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Frankeye Adams-Johnson says that she was a foot soldier, one of the thousands of marching young people in the 60s. She suggests that we need to inspire young people today […]
Tonight’s the night. The students of Professor Karen McCord’s Civil Rights Travel Course meet at the Sacramento airport at 9:00. Each of us is carrying goodies for the members of the group in case we get hungry (Delta provides pretzels, nuts or a cookie.) or in case we are stranded at the airport. According to Freedom Riders (the superb documentary at http://www.shoppbs.org/family/index.jsp?categoryld=11530506&ab=BSpot1CivilRights),the in 1961 the freedom riders who had been severely beaten by a white mob the day before in Birmingham, went to the airport to leave. They were met at the airport by the same angry mob. They had to walk through the mob to get to the plane. Ah safe, finally we get to relax. Bomb scare! And they had to walk back through the mob to the waiting room. The mob surrounded them and it looked like they would be killed before they could get into the air. “They were trapped in limbo. Trapped in a frightened state of limbo.” It took the arrival of John Seigenthaler, representing Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to get them on the plane safely. In our case, if we’re stranded, it will be because of a tornado, storm or other act of God. We’ll have to trust our safety to Him.
Did you see the “Freedom Riders”? It was extraordinary. Now imagine an eighth grade girl watching it in real time. I was shocked. I didn’t believe this could happen in the United States. But it did and I was watching people being brutalized. But I also saw people who were unwilling to let violence triumph over non-violence. Those people were my heroes and heroines. And, they were not only willing to take chances for what they believed in, they were smart. Alabama was a harsh nightmare, which is all the more poignant when we know that those folks wrote their wills before getting on the bus. Mississippi was a test of the Freedom Rider’s ability to out-think the officials of the state.
The plans for the Civil Rights Travel Course seem as fantastic to me as Cinderella going to the ball. The outline of the class inspires me. But the pieces I want to add are something else – that’s where the fantasy lies. I have contacted a newspaper in Anniston, Alabama, about an interview. I’m waiting for an answer. I have gotten an answer from the Atlanta Constitution Journal. The reporter said that, if the idea were approved, I might get an interview or get to write a column. I am waiting to hear from the Atlanta Inquirer. And I’ve contacted the Clarksdale, Mississippi newspaper. Monday I call them all to see where we are. Bettina, my pr expert, has her list of radio stations, newspapers and television stations in Atlanta and the other cities we will visit. Ever learn to write a press release? I know I hadn’t.
It’s been a loooong time since I’ve taken a college class. On May 4 I went to the orientation session for my Civil rights Travel Class in June. Some things have changed and some have not.
Professor McCord has a gentle way of welcoming students. This class was at four in the afternoon and she knew some students wouldn’t have dinner before their next classes. So, she provided a nosh to get them through: strawberries, cupcakes, chips and dip, water and sodas. This was not the typical class at Cal in the 1960s. But, there was no teargas at Solano either, so I guess many things have changed.
You know how the spirit moves! One minute you aren’t involved and the next you’re involved up to your eyeballs? Well, it’s happened to me again. The parallels are too obvious:
1. April, 1965, I chose to go to the South to register black voters. April, 2011, I’ve chosen to go to the South on a Civil Rights Travel Course.