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  • Writer's pictureLauren


Updated: Feb 3, 2021

The original Freedom summer was in 1964 when thousands of college student's flocked to the south in order to register black people to vote. My Freedom summer started with a 17 hour bus ride to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Two weeks ago I took a seventeen hour bus ride from D.C. to Knoxville Tennessee, in order to attend the national training for the Children's Defense Fund, Freedom School program. SEVENTEEN HOURS, on a Greyhound bus. It was disorganized, cramped, and even though I slept almost the entire way back it was exhausting.

On the bus!

Even so, it was only a piece of what the original activists experienced. The training was impactful in a way I really didn't expect. Going in I saw it as something that I would walk through and come back to Maryland, but if anything, the training walked, and ran, and stomped all over me. It was a week of waking up earlier than I had since my senior year of High school, and staying up until the next day preparing for the day ahead. It was exhausting. The days consisted of being outside in the hot southern sun, and being transported back and forth between the convention center, a high school, and the beautiful Alex Haley farm. Every morning we started our day with Harambee, a time for us to come together and get hyped up for our day, and when I say hyped I mean HYPED. There was signing of the motivational song (Something inside so strong), the Hallelujah chorus, and lots and lots of cheers and chants.

We would do team building, spend hours discussing different social issues, the problems the children we were preparing could face, and the problems we ourselves face, we spent the night being talked to by successful historians, activists, preachers, and educators. As a college student, seeing so many young, black successful, professionals was inspiring. Especially as a lot of them were successful in fields that I was interested in as well. Though the training days were long, the nights after all the training was done was one of my favorite parts of the training was gathering with the other SLI's who I would be spending the summer with, talking about our days, going to every southern place (that we don't have in MD) that served chicken nuggets and french fries (heyyyy Cookout & Zaxby's), trading stories, laughing, going on endless Walmart runs, and getting to know each other. By the end of my week in Tennessee, I was tired, ready to go back home, but my heart was full of excitement, and the knowledge that I had not only the tools but the spirit to go back and effect change in the lives of the youth that I would be working.

Maybe I won't immediately see the change that I'm making but change doesn't always have to be drastic and it doesn't always have to be immediate to make a difference. To me, education is a form of activism, educating those who may not be getting the education they deserve is also activism. Though I may not be taking the same steps as those who came before me, I am proud to be following in the steps that they took and to know that, just like them, in the words of our motivational song, "There's something inside so strong!"

Welcome to my Freedom Summer! :)


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