Students Reflect on #civilrightsride Experiences

On Wednesday, July 2, ED commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a Civil Rights Bus Ride. Some of the original Freedom Riders and current student leaders took a trip from Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia, for a symbolic and celebratory returning ride.

Jessica Faith Carter attends the University of Texas at Austin and is from Houston, Texas

I am a first generation college student, a few semesters away from a Ph.D., my fifth degree. For me, education has been a great equalizer and the reason I have been able to transcend some potentially unfortunate circumstances that may come with being born an African American female, in a low-income community. Instead, I have become an accomplished educator and trailblazer. Without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would not have had the opportunity to attend the prestigious institutions of higher education that I have, and I don’t think I would be the leader I am today without the knowledge and experiences that I  gained through education.

On July 2, it was truly life-changing to be in the company of men and women who risked their lives to fight for the rights that I enjoy today. As we rode school buses between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. I was inspired to be among the next generation of leaders who are continuing to advance the work that those luminaries started decades ago. My favorite part of this experience was the dialogue that took place during our journey. Hank Thomas and John Moody — two of the original Freedom Riders — spoke candidly about their experiences as young activists and provided a great deal of insight for future leaders. I stepped off the bus feeling inspired and empowered to continue to work to ensure that every child in this country has access to a high-quality education.

Cindy Nava attends the University of New Mexico and is from Albuquerque, New Mexico

The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an experience that will be embedded in my heart for the rest of my life.

It is important to remember every stone that has been lifted, every tear that has been shed, and every life that has been taken, in order to appreciate the sacrifices of so many and to acknowledge how far we have come as a country.

As a low-income, immigrant child, the daughter of a house cleaner and a construction worker from Mexico, I could have only dreamt of ever having the opportunity to participate in such an event.

The words of advice, encouragement, and faith from the Freedom Riders truly touched my heart. The words of Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon brought a sense of reality and motivation to continue  working toward a better future that represents justice for all. The passion with which Hank Thomas spoke about his days on the freedom buses was inspirational. He brought to life every second of his pain, struggle, and success during the last five decades.

It is time to learn from the successes and the mistakes of past movements. I think that we must operate within the system to create real change, through creation of policy and educational access for all. We must accept the responsibility of continuing to build the bridge for the millions coming behind us, and we must continue work that will connect young with old. By doing this for years to come, we may continue the battle for equality and justice.

For another student’s perspective, check out student blogger Manpreet Teji’s post on the SAALT blog.

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