Utah student selected as Freedom Rider to retrace historic civil rights route

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 21 2011 12:01 p.m. MDT

“I didn’t feel like I was a hero or anything like that,” recalled Freedom Rider Frank Holloway in an interview. “I did it and when I stopped doing it, I didn’t feel like anybody needed to reward me or congratulate me or pat me on my back. I did what I felt like I had to do.”

Students were chosen partly based on their social media and community involvement, said WGBH Boston’s Lauren Prestileo, the trip coordinator and an American Experience project manager. Also judged were the required personal essays.

“I actually only learned about the event the week before the deadline,” Kim said. And, in typical university student behavior, “I submitted the materials the evening before they were due.”

A past president of the university’s Asian American Student Association and Young Asian Professionals, Kim said, “There have been covert actions in my life that remind me that I am different. The racial slurs to my face by people who feel justified in what they are doing are amazing.

“People have asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I was born in Los Angeles and I’ve lived in Utah for many years. ‘No, where are you really from? You’re not really from here.’

“I know I shouldn’t really have anything to complain about, compared to other injustices; but that in a way that is in itself oppressive.”

According to PBS organizers, the full cost will be about $1 million — with half for the bus ride — and is the largest event in American Experience’s history. The "Freedom Riders" campaign includes an exhibit traveling to 20 cities (including a Salt Lake City Public Library stop June 13-July 11); nationwide public screenings; high school curriculum materials and training for 650 teachers; and a website with 12 other short films by documentarian Nelson.

Following the national telecast of “Freedom Riders,” KUED will air the locally produced “Utah’s Freedom Riders,” a profile of the state’s early civil rights workers, and “Navigating Freedom: A Utah Youth Perspective,” eight personal films of high school students who talk about what freedom means to them.

“I’m going in to this somewhat blindly but I am very excited to participate and speak one on one with the original Freedom Riders and visit these important places,” Kim explained.

“And I’m hoping it won’t be 10 hours a day sitting on a bus or I may not survive.”

You can view Kim’s video essay to join the event. The ride can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and student blogs. For more information, click here.

Blair Howell is a freelance editor and writer.

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