Nashville, TN was our activity headquarters for today with our primary stop being the Nashville Public Library and its Civil Rights Room. We had the opportunity to meet several Freedom Riders, including “Rip” Patton and Kwame Lillard. Mr. Patton kicked things off by speaking to us in the Civil Rights room about his experiences and then opened up the floor for a tag-team Q&A with Mr. Lillard. As with most of the speakers we have met throughout this tour, it was amazing to see the grace with which these gentlemen handled their circumstances, both during the time of the Freedom Rides and now. When relating their stories, it is clear that pain and frustration often were the norm, but there is no bitterness or hatred when they speak and teach. There is only a passion and determination to make sure that the sacrifices that were made in the past don’t go overlooked and that the mistakes of the past are not relived.

After departing the library with Mr. Lillard accompanying us on the bus, we went to Nashville National Cemetery where we were able to see a monument to the Civil War-era United States Colored Troops that were ignored for so long. Mr. Lillard informed us that this is the only statue/monument of it’s kind in such a place and that it was long overdue when it was placed in 2006. Our next stop was Fisk University to visit a monument to W.E.B. Dubois. During this time we met another Freedom Rider, Mr. Matthew Walker. Both Mr. Lillard and Mr. Walker joined us for lunch and shared numerous stories and thoughts with us before we all returned to the library for the opening of a new art exhibit.

Once in a lifetime sums it up…

“Threads of a Story: History Inspiring Art” by Ms. Charlotta Janssen is a truly exceptional tribute made up of a collection of portraits using the mug shots of Freedom Riders and blending these with newspaper clippings and various images from the period to display the courage and commitment of the Riders during their struggle. With all that we have seen on this tour prior to this stop, the opening had a dreamlike feel to it when talking with the various Freedom Riders who were in attendance. It was exciting and inspirational to be able to look at one of the exhibits on the wall and then turn and ask questions of the man or woman to whom it was designed to celebrate. Being able to interact with living legends who carry themselves with well-deserved dignity and overwhelming humility was a true honor.

Our final stop was a fun one; previously during the ride to the cemetery Mr. Lillard had pointed out the exit to where Oprah Winfrey’s father had a barber shop. Due to time constraints we were not able to hit that spot at the time. However, with our activities for the day concluded we were able to stop briefly and speak with Mr. Winfrey at his shop. Might sound a little strange but I gotta say that one of the things I enjoyed most was the fedora that he was rockin’…oh, and did I mention that his barber shop is located on his street…literally on the corner of Lischey and Vernon Winfrey Aves…props to the man who got that swagger.

So yeah, from there we shipped out to the ‘Natti ‘Natti for the night. Tomorrow our trip ends; goodbyes aren’t really my thing, especially after traveling with such an awesome crew on a tour that has been totally mind-blowing. But I still got some time before I hafta work on that, so for now I’ll bask in the glow of yet another blessed day…God is good, all the time.