Thirty years ago, Delores Orey bravely opened her home to the "freedom riders" traveling through the South to challenge segregationist policies. So when the NAACP recently called for a new group of freedom riders to head North and get out the vote, the 61-year-old Mississippi grandmother boarded the bus.
Yesterday, the bus carrying Mrs. Orey stopped at the Baltimore headquarters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to pick up 15 volunteers from Morgan State University. This week, they will knock on doors in New York City to convince people to vote in the Nov. 3 mayoral election.
Tarik Kiley, a graduate of Baltimore's City College who now attends Talladega College in Alabama, decided to join the "freedom riders" at the suggestion of a friend.
And he's glad he did. "It's a continuation of history that has almost been forgotten," said the 17-year-old, who was reminded of the sacrifice made by the original riders during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The riders and other activists endured beatings and other violence while fighting to guarantee the rights of blacks in the South.
"While we have gained the right to vote, there's a lot of apathy," the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said at a rally yesterday afternoon. "We have to reawaken our people."
Dressed in bright yellow jackets and hats bearing the NAACP logo, the volunteers -- including students from Alabama,
Mississippi and Georgia -- began the trip Sunday in Atlanta.
About 200 strong, they will arrive in New York tomorrow to get out the vote for the election, which pits Mayor David Dinkins against Republican Rudolph Guiliani.
Patrick Lamothe, a 22-year-old Morgan State student from Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the effort because he knows people at home who don't vote -- his parents.
"It's a duty for me," said Mr. Lamothe who cast his only vote ever for Mr. Dinkins during his last contest with Mr. Guiliani.