This story was originally written for The Northern Light.
Rev. Bernard Lafayette Jr., original Freedom Rider and Civil Rights activist spoke Thursday night at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Friday, he shared experiences at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Appreciation Luncheon in the Student Union.
“Color is beautiful, it’s like this audience I’m looking at. Beautiful color, okay?”
Rev. Lafayette was selected by Martin Luther King Jr. to be national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign and national program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He played a heavy role with the marches in Selma, Alabama and was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
“I used to take a stroll going to the back of the bus, it’s the safest place on the bus, because the big motor is back there and that protects you from a rear hit, but in the front of the bus is where most of the wrecks take place, boom. White driver goes straight through the windshield. That was not right; they should not have treated white folks that way! Just cause they white, going around humiliating white folks. I used to sit back there and look at them. The reason they put white folks in the front was because they were smarter, I always said, ‘well let them be smart!’ You aren’t gonna get this in the history books. They did not want black and white folks to sit down next to each other, you know why? Cause they would start talking and start finding out that they have more in common than the differences.”
Rev. Lafayette painted history from his experiences with Martin Luther King Jr. He told stories how King would read five newspapers a day, minimum. He remembered old memories when they would be driving all night, King would tell jokes to keep the driver awake. Lafayette painted a portrait in every audience member’s mind that Martin Luther King Jr. “was so real, so empathetic, and so life-changing.”
During the Student Appreciation Luncheon, Rev. Lafayette spoke about how when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated that those that had him killed had hit, but also missed. He said they had missed by not accomplishing their goal in silencing Martin Luther King Jr. More were inspired to fight for their rights after his death.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Love is more powerful than hate. Hate cannot change hate. Only love can.”
Dr. Lafayette wrote a book about his life, titled “In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma.” Black History Month begins on Feb. 1.