I wonder what was on the minds of the first 13 young Freedom Riders–six white and seven black–the day before they got on a Greyhound bus in D.C., headed to the South 50 years ago in spring 1961. Were they nervous, for themselves and their future, that the law to desegregate interstate commerce wouldn’t uphold in a still-segregated South? Did they feel any pride for their anticipated acts of non-violence, soon capturing the attention of the world and cementing themselves in the history of racial equality?
I’ll soon find out. It’s the day before I get on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama with 12 other young folk from across the country of all different backgrounds to seek another form of Civil Rights. The Freedom Riders sought racial justice. We are seeking real food justice. We’re changing the food system in our own communities and meeting others who are doing the same, whether it’s increasing access to affordable healthy food for low-income communities, getting better conditions for food chain workers, or reclaiming traditional food cultures.
The first 12-day Food and Freedom Ride starts in the South in Alabama and Mississippi, heads into the Midwest in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa, and ends in Michigan. The second ride, one week later, will go through America’s salad bowl–California.
I’m nervous and I’m proud. I’m nervous because freedom for real food away from the industrial food system is at an all-time high, whether it’s a massive recall on turkey, raid on raw foods and needs for retail permits, or getting supermarket chains to sign onto fair farmworker rights. I’m proud because I’m excited to meet and share the stories of youth, food producers, and community leaders who understand the problems and are manifesting real food solutions. The past efforts of the Freedom Riders and other social movement leaders give me hope that my nervousness will override with strength and my pride with even more so.
Our hope is that the rides will bring to light the need to change the structural systems currently in place that prohibit people hurt by the industrial food system from growing, eating, affording, and accessing this basic civil right. On our rides, we’ll engage youth and communities on a recently drafted Youth Food Bill of Rights, sending the message to our representatives as we approach the 2012 Farm Bill that real food is a real solution and that it’s the norm, not the exception.
We’ll share stories, actions, and reflections daily on the road from different riders. Ride for Food and Freedom with us online, on Facebook or Twitter @liverealnoworg (use the hashtag #foodandfreedom), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to join us if you’re on route. We’re also nearing our campaign to fund a video documentary of the rides and complementary curriculum. Chip in $5(+) for #foodandfreedom!
Watch this video to find out why I’m riding: