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Freedom Riders Relive Past, Promote Unity

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Doaa Dorgham, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in international studies, recently got the chance to relive history. Dorgham was one of 40 students chosen from across the country to take part in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride organized by PBS to promote the national documentary “Freedom Riders” about the 1961 Civil Rights bus rides.

The ride brought together college students and some of the original Freedom Riders on a bus that retraced the 1961 trips. The students used blogs and social media to talk about their experiences on the trip that started in Washington, DC, and traveled through seven Southern states.

Before the bus left the station, the student riders appeared on Oprah, along with some of those who risked their lives to ride the buses in 1961.

Dorgham said she was excited and humbled to travel with some of the original Freedom Riders. “These were people who were our age, who risked their own lives … to promote unity,” she said. “To be in their presence was just great.”

Dorgham is a Palestinian American who was born in Kuwait. As a Caldwell Fellow, she has traveled throughout Latin American and the Amazon as part of the program. She is also the outreach chair for the Muslim Student Association at NC State.

Dorgham is intrigued by the effective use of non-violence in the Civil Rights movement, particularly since she lives in a time when the United States military is fighting in Afghanistan and Libya. “What really blows my mind is that this whole thing was a non-violent approach,” she said.

As a Muslim American, Dorgham worries about attempts to portray all Muslims as radicals. She said she applied to participate in the Student Freedom Ride in part to dispel such notions and to promote unity at NC State.

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