As the fight over voting rights continues to heat up, a new wave of freedom riders will hit the highway this month. Black Voters Matter will commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the original Freedom Ride to raise awareness about voting rights.
The bus tour and week of action kicks off June 18 in New Orleans with a pre-tour launch event. The “Blackest” bus in America starts its tour on Juneteenth in Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama.
“The original Freedom Rides did not only send a message to state and local leaders; they were also a demand for federal leadership on the issues and challenges impacting Black communities,” said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, in a statement.
Brown described the urgency of the new campaign as federal legislation on voting rights stalls in Congress.
“On the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, we are launching this campaign to echo that sentiment and deliver a message straight to Washington: our communities cannot wait for voting rights reform. We need federal leadership and the immediate passage of HR1 and HR 4 to protect voting rights now.”
A caravan of supporters and organizational partners will accompany the bus as it travels through several states to Washington, DC. The tour will stop in Nashville, Atlanta, Columbia, Raleigh, Charleston, West Virginia, and Richmond.
Each day, the bus and caravan will rally with local community members and partner organizations. Supporters living in other areas are encouraged to plan events during the week-long action. The tour ends in Washington D.C. on June 26.
The Freedom Ride has three main goals: 1) 1) raise awareness and drive action against the voter suppression movement and support for H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 Voting Rights bills in Congress, 2) support the growing national campaign for D.C. statehood, and 3) engage with community partners to build power around issues of importance to Black communities throughout the South and the country.
HR 1, also known as the For the People Act, recently gained attention when West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would not support the Senate version of the bill. Manchin’s desire for bipartisan support for H.R. 4, also known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, seems nothing more than a dream, with only one republican expressing support for the bill. Also
Partner organizations include the Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Unite Here, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Higher Heights. Unite Here announced that over 1,500 hospitality workers and allies representing more than 15 cities will travel to Washington, DC.
“As a Black woman and a union member, my whole history is built on fighting back,” said Trinice Dyer, a server at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans. “Whether slavery, civil rights or in the workplace, workers, and people of color have had to fight to protect our rights. In my union, we take that power seriously, so Congress can bet that we’re headed for them this time, too.”
A union representing predominantly Black and Latino hospitality workers, Unite Here, committed to the tour because its members are the same people who will bear the brunt of anti-democratic legislation.
“I didn’t risk my life for this country just to have an outdated Senate procedure undermine my democratic rights,” said Marilyn Wilbur, a former worker at Arizona State University. That’s why I’m riding to Washington D.C.—there’s no stopping us.”
Black Voters Matter organizes in several states and works with local community partners to increase voter engagement and combat voter suppression. Brown and Albright see the ongoing effort to suppress votes and criminalize protests as a mechanism for weakening Black power.
“We are launching this Freedom Ride for Voting Rights on Juneteenth alongside local and national partners to show voters, communities, and elected officials of how far we’ve come and remind them what Black power can do,” said Brown and Albright.