Student / Freedom Rider 2011, University of Utah
You were one of 40 students to participate in the PBS/American Experience Student Freedom Ride. Describe what that was.
So the 2011 Student Freedom Rides was a fifty year anniversary commemoration sponsored by PBS and American Experience and Liberty Mutual, and it was a retracing of the original Freedom Riders route from Washington, DC to New Orleans, and so what they did is, they've put out a call for activists-student activists from across the nation and forty students were chosen and that was it. It was this very symbolic act of closing-seemingly to close a chapter on a part of unfinished history, because the Freedom Riders never actually got to New Orleans because they were all eventually imprisoned at Parchman Prison in Jackson, Mississippi.
So did it feel like you were part of a sense of closure? What was the experience like you for you being on that bus?
I don't think I really understood what was happening until like half way through the ride. I wasn't very educated on the Freedom Rides. I knew very, very little about it and the first I'd really learned about it was on the website when I applied to the ride, so I don't know. I think there was an expectation to kind of close things, to create this finale, especially when we got into New Orleans and there was this huge celebration, people were waiting for us there. They had a dinner and they had dancing and they had speakers and just, you know, a large portion of the community was there to celebrate. I mean, I think it's a little naive to say it was our arrival because there were original riders on our bus, but there were only maybe five or six of them and so it's kind of hard to ignore the fact that the majority of us were students.
Why did you go, what were you curious about going into the ride?
I was really interested in what the group dynamic was going to be like, what our interactions as students and as activists were going to be. I don't think that it's as easy as just putting forty self-proclaimed activists on a bus and thinking that it's going to be, you know, songs and holding hands and hugging all the time, and I was interested to see what kind of issues it would raise - especially since we were from all across the United States and so we all have different issues that we focus on. So that group dynamic I was, I mean and the group dynamic was fascinating – just, I mean, there was a - it wasn't like an easy cohesion that people expected or maybe they just assumed was going to happen.
What happened? What was the group dynamic?
You know, there was a lot of - I mean, with forty people, you can't expect it to be this big kind of happy group dynamic. No, people didn't really know each other; we weren't really introduced to one another. For me, I got to-I had to familiarize myself with everybody through the website and then I wasn't really introduced to anyone when I got there. It was just kind of assumed or implied, and then when we actually got on the bus there was a lot of self-segregation happening. There were certain students who rode, who decided to ride on the back of the bus, and then there were certain - I mean about maybe halfway through the ride there were kind of assigned seating, even though it wasn't, that wasn't enforced you know the students-we just kind of sat where we were comfortable sitting, and that just happened to be-it was either the front or the back or sometimes people would like mix it up but not really, and so there was a there was a group of African-American students who rode on the back and they called themselves the back of the bus crew, and everyone was really aware of them because I think it's very easy to look at a group of black students and say 'oh they're self-segregating', but there was - that was definitely happening among white students and the fact that that wasn't being as pointed out as segregation, I thought was really interesting. And then for me I didn't really feel like I had a group, so I would kind of jump around and just talk to individuals, but I kind of felt like a loner on the bus.
Why did you feel like a loner?
I think there...I think the easiest way to come into a group is to find people like you, and so I didn't - there weren't really many East Asian people on the bus. There was one other student who was from China, he was an international student, and then there was one student from Philadelphia or from Pennsylvania who was half-Korean. But I don't feel like the bus was really a space to talk about Asian American issues. I feel like it was really focused on the historical aspect of black and white race relations within the South of the 1960’s and so in that there wasn't a lot of space to talk about issues - contemporary issues of race - and so I feel like it was kind of limited in that way.
Is the current discourse on civil rights stuck in an old paradigm? Today it seems like our sense of identity is so different, and so mixed, and notions of activism are also mixed. Do you feel like you were having trouble fitting a modern activist paradigm into an old paradigm?
Well, there was, I feel like there was this expectation to take civil rights activist tools and apply them to contemporary activist movements. So, there was a lecture or a talk given by Diane Nash who was the leader of the Nashville Freedom Riders Group, and she gave-she talked about this idea of agape love, or brotherly love and for me, what's hard for me to reconcile about that is that I'm not - it's very much based out of like biblical Christian rhetoric and I have a hard time with that, and I'm not from the south, I'm from Utah, and I have a contentious relationship with Christianity in general, but who am I to say that these not rules, but these guidelines for activism, or these ways of living activism aren't valid just because of like my personal relationship with Christianity, and so that was one thing that was hard for me to reconcile but at the same time I think that there is kind of an oversimplified way of using Civil Rights tactics to activism today because oppression and discrimination have changed. They've gone from being more overt-like rules, and like outwardly racist to more subversive, internalized kinds of oppression, and so it's more difficult to kind of pinpoint and to rally around an idea because it's not as clear as someone spewing hate speech, right? I mean there are groups like the Tea Party who I think we can all clearly point out to as saying they're crazy bigots, they're not aware they're only - they only care about themselves and in doing that they're oppressing other groups of people. But I think it's more - I think oppression now is more insidious, it's more in our minds, and it's being reinforced through just the ways that we live, and it's really hard for people to challenge that in themselves. So I think it's easy to focus on institutionalized forms of oppression, but it's really hard to be reflective about your own role as potentially an oppressor and an oppressed person.
Give me an example, if you can, about that how it's not that overt and how it's more an individual attitude or outlook.
Sure, I mean, I wouldn't necessarily say that it's only an individual outlook. So, so I'm taking this class called hip-hop culture right now and my professor is - he's playing devil's advocate in our class to kind of tease out these ideas, we - it's 2011, we have a black president, and sexism is over because - so he used this example of women's basketball has the same access to resources but they don't make any money, or they definitely don't make as much as money as male basketball or men's basketball, and so why should they be offered that opportunity because they're not doing the same output, and the focus is they have the same resources and they're not performing it the same way so we should just cut them, and in some bizarre logic that kind of makes sense. It's like, well, yeah, I mean, if women’s basketball isn't doing the same as men's basketball then they shouldn't - why should they have this, they're not - nobody watches them, there's only like thirty people at the games but there's an unasked question of why? Well first of all, why is women's basketball not popular? Why do people not go and support them? I mean, you can even just look at the MUSS and how the MUSS goes crazy over football, but all there - I didn't know there were other sports MUSS groups - I had no idea, and I just think what's being valued here, and what's not, and how is that making - how is that becoming an individual problem rather than a systemic issue of de-valuing women's sports or you know not investing, and not promoting them in the same way, and so I think it's this idea of value that we internalize as individuals, but it's put out there as a society.
How about you personally? Have you had experiences where, you know you don't have that overt in your face racism but you have that sort of covert-?
Describe an incident or the type of things that you experience.
Yeah, so over the summer I did a research project on my experience on the Freedom Rides and then I went to Berkeley to present my research, and while I was there I met a woman who is in the PhD program at Bowling Green University-Bowling Green State University for cultural studies-which is a program I really I was interested in going to. So, I asked her what the program was like, and she told me if I wanted any kind of support in Asian American studies, or Asian American issues I was going to have to find it myself. And then I told her well my research is actually in civil rights, and she - the response I got was really interesting, she got a little bit tense and a little bit defensive and she said "what about Civil Rights?" And I said "I went on this-I went on this commemorative ride and I did my research on that", and then she said "oh", and then she told me Bowling Green is very boring and it's conducive to studying and very cheap to live there. But I was telling other people that I was there with about it and I was actually really surprised at the amount of outrage that other people had that you know, I mean this is something that I've been thinking about a lot. If I go into academia and I want to study like Civil Rights that people won't see me as valid, because I'm an Asian American woman and of course Civil Rights is only for black and normally for black people, or white people or Latino people, and so that was a really interesting response to get especially at like a research symposium that's supposed to be for underrepresented people in university and college, so. (Laugh)
You'd think she'd be more enlightened, I guess.
Nope, I guess not.
Talk a little bit more about that notion-you are on this bus, tell me a little more about your identity-you're an Asian American, you're a westerner, you're from Utah- Describe your identity and how that came into play around the Civil Rights discussion.
Sure, well, for me the Civil Rights Movement has always been kind of the pinnacle of what to look to as far as race, and justice, but for me because it is framed as such a black and white movement it's really, really housed in the South, and it's within a really specific time period. There's this simultaneous gravitation towards it because it's this action towards social justice at the same time that may not necessarily be for me because I don't see myself represented within those activists and within, you know, within the work that they're doing, or that they did, and so I had to - I struggled with my own personal kind of idea of what - how am I supposed to do this research, and how am I even supposed to go on this bus ride and like be a part of Civil Rights commemoration when I'm from Utah. I was born in California, I'm Korean, you know, I'm Asian American; I'm a queer identified person. There's all of these things that are not addressed within the Civil Rights Movement and so I just didn't know how those two things were supposed to work together. Especially since so and I think there's this assumption that Civil Rights like rhetoric, and Civil Rights in general is just going to be universal, you know everyone quotes the King Speech 'I Have a Dream', and they apply it to every single one of their own agendas, but what does it all actually mean? And what's, I don't know, it's more complicated than just being able to quote a speech, or hold a sign, or say that you have a black friend, like that's way more complicated than that and I think people are not willing to see that.
What questions should we be asking ourselves? In what ways is it more complicated? How does this Freedom Ride apply to activism today?
I think that the Civil Rights memory is still very powerful in how action - social justice action - is formed and inspired and still motivated. It's still motivated by these ideas of leaders from the past, but at the same time, I think the way that the Civil Rights movement has been framed has been as if it was this linear movement, that it was a few leaders who got together and did these – and wrote these amazing speeches, and had these incredible rallies where hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But it's not easy, it's not as easy as that and a lot of things are unspoken when we remember the Civil Rights Movement like that, and so I think that's a really unfair portrayal, and it's not fair to activists today because I think we just assume - that there is an assumption that all we have to do is have a rally, all we have to do is make a few signs and that's enough, and that's not the whole picture. And so I would ask people to ask what do you really want, and is it going to be attained through like a protest or a rally, and what else needs to happen because there's - it's way more than that. That's like ten percent of a ninety - of a hundred percent movement, so.
What's the other ninety percent of the movement?
Man, it's a lot of stuff (laughter). There is a piece of collaboration in organizing, and coalition building that is really, I mean those are like the buzz words right now in activism - coalition building - building coalitions is hard, it's so freaking hard. It's so hard, and I don't, you know, I don't know how to do it successfully. And then there's this piece of, if you are getting all these different organizations together, how do you make sure that all perspectives are being represented and that there's not some kind of - in this movement for justice and equality, that there isn't like oppression happening within like the organizing. I mean, I was a part of a coalition for immigration that was incredibly sexist and very, very homophobic, and how am I supposed to (laughter). How am I supposed to reconcile that? And you look at like Gay Rights Activist groups who want certain things, but other people want like one more piece, so there was all that stuff happening with school districts and gender identity representation and what they got passed through the school boards was gender, like sexual orientation, I think just sexual orientation and but not gender expression, and so the majority of the people who were representing like gay rights groups were applauding but there was this section of people who were like well, okay you got yours, but not everyone is happy with this decision and I think it's this idea that we have to - in order to get what we want, we might have to, what's the word? I mean it's just this idea that as long as I get mine then that's enough, and that's really not fair to the idea of actual social justice because you're leaving other people behind, and if those people are going to support you then their issues have to be your issues, and everyone - and I think that's the biggest thing is that we don't consider if you do like immigration, you don't consider issues of LGBT or if you're LGBT you don't consider issues of race, or if you are doing gender stuff you don't consider class, or all of these things and I think that's what we're blind to, is the fact that all of - everything is connected and we're all affected by every single issue regardless of whether we like it or not.
Yeah, and then you get to, how do we even deal with that?
Right. It's – yeah, it's freaking hard.
I want to go back on the bus, let's go back on the bus. You had an upsetting experience with a famous leader around her comments on immigration. Tell me that story.
Sure, so the first day, the first or second day when we were in DC, we had the opportunity to hear Diane Nash, who is the leader of the Nashville Freedom Riders, speak about activism and what we can do to be better activists and it was really great talk. I mean she talked about agapic love and all of these things and it was really inspiring, and there were things I had really never though about, and then the Q and A happened and somebody asked the question about 'how can we apply these tactics or these methods to contemporary issues like immigration', and she made a comment about how illegal immigrants are sneaking across the border and stealing jobs from poor blacks, and (laugh) this is like the second day that we're all together so nobody really knows each other, we're just kind of sitting there, because for me that's a very upsetting statement, and then one of the riders who is an undocumented student stood up and said 'well I'm an undocumented student', and Nash said, like, these people need to go home and fix their own economies and fix their countries, like that's what they have to do, and that was kind of what she was telling us - we need to fix our country and all of this stuff and then she made this ridiculous comment about NAFTA and how like we just need to fix NAFTA, and it was like, how do you fix NAFTA? Do you have any tips or tricks? You know if this can be done so easily, then, well, like let's get it done. And so for me what was hard is that, like I don't care about her take on immigration. I don't care what she thinks, but I do care about what people who are not informed on immigration will glean from her words because they're not fair and they're so clearly biased and I think the fact that she lives in the South where immigration is a very different issue than it is in the West - although I mean it's getting bigger and bigger everyday, you can't ignore the effects of immigration in the South. And so my concern was, are people going to walk away from this thinking, oh, that's true, and then create more divisions among minority communities…
You wrote an essay about it.
I did. We were supposed to write like two blogs and make two videos on the ride, and so I wrote a response on that about heroes and how we can - sometimes heroes become so glorified that we don't challenge or question them, and that can be one of the most dangerous things because heroes are people. People who we look up to as heroes are just people who can fail, and they should be allowed that and so my fear is that by glorifying some people that we put on these pedestals, it's going to do more harm than good. So, just to kind of be critical of that.
You also had a moment on the bus that really touched you, because in your presentation you talked about - was it Hank Thomas?
Describe what he was saying - who he is and what he was saying.
Sure. So, Hank Thomas was one of the original riders. He was on the first trip from DC to - I think they were the first - I think they were going to Jackson, I can't remember. But, so Hank Thomas was on the ride that the most kind of infamous image of the Freedom Rights comes from - the fire bombed bus, which happened in a place called Anniston, Alabama, and so we went to Anniston, and it was this huge celebration and Anniston was very welcoming, and very warm. You know, they were so hospitable to us, and so we had dinner and then afterwards we went to the library to see the Courage Under Fire photo gallery, and was a reception and Hank Thomas gave this speech about how he wasn't, in 1961 he wasn't enough of a citizen to be able to ride on the front of a bus or to sit in a restaurant, to eat in a restaurant, but two years later he was enough of a citizen to be drafted into the Vietnam War. And I just thought that was so incredibly poignant, and I just think it's so symbolic of how we handle race in the United States - that there is this devaluation that people. Certain people don't have access to some very basic resources, and yet they're used to be thrown away in wars and in places where bodily hard will be done to them. And he said he went because he thought that maybe someday he could come back and he would be seen as a citizen. And it just brings up all these ideas and questions about citizenship and even if you're born in this country, what marks you like in or out, and with the way that we're living now is that ever going to change? And so, I was really, really struck by his words, I'm getting emotional just thinking about him right now.
Do you feel the way he does? Do you feel like that outsider at times?
Describe that… you’re an American, but not a part of America.
Absolutely, I mean I was born in the United States but I always get the question of where am I from, no where am I really from. There's always this kind of move to push me into a category that I may or may not be a part of, and so that's really difficult, and I think that's a commonality that underrepresented people can recognize, and I mean that's a really painful piece about living in a country that celebrates all of these ideas about being free and being equal but it's not so, and why is it so hard to recognize that?
What is that feeling?
I think it's so incredibly validating to hear those words come from someone who isn't me, someone who is of a different generation, who has a totally different experience and yet it's a shared experience, and that it's been happening for, not just since 1960, it's been happening ever since this country was created, since it's land has been colonized so, and because I don't ever hear that ever.
You don't hear what?
I don't hear people talk about the fact that their position as a citizen, just the very basic idea of belonging here is questioned. I don't hear people talk about that.
Is that feeling, that desire to be included, is that what your activism is really about?
I think I do what I do because I need to figure out - I guess I need to be able to give a name to all of these things that I experience that people don't see or people refuse to see, to know that I'm not going crazy, to know that this isn't some isolated incident that's all on me and it's based on all of my failures and because that's what people want you to think, that's what our society wants you to think is that you failed as an individual and the system didn't fail you, it was all you and I think that's a really dangerous idea to internalize because it makes systems of oppression unaccountable and so oppression continues.
So, are people saying, “well, if you don't feel like you belong that's your fault?”
Right. Yeah because every opportunity has been provided, right? I mean, we have equal schools, I mean, if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, like, everything's going to be great and if you fail, that's on you, that's not because banks are racist, that's not because the school's that you went to were like below average or didn't have access to resources for you to have a good education. It's not because you’re poor, because your parents just didn't work hard enough. I mean, how can you - that's such a cop out, it's such a cop out but it's so easy. It's so easy.
What does your activism look like?
I used to go to like a lot of rallies, and I used to, you know, I used to make posters and I used to be like that person who is just, you know, at every single rally - Bush rally, LGBT rally, rallies on immigration - but I think I've become more introspective and I've realized that as powerful as it can be to be among like tens of thousands of people, like at that immigration rally a few years ago, which was incredible, what actually changed? What came of that? And for me, it's about an exchange of ideas and it's about being in college. It's become so clear that education is - such a small percentage of people have access to this education, and the even smaller percentage have access to education that I want, that I'm trying to get, and so I want to talk to people about the things that I learn and make them accessible because this place is not - the University is not an accessible place in general. I mean, there's even like this weird backlash of, if you go to college than you're an elitist, and I've been called that and I'm just like, wow, I'm an elitist because I'm going to college? What is that? So it's about putting these ideas out there in the minds of people who would maybe not think or have access to them.
Describe it again and just put a subject in front of it so 'my activism-
Oh sure. Sure, the kind of activism that I do is a focus on ideas and understanding-understanding systems of power, understanding where I am within, I guess understanding where I am within all of this, within kind of this big messy complicated world, and I think the fact that I'm able to learn the things that I learn in university is really powerful but I know that a very small percentage of people have access to higher ed, and an even smaller percentage has access to the kind of education that I want or the kind of education that I'm trying to get, and so I'm really passionate about talking to people about the things that I learn about and putting ideas out there and seeing what happens.
Would you want to use public media for that?
I don't know. I have a friend who works for a media group in California, she works for Immediate Justice and I never thought about, because I've kind of always just brushed off media as this, like this monster that is owned by corporations and really specific messages come out of it. But the work that she does, I'm actually really impressed and I don't know how effective it is. I mean, I think media's incredibly powerful but what about other perspectives aside from like the dominant media discourse. I don't know.
You should get in. Speaking of media and corporate sponsorship, on that trip on the bus- You observed some interesting relationships between corporations and the way we perceive civil rights.
Well yeah, I mean the ride was definitely all about sponsorship - PBS of course, American Experience and Liberty Mutual. There was this really interesting relationship with Liberty Mutual because they were listed as the sole corporate funder. I guess they have some kind of agreement with PBS and American Experience and I think on one hand without that sponsorship, there would have been no way that I could have had that opportunity to have that experience, but on the other hand I just wonder how that effects the narrative of what we know and don't know about the Civil Rights Movement, and the effects that it that still live today.
Do you think that we're almost packaging Civil Rights sometimes as a commodity?
Oh yeah, I mean it's not just through corporate sponsorship but there is definitely a movement towards historical tourism, you know, this kind of being able to visit these places and to come away as some kind of authority. The fact that this King monument just went up over the weekend is so interesting, I mean I just think the placement of it -the fact that it's in D.C. where all of these kind of war memorials are and all of these presidential memorials are, and then there's this monument of Dr. King and you have to wonder why. Is it just as simple as we want to recognize a great man or, I mean, what's the message that we're getting from this? And you know the backlash on that monument has been fascinating, I mean it'll never stop and again I think it's the easy cop out to say that or to build a museum or a monument or to visit a place and to say now I've been there and I know what it's like and even though its base and place is really important to the history, I think you have to consider what are the effects that are alive and well. I mean places in the South are still feeling the effects of the civil rights movement and segregation.
Where else did you see this come into play?
Yeah, so in Anniston, they had this big unveiling of these two murals that were commemorating the buses, which I think is really, really interesting. I mean they're commemorating a place where like a brutal attack happened, and they have this mural, and they have a timeline of the attack and so it's very interesting on this wall and when I went there they had this like great unveiling and there were these two checks-one cut from Alabama Power and the other cut from a company called Monsanto which is a, well no it was a check out made out from Solutia, who is formerly known as Monsanto, and Monsanto is a company that makes genetically modified seeds but they also manufacture a poisonous chemical called PCB's, and Anniston has been polluted by these PCBs for almost a hundred years. I would say eighty-eighty years at least or more, and the fact that this company gave like ten thousand dollars to this tribute to the same community they've basically been poisoning, it's not- I mean it's poor people, it's poor people of color, I mean, I was like does anyone else see like the irony in this? Is it enough for this money to be given-does that wash their hands of any responsibility? And Alabama Power's a huge polluter, it's the number one polluter in Alabama and so, I mean, I think environmental racism is something that is - we don't really think about very much but the effect are enormous. The health effects are huge, so. That was, I mean, it was just - it made everything very alive for me, everything was very like present, everything was present. It wasn't like just, oh, sixty years ago people rode buses. No, the effects are still, you can still feel the effects of all of these things.
What was the experience like being on that bus? What were the emotions and did you find a way to reconcile those?
I felt really conflicted during the ride and I was just, I think, the whole time we were going, we were going, going, going every day. We were just traveling from one place to another to see a museum, to see a church, to have a meal, and we just - there was very, very little downtime and so it was just kind of this heady, emotional experience and then at the end of it, I was talking to one of one of the riders, actually a few like days ago, and we were talking about how we got off the bus but there's no processing and I think that's kind of a failure on the part of PBS. I mean, what did you think was going to happen? That like students wouldn't need time to process, and maybe not. Maybe it was only me that felt this way, maybe it was only this other kid that felt this way. But I mean the fact that we had this experience, there wasn't time to really unpack anything and then we all had to go home and finish finals, like start our summer stuff, travel. It just kind of seems likes a throw away in some ways. Like, oh we did this, we got some footage and see you later kids, like, good luck in your future activist endeavors, okay, put it on your CV alright, maybe that's what it's all about is just putting it on your CV.
Have you made anything of it since you've had time to process?
Yeah, I mean I did research, my summer research really helped me process a lot of things, a lot of questions that I had, a lot of personal concerns, and things that I was grappling with, and so I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to do that this summer. But I don't know, in some way I feel kind of apathetic towards it. It's like, oh, that was in May and now it's fall semester and I have other things to think about and I feel like I have to be really cautious about that because I mean that's exactly how we kind of are in this society. We do our thing and then we move on to the next thing and we move on to the next thing and suddenly we're just celebrating nothing.
So is there meaning for you inside of sort of like wrapping it all up and it's not easy to put a bow around it, but was there meaning or was there connection to these riders, these activists, you know, people you're on the bus with? What is that connection that maybe you did feel?
Sure, well, there were original riders that I had the opportunity to talk to and I was really touched by some of them. I mean, I had some really kind of profound conversations with people - with original riders and you know, I don't think I can ever forget those experiences. And then there's this piece of like young people, like the cohort, I guess, so to speak, and I think about the people that I've met on the ride, other students, and the people that I connected with and in some way it is really comforting to know that there are students who are doing this work and they do it - it's like they do it tirelessly and they just go and they go and they go and it's really amazing. And I just hope that whatever they want, whatever they're fighting for, that they can attain that.
Is that why you sang that song at the end?
(Laughs) Well, that song was, that song had a totally different meaning for me, but I did it as kind of, as kind of a closure to the ride, because I was, I don't know, the churches and the singing was really like a difficult thing for me to process and so that was kind of like my, alright I'm kind of at peace with this (laughs). Yep, my little video.
You're a good singer.
I’m curious about something, Raymond Arsenault talked about that beloved community and how people were fighting for the beloved community. What does that mean?
Mm, I don't know specifically, I don't have a definition. But I think in activism community is kind of the core of why we fight and why we struggle. It's for - because I don't think you can do social justice as an individual, like for your personal benefit, it has to be for the people around you, your family, the people - like the young people who will come next and for everyone else who's come before who's done like one step of work, or who's had like, who's made some progress to continue that. I mean that's how I would interpret his idea of beloved community, and I don't know how much of like what he's speaking to is well, I think when Ray talks about the beloved community it's an acknowledgment that this is communities that did this work and they did it for each other, and I think - you know I made a comment about coalition and yeah I, that's who you want to do it for, you want to do it for each other and I don't know.
Why do you do what you do? Why are you an activist?
Because I love it, because it's incredibly validating to my experience and because it gives me a purpose and I feel like that I - the more that I learn, the more natural it becomes and it's not like - it's not like work at all, it's living, this is my life.
It's who you are.
(Laugh) That's what I do.
Anything you want to add?
Well, I will say this. So, in New Orleans, I guess to just kind of, add a little bit of dissent into the Freedom Riders kind of narrative. So when we went to New Orleans we met an New Orleans Freedom Rider called Jerome Smith who got onto our bus and started talking to us about his experience and it became very clear that he was not happy about the way that the New Orleans Freedom Riders were being represented within this kind of remembering, and he wanted us to get off the bus and come into a church that Dr. King had spoken at that was just right across the street, but the way that he was being seen, or the way that he was being interpreted by the coordinators of our ride, they said no, they said we had to be somewhere and that we just had to leave and he got upset and he got off the bus and then like Ray got off the bus and all these people got off the bus and they were like trying to calm him down, and then the bus drove off and we just circled New Orleans for like twenty minutes and I just thought what is this? What about Jerome Smith made him, I mean, unsafe, like does his anger make him unsafe? Does his emotion make him unsafe? I mean there's all these pieces that we can speculate about but why is it that his voice is not as valid as these other riders who are on our bus? Is it because he's passionate? That he's emotional in this way? And I just thought that that decision to not let him on - to not let us get off the bus, and to not let him stay on the bus, I mean literally he had to get off the bus (laugh) it just makes me wonder about everything else that's happened that we don't know about. You know, this pretty picture, this happy ending and all that and I don't know, it's interesting.
There's all this talk about getting on the bus, would you get on the bus for activism?
What do you make of that and does it even apply to today?
I think like, in general, this idea of getting on with the movement or getting on with activism is still totally valid. I don't know, I think the image of the bus or the way that this idea of the bus is used, especially in activism now is super, super interesting and I don't quite know what to make of it. But I mean as far as like a call to action, I think that people just have to remember that it's not - you can't just get on the bus. Like, it's not just about getting physically being on a bus or thinking that you're with a movement if you're not doing anything while you're on there - it's not just a passive act. Because I mean you think about a bus, you think about a ride, you think about like going along for the ride - is that what it is? I don't think so.
But when they got on the bus they were risking their lives.
Exactly, exactly and I think about what it means to say to get on the bus today, and what are all the potential meanings that come out of that, and that it's not just a ride, right? It's about more than that, and so for people to consider that.
Are the dangers different today?
I think that depending on who you are, you face different types of physical, potentially physical violence. I would say that I don't as like a female bodied person, as like - I mean I have a lot of privilege in that sense, but I know people who I mean, people say hateful things to them just on the street. Like on Thursday night somebody said something really hateful to one of my friends, and I was just like what? And that's really scary, and so I mean - but at the same time you have to be willing to put yourself out there, you have to be willing to say something that might put yourself in a position where nobody likes you and you have to be okay with that, and if you're not, then I guess that's something that people have to deal with themselves. But I'm sure people have experienced where you overhear something in a classroom or the discussion gets really bad or even in your family and we all have decisions to make about whether you let that sit or you say something and I'm not by any means a perfect example of like someone who always says something but it's something to be mindful of.