The balmy evening of June 16, 2008 proved to be historical, monumental, stirring and most of all poignant. Six members of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders shared their voice in regards to life-changing event occurring more than 45 years ago to a captive audience.
The engaging activists along with author Eric Etheridge of "Breach of Peace" - Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders also shared insights regarding their journey.
The book is a moving narrative with effective photos, quotes, and recollections from the individuals’ regarding their travels through the south.
There were originally over 300 people, from varied races, cultures, age, socio-economic groups, and from diverse walks of life. All joined together in the fight to tear down the walls of segregation.
Helen Singleton, Robert Singleton, Richard Steward, Larry Bell, Michael Grubbs, and Claude Liggins were the honored guests of the evening. They brilliantly spoke of the circumstances that led them to join a movement dedicated to breaking barriers of oppression, racism, bigotry, intimidation, ignorant and violence on a community and national level.
The 6 were young adults when they joined the movement. Most went against the wishes of their family and friends yet agreed to travel across country and participate in a fight against segregation that had gripped the south. These individuals put their lives on the line through their participation in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, waiting rooms in bus stations, and railway stations.
Their courageous stance was met outward resistance, verbal, emotional abuse as well as physical confrontation, arrest, and conviction with the charge of "Breach of the Peace".
Although there were also those who supported and united with the freedom riders providing help and alliance.
The stories shared by the members of the freedom riders discussed how their story correlates with and affects us today on a global level and as a nation, state, city, and community how a small group of people can make a definitive and meaningful change in the tide of a segment of people in the nation steeped in hypocrisy, intolerance, and ignorance.
The freedom riders determination and bravery set the mood for crucial change that was necessary.
Tolerance is not enough. Acceptance is more the course that we should find ourselves embracing in our thinking and actions. We should also familiarize ourselves with this part of history so as to know the struggle many have gone through for the cause of justice, freedom, and equality.
It was a wonderful evening was filled with wisdom, illumination and accounts that proved significant for us today.
I highly recommend the book written by Eric Etheridge as it creatively investigates the path of all the Freedom Riders that led the way to realization and liberation.
The book is available at Eso Won Bookstore located at 4331 Degnan, Los Angeles, CA. 90008. The cross streets are Crenshaw Blvd and Leimert.
It is also available at IMIX Bookstore at 5052 Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. or at several local bookstores or even better your local grass roots bookstore of which I encourage you to patronize.