Anti-segregationist Freedom Rider from Grand Rapids motivated to ‘defend the oppressed’
- June 8, 2021
- Posted by: BeTranced Online Holistic Healing Centre
- Category: Blog
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Almost 60 years in the past, Rev. Dick Gleason was cursed at, spit on, kicked and hit.
The assault was solely an train, however one meant to show him to keep up a nonviolent response, even within the face of what may await him in Jackson, Mississippi.
Gleason was one in all greater than 328 individuals who participated within the Freedom Rides of 1961, a various group of people that actively challenged the continued racist insurance policies of the South after the U.S. Supreme Courtroom dominated as unconstitutional the segregation of interstate bus and rail traces and the terminal ready rooms serving them.
The Freedom Riders challenged unlawful segregation by bussing in to the South and sitting in interracial pairs, having Black folks sit up entrance, disobeying terminal ready rooms for whites and non-whites and extra.
“I’m sometimes called being a civil rights activist, and I’m merely a Christian doing what the scripture tells me to do, what the Lord would have me to do: to like my neighbor as myself,” Gleason, now 84, stated. “Within the scriptures it speaks about: study to do proper, search justice and justify it and defend the oppressed, in order that was my motivation.”
The Freedom Rides started in Could 1961 and had been met with violence. Early on, a bus was burned, with the riders practically burning to demise as a result of a mob held the doorways closed. Ku Klux Klan members had been at instances given transient free reign by native police to do no matter they needed to the anti-segregationist riders.
“We discuss concerning the good outdated ‘let’s Make America Nice Once more,’ that is the America of 1961; it wasn’t the Andy Griffith Present both,” Gleason stated, pointing to different situations of racial violence.
Gleason says whereas problems with racial justice are extra out within the open and talked about as we speak than 60 years in the past, infringement of voting rights for minorities and offering equal alternative from delivery stay a battle.
The 84-year-old fears the nation has develop into too polarized, with folks listening solely to what they wish to consider, paving a technique to a doable dictatorship.
On the time of the Freedom Rides, Gleason was residing in an impoverished and redlined neighborhood on Chicago’s South Aspect and dealing with troubled Black youth, lots of whom had been in rival gangs, to offer them hope the federal government by no means afforded them.
He did so by way of seven-days-a-week programming on the native YMCA which included sports activities, tutoring, a non-traditional Sunday service and extra. It was a good distance from the place he grew up within the small city of Lyons, Ohio.
“Hopelessness and despair blurted out from their properties, their colleges, the streets,” Gleason stated. “I noticed behind their facades of being the good and the boldest, a way of the hopelessness and despair of a frightened little child, putting out at others and themselves for respect, to be revered, to be someone and stay life.”
Gleason knew nobody within the civil rights motion. However after listening to concerning the violence, he phoned Martin Luther King Jr.’s workplace to hitch the Freedom Riders.
Gleason arrived at King’s workplace in Atlanta with six others on Could 31, 1961. The group participated in a nonviolence workshop coaching them to not reply equally to the violence they had been prone to face for violating segregationist insurance policies.
Two days later, on June 2, Gleason and several other others boarded a bus at Montgomery, Alabama, sure for Jackson. Gleason’s tie was partially minimize behind the neck, in case somebody meant to choke him with it.
On the cease in Selma, Georgia, one of many Freedom Riders, Ralph Fertig, was forcefully taken off the bus by infamous Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark for having requested a white lady to share her adjoining seat with a Black lady.
Fertig was jailed and later allowed to be crushed by inmates for his participation within the Freedom Rides. Fertig stated the inmates broke every rib in his body.
Gleason, and the opposite remaining Freedom Riders whose cowl wasn’t blown, nonetheless had 5 lengthy hours forward of them to Jackson. The rest of the trip was with out incident.
Lastly, they arrived on the terminal in Jackson.
“I used to be decided to get to the coloured ready room it doesn’t matter what, and I did,” Gleason recounted. “I used to be arrested, interrogated for quite a few hours, accused of being a communist. There have been loads of billboards within the South at the moment claiming Dr. King was a communist. The motion, we had been vilified identical to issues are occurring as we speak.”
Gleason spent two days in jail and paid a $200 nice for what authorities known as “breach of peace.”
“After 5 months, the indicators had been taken down — the coloured solely, white solely — indicators had been taken down,” he stated of the Freedom Rides. “We ended segregation; 328 folks.”
When his airplane landed again in Chicago, policemen had been ready for him. To not arrest him, as he initially feared, however to guard him.
For his participation, nonetheless, his childhood church ostracized him.
“As a result of I went on the Freedom Experience, the church that I depended a lot on as a child disfellowshipped me,” Gleason stated.
Gleason continued his youth work in Chicago and later marched with King a number of instances after the Freedom Rides, together with the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery in help of voting rights for Black People.
When King was assassinated in 1968, Gleason attended his personal funeral and later public funeral procession.
Rising up bullied and with ache in his house, Gleason credit a youth pastor for igniting him within the drive that might information his life’s journey.
“‘I need you to know that God loves you. He has a plan in your life, and when you dream large enough and work onerous sufficient you will be something you wish to be,’” Gleason recounted the pastor saying to him. “I stated, ‘Lord, when you make me sturdy sufficient I’ll serve you the remainder of my life.’”
Whereas problems with racial justice are extra out within the open and talked about than 60 years in the past, Gleason stated there’s nonetheless work to be completed in a rustic turning into an increasing number of polarized and validated by the echo chambers folks select to place themselves in.
Gleason stated one of many greatest ongoing “justice” points is that of recent voter legal guidelines being launched and enacted in areas of the nation with the intention, he stated, of limiting minority votes.
Identical to segregation, problems with racial justice and equal alternative aren’t political to Gleason, they’re religious.
“All of the tons of of voting restrictions which can be attempting to be positioned is to remove Black folks and minorities from voting, and Christians are silent,” Gleason stated. “‘Oh, that’s within the political bucket. The pastor has to maintain religious.’” I’m sorry, Jesus stated love your neighbors your self. The Bible speaks quite a few instances about justice.”
He known as on white leaders of religion to cease taking a slender view of what’s a religious situation, like abortion, and broaden that into areas deemed political, comparable to equal alternative, racial justice and serving to a child survive after they’re born.
“Whites should be allies,” Gleason stated. “We have to get up and communicate up and stand by our Black brothers and sisters. Our pastors want to talk up and stand by the motion for justice and put it out of their pail of socialism and put that complete message of justice within the religious bucket, for heaven’s sake.”
Gleason now resides in Covenant Residing of the Nice Lakes, a retirement neighborhood in Grand Rapids, and helps folks with Alzheimer’s illness, in addition to creates Christian programming for the neighborhood’s TV station.