They challenged racism by supporting a new federal law that desegregated buses on interstate routes. The Freedom Riders were an important step in the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the early 60s, and 60 years later, their legacy is now on display in San Diego’s East Village.
“Much fire, desire, whatever you want to call it. It was in my bones,” said Hezekiah Watkins as he stared at his mugshot from 1961.
Watkins was only 13 when he was arrested for the first time in Jackson, Mississippi.
“I entered a space that was for whites only,” the 73-year-old recalled being grabbed by a police officer in the bus station.
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Watkins was arrested 109 times as a Freedom Rider. His mugshot is one of more than a hundred lining an exhibit now on display inside Quartyard in the East Village. It’s a part of “The Buses are Coming,” an installation hosted by the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. It includes interactive videos and photographs from 1961.
“Everything we did, it was done for every American,” said Watkins
“I think that they have very brave souls because it’s not easy to be one of the few people that’s standing up,” said Lavienna Ingram.
Ingram is performing with her high school classmates from New York City when the exhibit opens Friday night.
“It kind of brings me hope that we could get there one day,” she said. “We’re not quite there yet.”
“We’re not there yet,” agreed Watkins. “We’re going to pass those stages. We might not pass them in my lifetime, but they will be passed.”