LELAND – Six Leelanau County and 31 Detroit black, white and Hispanic high school students were scheduled this morning to board a bus for a two-week trip that retraces the steps of civil rights “Freedom Riders” into the Deep South a half century ago.
Organized by the Michigan Coalition of Human Rights, the “2013 Freedom Tour” honors the work of original civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 to challenge non-enforcement of a 1960 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregated public buses were unconstitutional.
The tour also commemorates the 50th anniversary week of an early “dream” speech Martin Luther King made in Detroit in June 1963, two months before his historic “I Have a Dream Speech” during the March on Washington in August that year.
Leelanau students on the tour represent all six of the county’s schools. They are: Alexander Bennett, 16, Glen Lake; Brennan Deckrow, 16, Leland; Olivia Kinker, 16, Northport; Shayna Sumner, 17, Lake Leelanau St. Mary’s High School; Theo Noffsinger, 16, Suttons Bay; and Jackie Zarzycki, 16, Glen Lake.
All will be seniors this fall and all were selected through an essay-writing and interview process organized by Dean Robb, 89, a Suttons Bay attorney who raised a total seven $1,500 scholarships for students going on the tour. The essay asked why the students wanted to participate in the tour and what they could bring back to this area from the trip.
“It’s not just for us,” Deckrow said of the trip. He and other students will do public presentations about the journey when they return, he said.
Jackie Zarzycki, 16, of Glen Lake said she wants to learn as much as she can on the trip.
“I think it’s really important to realize that we think of racial inequality as something that happened in history, but it’s still happening today,” she said.