Firelight Media's Freedom Riders Community Engagement Campaign
The story of the Freedom Rides offers a dramatic lesson in the revolutionary power of civic participation. The daring actions of a small diverse group of young adults emboldened a mass movement that ultimately transformed the very fabric of this country. We believe this powerful example of a successful organizing effort will inspire young people, and their adult allies, that are affected by, and mobilizing around contemporary issues such as disproportionate sentencing, immigrant rights, youth violence and environmental justice.

Firelight Media's national community engagement campaign invites community-based organizations and student groups to use the film Freedom Riders to highlight lessons from the Rides, draw parallels between the struggles of the 1960s and today, and support youth-led action around current social justice struggles.

Our Local and National Community Partners

Our Community Partners will use the film to:
  • Increase awareness of the Freedom Rides, particularly among young people of color and immigrants, and make the events documented in the film relevant today;
  • Support the efforts of community-based youth organizing in New Orleans, Washington DC, New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Jackson and the Bay Area; and
  • Engage students in campus screenings across Mississippi, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut and the District of Columbia.

For more information, please contact:

Monifa Bandele - monifabandele@gmail.com
Sonya Childress - sonya@firelightmedia.org

Our Funders for This Project

*A special thanks to NBPC, Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Open Society Institute's Campaign for Black Male Achievement for their support.


"Freedom Riders: Lessons for a New Generation"
"In targeting youth groups, we immediately thought of the Dream Act, because the story of Freedom Riders is a story about multi-ethnic organizing. We wanted to reach people working on immigration reform who do not see the civil rights movement as part of their history or as relevant to their activism. And we wanted to help them use the film in their own campaigns." Sonya Childress, community engagement specialist at Firelight Media. Check out the PhilanTopic article about the campaign.

Young Adults Speak Honestly about Race
“We’re still trying to see each other as human. We’re still struggling with this.”
This quote comes from one of our community partners, Albert Sykes, of the Young Peoples Project. Click here to read the article "Freedom Riders, 50 years on, See Today’s Youths as Disconnected from Racism Fight" in The Washington Post.

Voting is Not Enough!
“Voting is not enough. It’s important, but it’s not enough. That ten minutes that you spend in the voting booth every 10 years is not enough to fulfill our duty as American citizens. I think we need to begin seeing that all of us—millions and millions of us—need to use non-violent direct action to bring about the changes that need to be done in this country.”
--Freedom Rider Diane Nash quoted in Colorlines article.

James Zwerg on the Emotional Toll of Being a Freedom Rider
"Zwerg looked like a bloody scarecrow. His eyes were blackened and his suit was splattered with blood. After he was hospitalized, a news crew filmed him in his hospital bed. Barely able to speak, Zwerg declared that violence wouldn't stop him or any of his friends. The Freedom Rides would go on. Zwerg became one of the movement's first heroes. Although his physical wounds healed, the emotional ones took longer." Click here to read about him in this CNN.com article.

Today's Freedom Riders
"The beauty of America is that it's an unfinished work. Every generation has a duty to continue the work of its predecessors and make the world a better place." Click here to read the Huffington Post's article, "Can the Class of 2011 Be the Freedom Riders of Tomorrow?"

This is Not a Post-Racial America!
"Freedom Riders stirs the soul and tugs at the heart strings of anybody who has fought tirelessly and fearlessly for something they believe in. It arouses a gamut of emotions forcing you to appreciate the nauseating and real facet of American history that’s been shallowly buried by 'post-race' propaganda." Ella's Voice article, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Freedom Rider John Lewis on the New Civil Rights Battles
Click here to check out The Root's interview with Representative and 1961 Freedom Rider, John Lewis. His advice to young people? "There are still too many people in our society that are left out or left behind. I feel these young people must make a commitment to the long haul and be leaders -- not just for a season but for a lifetime -- to deal with the issues of poverty, hunger, violence and immigration. I don't think I have a blueprint or road map for them, but I would say be creative ... Find a way to make some noise, to speak up and speak out."

"Immigrant Rights Activists are Obama's Freedom Riders"
Click here to check out the article written by our national partner, the Center for American Progress, on the links between the efforts of the Freedom Riders and those of immigrant students pressing President Obama on the DREAM Act.


American Experience Freedom Riders Website

Firelight Media's guide: United in Courage: A Community Resource Guide for the film Freedom Riders

Facing History and Ourselves Study Guide

Children's Defense Fund's Host a Freedom Riders Watch Party

Get on Board: Stories of the LA to Houston Freedom Riders
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