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Being the change

Being the change

Kendra Zonca ’20 March 04, 2019

The Freedom Rides were launched in 1961 by student civil rights activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). They took long bus trips throughout the segregated south, testing to see if bus stations were in compliance with the International Criminal Court’s ruling that banned discrimination on intrastate travel.

In 1961, Betty Daniels Rosemond was on a Freedom Ride when the bus stopped in Poplarville, Mississippi.

Three riders went inside the station to see if they could get served in the white seating area. Rosemond stayed behind. Within minutes, she witnessed the three riders she had come with be physically removed from the station by locals, thrown into the back of a pickup truck and driven off.

As Rosemond entered a phone booth to alert CORE headquarters, her bus drove away, leaving her stranded. Someone working at a nearby gas station came out to the road to see what was going on, and she was able to discreetly get his attention. The stranger borrowed a truck from the gas station, and she got in. That kind stranger drove Rosemond safely back to New Orleans — nearly 75 miles away.

This was one of many stories Rosemond shared with University of Dayton students to describe her experiences as a Freedom Rider and civil rights activist. Rosemond spoke on campus in celebration of Black History Month.

“I’m alive today because of the Lord. It was He who did everything to save my life. It was God who motivated us to do what we had to do.”

As a member of the New Orleans CORE group, Rosemond participated in non-violent boycotts, sit-ins and picketing. She picketed the retail store Woolworth’s frequently, where she experienced harassment. One time, someone even spit in her face.

Her response?

“The Lord told me: ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do.’” Rosemond’s lifelong contributions to civil rights were built upon a foundation of love.

“God has compelled us to love one another,” she said.

Rosemond, a native of New Orleans, has lived in Cincinnati for the last 57 years. In October 2014, she was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame and is a poet and international speaker.

Rosemond said, We must be the change that we want the world to be. You can make a difference, but it’s through love. Love is the greatest factor.”