Student activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals in 1961. When the interracial group traveled “on buses from Washington, D.C., to Jackson, Mississippi, the riders met violent opposition in the Deep South, garnering extensive media attention and eventually forcing federal intervention from John F. Kennedy’s administration,” according to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
Learning about the Freedom Rides remains viable in 2023. Kayce Warren, 11, is a sixth grader who embarked upon a very special trip last year. The student traveled to southern states while learning about the Civil Rights era through a Freedom Rides Tour. The hands-on geography lesson allows artists and young activists to learn more history from another lens.
“My favorite part of the trip was when we went to see Fannie Lou Hamer’s grave,” Kayce said. “I do believe that I care a little more about Black history now that I’ve been on the [Freedom] Rides because I’ve seen different museums that portray images of history throughout Black culture.”
Carolyn Coles-Warren, Kayce’s mother, remarked that Kayce remains motivated to read more books about civil rights.
Kim Poole, a teaching artist and soul fusion singer who hails from Baltimore had an idea to birth an opportunity for artists to learn techniques for social transformation. The Teaching Artist Institute was created in 2015. Poole explained that art is used as a tool for community development.
“Here in Baltimore, during the pandemic, we realized that housing was a major issue. Teaching Artist Institute in Artist in Residence (TAI AIR) launched the artist in residence property in 2022,” Poole said.
Offices are located on the first floor. Artist housing space is on the second.
Teaching Artist Institute operates in partnership with TAI Tours. Unique travel experiences are offered through it. Teaching Artist Institute is regarded as an internationally socially engaged art advocacy and training organization. Six of the institute’s locations are on the continent of Africa.
An initiative of the Teaching Artist Institute is the Freedom Rides Tour. The journey through history was inspired by Poole’s 90-year-old grandmother, Mary McClary.
“We’re very committed to history-based excursion and engagement that takes history off the page, especially Black history and shows its modern-day relevance,” Poole said.
From June 11-17, 2023, a second Freedom Rides Tour will be underway through The Teaching Artist Institute. U.S. based youth who have been served by The Teaching Artist Institute are from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio. People who have lived experiences participate on these tours as well. Elders, high school students, activists, or artists are invited to inquire about participating. The trip cost $3,000 per person to cover travel expenses, two daily meals, entrance into activities and accommodations. A bus will leave from Baltimore. The first tour stop will be the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It will continue through the South.
Poole added that potential interested participants should fill out an application now. Donations will be accepted until June 1, 2023. Payment plans can be arranged. Donors are being sought to financially support individuals who cannot afford to cover the complete expense. Donations can be made through CashApp by using the $Cashtag , TAItours. Contributions of any amount are appreciated. Donations can also be made by check, PayPal and Zelle. Volunteering to assist with spreading the word or help are other ways to lend a hand.
“In terms of our current day agenda, we want to go into the areas to not only look at what happened back then, but we go to partner with activists and curators and artists that are doing the work today to show people that the Civil Rights Movement didn’t stop in the 60s,”Poole said.
Haki Ammi, an author and EMT firefighter in Baltimore, is the president of The Teaching Artist Institute. He explained that the YMCA helps to provide chaperones for the trip and financial support for youth who are members. Ammi wants churches to support the next trip. He reminded that they were the base of the Civil Rights Movement and the Freedom Rides.
“So far, we have 23 people. Last year we had 31, so we want to add at least 10,” Ammi said. “The sponsors didn’t contribute as much this year as they did last year. That’s why we’re short.”
Ammi added that teaching young people the Freedom Rides story will breed a next generation of substantive leaders who have experience with traveling up and down the East Coast and understanding different cultures.
“Doing this for young people has been an amazing journey of fulfillment for me,” Ammi said.
Find the Teaching Artist Institute on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/teachingartist. Send an inbox message if you are interested in learning more about the Freedom Rides Tour. Learn more about TAI Tours by visiting https://taitours.org/homepage/. Kim Poole’s music page can be located via https://www.facebook.com/kimpoolemusic.