In 1961 a brave, mixed-race group of young Americans rode busses together around the South, standing up against segregation and racism. They suffered brutal beatings, were imprisoned, and their busses were set on fire, but they persisted. After three separate attempts, the Freedom Riders had to call their travels to a stop because this simple, peaceful act had become too dangerous. They had planned to eventually come to New Orleans but never made it all the way there.
Fifty years later, in 2011, a new group of young people reenacted the ride, visiting many of the original Freedom Ride cities along the way. On Monday, May 16th, their journey came to an end at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans. These students, along with some of the surviving original Freedom Riders, finally brought the journey to its intended ending point.
I had the privilege of being there for the ceremony, and it was certainly a joyous, New Orleans-style celebration! Complete with marching band, second-line dancers, and a dove-releasing ceremony, it was a momentous occasion. One of the most poignant moments (for me, at least) was when the street festival made way for the indoor celebration, and the Freedom Riders (new and old) led the way while the crowd sang: “We shall overcooome… we shall overcooome… we shall over-COME SOME DAAAAAAAAAYYY! For DEEP in my heaaart, I do belieeeeve, that we shall overcooome… sooome… daaaaayyy!”
I hope you enjoy the video I made of the occasion!