Ithaca College Student Takes Part in Retracing of Historic Civil Rights Route
ITHACA, NY — Ithaca College freshman Tariq Meyers will be one of 40 college students taking part in a reenactment of the famous Freedom Rides in conjunction with a PBS film commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic episode in the Civil Rights Movement. Meyers will travel by bus for 10 days from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, as part of an effort to launch a national conversation about the role of civic engagement in today’s democracy.
The original 1961 Freedom Riders, a collection of black and white college students, used public transportation as a means of challenging segregation in the South. Starting off on May 6, Meyers and the other students will retrace their route, leading up to the Monday, May 16, broadcast premiere of the feature film “Freedom Riders,” airing at 9 p.m. as part of the “American Experience” series on PBS. Stanley Nelson, the creator of the film, will accompany the students on the ride.
The 40 participants in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride were selected from among nearly 1,000 applicants nationwide. They constitute a diverse cross-section of students, representing 33 states and the District of Columbia and a broad range of schools, from state universities and junior colleges to Ivy League institutions.
In his application video, Meyers said he hoped to bring history into the present with this unique experience. “I’m getting on the bus because I believe that the thoughtful, committed actions of a few have the ability to challenge the status quo, to overturn the unjustly accepted, and to change the world as we know it. I want to get on the bus because I believe we stand tall on the backs of those that came before us. I want to unite and empower a generation — my generation.”
A 2010 graduate of Boston College High School, Meyers is from Dorchester, Massachusetts. He is majoring in politics at Ithaca College, where he is a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar, member of the Student Government Association and Student Ambassador for the Office of Admission. For his research and accomplishments involving identity, community organization and the cultivation of cultural curiosity he was named a Begley Scholar at Boston College High and recognized by the Princeton University Prize in Race Relations.
Meet Meyers and the other 2011 Student Freedom Riders at www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/2011/meet-the-riders/#tariq/.
During the ride, the students will learn about the commitment and courage of the individuals who took part in the original journey. The participants are expected to use blogs and social media to discuss their experiences from the trip. Organizers hope the reenactment will serve as a means of launching a national conversation about the role of civic engagement in a thriving democracy, explore what issues inspire students to “get on the bus” today and look at what forms civic engagement is taking on campuses and in communities across the country.
“Freedom Riders” was written, directed, and produced by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. It is a powerful, harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of how black and white Americans of all ages and from all walks of life, committed to the ideals of non-violent protest, traveled together on buses and trains throughout the segregated South. They were attacked by mobs, beaten and jailed but they didn’t give up. The film features testimony from the riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the rides firsthand.
For more information, visit www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/.
Local Connections and Events
In Central New York, “Freedom Riders” will air from 9–11 p.m. on public television stations WSKG (Binghamton), WCNY (Syracuse) and WXXI (Rochester).
In conjunction with WSKG and a number of community organizations, two free public screenings of “Freedom Riders” will be held prior to its broadcast premiere. Both will include a reception before the film and a community conversation and talk back following. For more information, visit wskg.org/community-connections/freedom-riders.aspx.
Saturday, May 7
5 p.m., Cornerstone Community Church, 911 East Main Street, Endicott
Monday, May 9
6 p.m., Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC), 301 West Court Street, Ithaca. Reservations are required; contact Michelle Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations.
WCNY has produced “Voices from the Back of the Bus,” a half-hour television program focused on the Central New York connection to the Freedom Rides. The show features a discussion by panelists who were involved in the Freedom Rides of 1961 and in civil rights protests in Syracuse. Meyers joined other guests in taking part in a question-and-answer session following the taping. “Voices from the Back of the Bus” will air on WCNY on Monday, May 9, at 10:30 p.m. and on Sunday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m.