Oh man, the movie. But wait – let me tell you how we got there. And I’m wiped out.
We all arrived in Nashville this afternoon. At 5:30 we met in a conference room and began orientation.
After some introduction we watched the Freedom Riders movie based on Dr. Arsenault’s book. Saying it is incredibly powerful is an understatement. I’m at a rare loss for words really. You have to see it. Let’s just say I can’t believe this happened here in the United States such a short time ago. Throngs of people in the street attacking college students who were testing a law. Diane Nash’s gorgeous young face and her intensity both in the imagery from 1961 and her interviews today. Bull Conner and just how unbelievable it was that he was the reality of Alabama law enforcement, and not a charicture. The governor of Alabama admitting he lied to the Kennedys, his whole interview. John Seigenthaler and now I really can’t wait to meet him, he’s so candid in this film you feel like he is in the room. The imagery from this film will stay with me forever, especially a brief shot of the bus in flames in Birmingham, the images of the beaten Freedom Riders on the ground, and faces. So many faces. So much to process. Reading about it has been one thing, the film takes you right inside the buses, churches, deep south, prison…
And then there’s Rip. Tonight we met Rip Patton – a Freedom Rider who is doing the entire journey. There’s something very cool about him, I am looking forward to talking with him and listening to him. Rip will be on the bus with us for the whole trip – and they leave the seat next to him empty so that we can take turns sitting with him and talking with him, asking questions, whatever we like. Here’s his biography.
Ernest “Rip” Patton (Group discussion facilitator and mentor):
Rip Patton was a 21-year-old music major at Tennessee State University when he joined SNCC and the Nashville Movement in 1960, participating in the Lawson Workshops, the Nashville sit-ins and other protests of segregation. He joined the Freedom Rides in 1961 and was in the first group to make it to Jackson, Mississippi, where he was arrested for entering a “white only” Greyhound Bus Station waiting room. His group also included John Lewis, Hank Thomas, and Jim Farmer. The group was ultimately sent to Parchman Penitentiary. Mr. Patton was an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working closely with Diane Nash and John Lewis. He knew Dr. King, Fred Shuttlesworth and C.T. Vivian and recalls the full range of stories that defined the Civil Rights Movement. He will accompany us throughout the travel course to interact with students individually and collectively.