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Ernest "Rip" Patton Jr. was a 21-year-old Tennessee State University student and the drum major in the marching band in 1961 when he made the life-altering decision to become a Freedom Rider.
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mr. Patton will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Stetson University, Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave., DeLand. This event is free and open to the public.
Also, the Dream Keepers have two events planned in Deltona.
In his presentation, Mr. Patton will uncover forgotten history about the Lawson workshops, Nashville sit-ins in 1960, the March on Washington in 1963, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act among other historical events.
The Freedom Riders were a group of men and women -- black and white, young and old -- who boarded buses, trains and planes headed for the American South. Their purpose was to test a U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in all interstate public facilities, such as bus stations, which often had separate drinking fountains, restrooms and lunch counters for blacks and whites.
The trip, which began in Washington, D.C., and ended in New Orleans, La., was marred by beatings, bombings, arrests and imprisonment of the Freedom Riders, and it was into this situation that Mr. Patton volunteered to step in 1961.
Mr. Patton was one of 14 Tennessee State students expelled for participating in the Freedom Rides. The Freedom Riders risked violence, humiliation and death for freedom and dignity, and in so doing they changed the path of American law and made history. Patton's presentation is an opportunity to hear a first-hand recounting of that history.
The Stetson University College of Law presented Mr. Patton with the honorary doctor of laws degree in 2010.
A Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration breakfast will be from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at Rinker Field House in Hollis Center, 602 N. Bert Fish Drive, DeLand.
For more information on the breakfast, call (386) 469-8678.
A Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday from Rinker Field House to Chisholm Community Center, DeLand.
Day of Service events will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday at various locations.
This event encourages everyone to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a "day on, not a day off". Stetson will join Americans across the country who will honor and celebrate King's life and legacy by helping neighbors and communities. During the Day of Service Stetson students, faculty, staff and alumni will be reaching out a helping hand to those in need through six local organizations: The Neighborhood Center, The Holiday House, Halifax Health Hospice, United Cerebral Palsy, MainStreet DeLand Association and Chisholm Community Center
A chapel service will be at 4:30 p.m. at Lee Chapel in Elizabeth Hall, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand.
Before Mr. Patton's speech, the Sankofa African American Traveling Museum Opening Reception will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Stetson Room, Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave., DeLand.
Guided tours of Sankofa African American Traveling Museum will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Stetson Room, Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave., DeLand.
The tour will be closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.
This event is free and open to the public.
The Deltona Dream Keepers begin their commemoration with a Celebration Breakfast at 9 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 19, at New Hope Baptist Church, 2855 Lake Helen-Osteen Road. The breakfast will feature entertainment and an inspirational speech by Arvia Shanell Hall (Bruten), a native of Volusia County and DeLand High School's first African-American Valedictorian. Ms. Hall is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology where she earned a degree in Industrial Engineering. She is a manager with General Electric Co. and resides in Stockbridge, Ga., with her husband and three children.
The second event of the weekend is a Gospel Program from 4 to 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, at Deltona Alliance Church, 921 Deltona Blvd. There will be a Candlelight Vigil immediately after the program.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the Dream Keeper's breakfast, for which the cost is $10 each, call Mike Williams at (386) 804-6136.