Justice Is Coming




There were only two women on the July 30 Freedom Ride. The other 13 activists were men. All were from California. The previous ride, a Greyhound bus from Nashville, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, took place just the day before. This ride, on an Illinois Central Station train, was running from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Jackson.

On this ride to Jackson were: Albert Barouh, Winston Fuller, Joseph Gerbac, and Michael Grubbs of Los Angeles, Alan Kaufman of Berkeley, William Leons, Herbert Mann, Max Pavesic, Philip Posner, Helen and Robert Singleton of Los Angeles, Richard Steward of New Orleans, California, and Lonnie Thurman, Sam Joe Townsend, and Tanya Wren of Los Angeles. Fifteen riders in all.

I have a favorite mugshot for each ride. Which, here, would you say is yours?

Mine is Helen Singleton's (second image, third row). She has that look of, "Go ahead. Underestimate me. This is gonna be fun." Or maybe, "That's okay. I'm already having the last laugh." Or, "justice is coming, mister. And won't you be surprised when it gets here." I know you can come up with fitting statements of your own (and I'd sure love to read them).

Helen's husband, Robert (third image, third row), was on the same ride. He was the head of the NAACP at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At the time, Helen was a freshman at Santa Monica College. After the rides, she got her bachelor's degree in fine arts as a transfer student at UCLA and, later, earned a master's in public administration from Loyola.

Helen then went back to UCLA. But this time to do instrumental work in course and program development. Later, she would work as a consultant for the L.A. County Museum of Art and various arts organizations. If you read her commentary in Breach of Peace, you'll get to see what her, shall we say, confident mug shot was likely motivated by.

Leons (second image, second row), born and raised in the Netherlands, was the son of World War II Resistance activists. In 1942, his father was arrested, taken to Mauthausen concentration camp and was executed there. His mother, who was arrested the following year and taken to Vught concentration camp, was fortunate to be liberated at the end of the war. After living in hiding, Leons was reunited with his mother. They emigrated to the U.S. several years later. Check out what Leons had to say about his motivation for taking the ride: VIMEO of KTLA interview.

Most of the July 29 Freedom Riders can be seen in the same video. There are no shortage of noteworthy backgrounds amongst the Freedom Riders. And many indelible stories from the trenches.

Can you imagine going cold turkey in Parchman of all places? The notriously harsh prison that all the Freedom Riders were taken to? Back in the day, a lot of folks smoked cigarettes. Freedom Riders were no different. Obviously, no one was allowed them at Parchman. Here's what Pavesic (fourth image, second row), a childhood friend of Gerbac (third image, first row), had to say to journalist Eric Etheridge about the ciggies in the hoosegow that sort of found their way into his and cellmate Kaufman's cell one day at mealtime.

All of a sudden, there were three or four cigarettes -- Lucky Strikes -- and a pack of matches that trustee passed so fast I didn't see him. Alan didn't see him. The guard didn't see him, and he was stnding right there in from of him. Alan was so shocked I leaned over and closed his hand.

Those were the only smokes they had the whole time at Parchman. Pavesic said that, "a couple of drags," on those ciggies after not having had any since being locked up, had them high on their assess. I have to smile at that.

Kaufman (first image, second row) went on the ride out of a very strong sense of moral obligation, driven by his inner conviction about the words of the Torah -- of Genesis and the story of the Exodus -- and his witnessing the discrimination his own family -- namely his father -- had experienced. He has remained a staunch activist and organizer.

Barouh, Leons, Mann, Steward, and Townsend have all passed on. I hope they are partying with other Freedom Riders in the totally integrated crash pad in the sky.

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