Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Right Answer

"Our summer civil rights journey loosely follows the path of the 1961 Freedom Rides, and throughout our journey, the students had the opportunity to meet with many freedom riders and hear their first-hand accounts of facing beatings, jail, and the prospect of death to fight for integration, legal equality, and acceptance. We had with us a copy of Eric Ethridge's Breach of Peace, a collection of Freedom Rider mugshot photos along with contemporary portraits. Those mugshots showed up again and again, in museums exhibits, documentaries, and in the hands of the riders themselves, who would proudly carry those photos with them when they'd address our students. We began to see them not as pieces of prison procedure, but rather as a proud documentation of the values that the riders stood up for--justice, equality, decency, humanity. 

Upon returning from our journey and beginning the work of turning our students into tomorrow's leaders and change-makers, we thought it might be interesting to recreate those mugshots, replacing the prison numbers with those values. Each student was told to write a few focused words about what Operation Understanding means to them. We hope they will take those words--and the photo--out into the world as they graduate from the program and begin making change."

Avi Edelman, Operation Understanding DC program director.

I made these photos of OUDC class 20 students recently. I think who these young people are, and what they and the program are doing is the right answer, the right approach to moving our world in the direction of wisdom, peace, and justice.

Thanks to OUDC's executive director Aaron Jenkins, program director Avi Edelman, trip coordinators Maurice Durval Wilkins Jr. and Eleni Zimiles, and all the bright lights of Class 20: Jack Arnholz, Elias Benda, Ari Brinson, Maya Bornstein, Henry Bowe, Ashyln Champ, Erica Davidson, Jarod Golub, Jabraughn Hill, Christopher Hopson, Maxwell Kanefield, Rachel Matheson, Madison Matthews, Joshua Mitchell, Mitchell Moran-Kaplan, Joy Nicholas, Matthew Paschall, Benjamin Satloff, Jessica Schwalb, Ruthie Sherman, Kadiata Toumbou, Eric Washington, Morgan Williams, and KaJuan Willis.

Peace. Salaam. Shalom.

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