Last month, we paused to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Most historians describe that time as the movement’s formal address to civil liberties of our country. Many speeches were delivered on that day and they were all aimed to challenge our Founding Father’s legislative work on the Declaration of Independence written 187 years ago.
Two years before the March on Washington, young civil rights activists journeyed throughout the southern states attempting to integrate public facilities and inter-city bus stations in the spring of 1961. These Freedom Riders goal was to show the country how African-American people were treated in the South. Most of the freedom riders at that time were between the ages of 18 and 30 – mainly black and the rest white.
To reflect on the March on Washington and to the brave Freedom Riders, I decided to travel on an express/inter-city bus service called Megabus from Atlanta to Dallas to attend T.D. Jakes’ Megafest Event. Yes I could’ve purchased an air-flight to Dallas, but choose this method of travel. I thought it was my way to visualize how it must’ve felt riding on a bus with other people and traveling through the southern states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. While in route to Dallas, I wanted to begin reading a book written by Charles Patterson – “The Civil Rights Movement” – and gain a sense of what the riders were thinking fifty years ago. I wanted to understand the challenges, the good and bad moments of their journey and re-visit portions of the same manicured southern highways that were froth with unexpected stops of resistance local hate groups and segregationists.
At the same time, I wanted to observe how we today ride our interstate highways while comfortably sitting in a reclined seat, free Wi-Fi environment, and coasting smoothly along in an air-conditioned double-decker bus.
Here’s what I summed up after completing my journey one week later:
Year of 1961
The mindset of a Freedom Rider back then…
- A sense of solidarity of trained young individuals who risked their lives to change the status quo in the deep south.
- A hope to improve the needs for everyone to have the right to vote and access to a descent quality of life.
- To break down racism enforce fair treatment to all who need basic human services.
- The opportunity for everyone to freely move throughout the South
- To open doors for economic opportunities, educational advances into the college of their choosing, and equal public services
- A preparedness of being humiliated, beat upon, spit at, cursed and possibly jailed.
Year of 2013
The collected thoughts of what I discovered from bus travelers today…
- One’s expectation of service and getting to their destination
- Self-guarded/mostly non-talkative individuals – fitted portable electronic devices were the main entertainment for most travelers
- A sense of consumer rights to travel anywhere
- Ease dropping on those who desire to travel beyond the borders of the United States or sharing stores of their international journeys
- Before each departing journey, all had to be told about the bus provider’s “Miranda Rights” of their service to them
- No sense of danger where outside factions would mob the bus or make terroristic threats
Fifty years of progress I guess…
Had it not been for our fellow citizens to brave their lives to give us a desire to travel freely on buses and using integrated transfer terminals, where would we be today? Some of the simple things we do today were not of the things our parents/grandparents couldn’t do then. It took purposeful people of the 50s and 60s to make significant change in our society. What are you doing today to make significant change for the next generations to come? Will you become the next Freedom Rider for justice?
Let go people and do some good!