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MLK Day Presentation: ‘Freedom Riders: Voices of the Reenactment’

Erica Shekell and Jayanni Webster speak about their participation in the 2011 reenactment of the Freedom Riders bus ride through the American South.

14 of the 40 Student Freedom Riders in front of the bus they rode from D.C. to New Orleans.14 of the 40 Student Freedom Riders in front of the bus they rode from D.C. to New Orleans.In 1961, a group of 13 African-American and white civil rights activists launched a journey through the American South, risking their lives to protest segregation in interstate bus terminals. More than 400 people participated in the rides, and many were ambushed, beaten or jailed.

In 2011, 40 students from across the country reenacted the bus ride from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, stopping at schools, lunch counters and the black churches where the original riders found refuge along the way. Original Freedom Riders and other 1960s activists joined the students, many of whom are activists themselves.

Erica Shekell, an Alma College staff member, and Jayanni Webster participated in the 2011 reenactment. They will speak about their experiences and engage students, faculty, staff and guests in conversation about contemporary activism at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19 in the Remick Heritage Center.

The Student Freedom Riders at the King Center in Atlanta, Ga.The Student Freedom Riders at the King Center in Atlanta, Ga.“The students formed deep relationships with the original Freedom Riders,” says Shekell. “We were the fruits of their labor, ‘the future generation’ for which they fought and risked their lives. Their activism has made our activism possible.

“Their love for us was deep, and it was as if they were passing along the torch to us, imbuing us with the strength to pursue justice in our respective issues. The interplay between past and present on the trip was remarkable.”

Shekell, social media strategist in the Communications and Marketing Office, has degrees in journalism and media arts and technology from Michigan State University. Webster, of Memphis, Tenn., is a 2012 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

 

Story published on December 05, 2014
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