the U.S. with her parents at the tender age of two. She enjoys bike rides, sampling Philly’s “culinary landscape” and exploring new adventures. Her sparkling nose ring and long eclectic skirt adds to her overall laid-back vibe, and she often murmurs “mmmhhmm” before answering a question. You never have to wonder if she’s really listening…just wait for that reassuring sound.

This is how our light-hearted chatter began, as perhaps it does with many friendly strangers who find themselves sitting next to each other in a quaint space.

But as we talked, I began to learn more about Meghna’s hopes, dreams and fears. She told me about her family’s eight plus year struggle to gain citizenship and how it fueled her passion to reform immigration laws. She taught me a brief history lesson on immigration in the U.S. and about the unjust cases that have led so many men and women to menial paying jobs, unfair labor conditions and/or death by bounty-seeking, minute-men.  My new bus companion talked about her work with the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, an advocacy group that fights for better labor conditions for Florida’s tomato farmers. She engaged me in dialogue about the specifics surrounding this group—how some members make $10,000 a year or less, how their lives resemble modernized slavery—and I soaked up this new information. I thought, ‘Wow, this girl is going to change the world!’

Then it was my turn.

I told her about “Swipe, Swipe and Swipe Again,” the event my friends and I planned, which fed over eighty members of Tallahassee’s population. I confided in her my plans to open a pregnancy resource center in Montgomery, Alabama, my hometown, and how I can’t wait to start a non-profit for young girls. It was her turn to learn more about my hopes, dreams and fears, and she did a wonderful job. She responded by giving me a newspaper, “One Step away,” which is a publication that is written solely by homeless people for homeless people.  She told me that she was going to throw it away that day, and something told her she should keep it. Imagine that! I was amazed, and I feel inspired to start a publication in Tallahassee, Florida, my university’s city.

A newsletter would allow the homeless population to find their own voice. Instead of just giving them aide, a newsletter would allow them to help themselves and to ban together to solve their OWN issues. It’s brilliant. It’s inspiring, and that’s why I sit here facing the window with tears in my eyes while Meghna helps herself to some of my Cheez-its.

Our simple conversation was like water for my mind. It was enough to give me a new idea. It gave me a new reason to do what I do!


Day 3: Meghna Chandra

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011


Day 1: Stephanie Burton

Sunday, May 8th, 2011


Florida Today

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Meet FAMU’s Young Freedom Rider
by Doug Blackburn

She has been steeped in the civil rights movement for all of her 21 years.

She grew up minutes away from Martin Luther King Jr.’s former home in Montgomery, Ala., now called the Dexter Parsonage Museum. She was raised in Rosa Parks’ church, officially known as St. Paul AME.

“My whole family has been really engaged in the civil rights movement,” said Stephanie Burton, a senior at Florida A&M University. “I feel like it’s my family’s legacy.” Read more…


Student Rider: Stephanie Burton

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL
Home Town: Montgomery, AL

Watch the full episode. See more Freedom Riders.