As pastor of the Terrestrial Temple Church of God In Christ, Muncie, IN, and an active member of the Martin Luther King Dream Team, James Lawson has a keen sense of history and how it can inspire and motivate young people.
Through a variety of community activities this diverse group of Muncie volunteers works to keep alive the dream for America Dr. King Jr. espoused. The Freedom Bus, one of its more creative programs, began nine years ago with a retired bus from the Muncie Indiana Transit System (MITS). The Dream Team decked it out with a full bus wrap depicting the historical milestones of the Civil Rights Movement.
With the American Flag as backdrop, the design features portraits of the icons of the Freedom Movement — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, John F. Kennedy and Rosa Parks. Their images on the bus serve as a mobile reminder at youth and community events of their sacrifice, commitment and progress.
All was running smoothly until recently when the engine died on a trip to Indianapolis. The group did not have the thousands of dollars required for a replacement and the Freedom Bus stalled, but only temporarily.
The Dream Team contacted Pat Shripka, sales representative for ABC Companies/Muncie Transit Supply. Knowing the significant role buses played during the civil rights struggle, Shripka was immediately sympathetic. ABC Companies shares his sense of history having assisted numerous projects devoted to preserving the heritage of the bus industry.
Shripka found a sympathetic ear in his request for help for the Freedom Bus. Muncie Transit Supply donated a Detroit Diesel 6V92TA engine, worth $20,000, to the project. MITS maintenance director Ted Gaston donated his personal time to help arrange installation of the engine. Gaston was involved in the restoration of the Rosa Parks bus now on exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
The Freedom Bus currently serves primarily as a graphic reminder of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. The Dream Team hopes to fit the interior with video monitors and displays to turn the bus into a rolling museum.
Lawson and the group say they are grateful for all the help they can get, and invite the public and interested members of the bus industry to visit www.mlkdreamteam.org.
“The mission of the Dream Team is to heighten the visibility of Dr. King and his movement, and to encourage people to carry on that good work,” says Pastor Lawson. “There is a lot of work left to be done.”