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A Road Well Traveled: Bus Brings Chicago Black Nurses to Inauguration

Buses have played a role in many American civil rights milestones. In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Her arrest led to the Montgomery (Ala.) bus boycott that resulted in bus desegregation. In 1961, “freedom riders” headed south by bus to call attention to segregation issues, and 10 years later, the Supreme Court upheld the practice of busing students to achieve integration of public schools.

Members of the Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses Association took part in another historic bus ride Jan. 19. This time, the journey was to celebrate a poignant moment — the inauguration of the first black U.S. president, Chicagoan Barack Obama.

4 P.M.
(Left) Jan. 19 • Chicago Amid freezing temperatures
and a herd of buses, 52 friends, relatives,
and members of the Chicago chapter of the NBNA
gathered at 87th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway
for a 600-plus mile bus ride to Washington, D.C.,
for the inauguration.

5:16 P.M.
(Right) Jan. 19 • Chicago
Geraldine Jones, RN, smiled as the group boarded and the bus filled with excitement, laughter, and warm greetings. Jones was one of many riders who donned an Obama hat, T-shirt, and pin.

(Left) As the bus headed south on the expressway, chapter President Carolyn Rimmer, RN, took the microphone and greeted the group.

“This is an exciting moment in our history,” she said. “We are about to embark upon on a journey of a lifetime.”

Rimmer’s hands shook as she continued to speak, “Today is not only a historic day for blacks in America but a historic day for all Americans. People are thirsting for change and Mr. Obama offered us the hope that, yes, change is possible.”

8:58 A.M.
(Right) Jan. 20 • Washington, D.C.
After an all-night ride and a quick stop for breakfast at the Hilton in Dupont Circle, the bus unloaded at Sixth and K streets.

Riders streamed off the bus and headed in different directions. National Guard and other military members directed foot and auto traffic.

Even though they were busy, the military personnel took time to have their photos taken with passersby, including members of the black nurses group.

(Left) Coping with the cold weather and excessive walking was a concern for the trip’s organizers.

Thanks to a phone call by Lisa Thomas, a United Airlines employee who was part of the trip, the doors of the Faith and Action national ministry center were opened to the group.

Peggy Birchfield, chief of staff at the center, was a gracious host, providing snacks, a TV, and a warm, cozy place for the black nurses group to rest.

(Right) Fifty-two trip-goers enjoyed 52 different experiences.

Some members made their way to the packed National Mall to watch the swearing-in on Jumbotron screens, while others set up along the parade route, where police on horseback readied themselves for the event on Constitution Avenue.

(Left) The National Mall was filled to capacity as citizens gathered to watch the inauguration ceremonies. Though the crowds were estimated at nearly 2 million, it didn’t diminish the experience of the nurses who made it to the mall. To help her get a better view of the Capitol, June Shivers, RN, a petite, 77-year-old, was hoisted up on a granite wall by two men. Carolyn Rimmer, RN, tried three different entrances to the mall but was unable to gain access.

“I’ve literally walked my socks off,” Rimmer said as she bent down to pull up a sock that had slipped down inside her shoe. Her tenacity paid off when, as she headed back to Faith and Action streets, she could see the crowd on the Capitol balcony. There was no audio of the event where she was standing, but Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark Barget shared his earpiece with Rimmer so she could hear Obama’s inauguration speech.

8:30P.M.
(Right) Jan. 20 • Frederick, MD
After a day full of activity and emotion, the bus headed back to Chicago to complete the 41-hour trip. A stop for dinner in Frederick gave members of the group time to reflect on the day. While sipping herbal tea and eating fruit-filled crepes, Dale Hollingsworth, RN, shared her thoughts and memories of a changing nation.

“When I was 14 years old, I was marching with Dr. Martin Luther King in Louisville, Ky., singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and I was put in jail,” recalled Hollingsworth. “To be there today, after doing that when I was 14, was extremely special.”

Hollingsworth said the country has come a long way but admits it still has a long way to go. Hollingsworth said she is hopeful Obama will be the man to tackle all issues for all Americans. “He’s a broad-spectrum person,” she says. “He will affect what the people of our country need.”

By | 2020-04-15T14:44:30-04:00 January 26th, 2009|Categories: National|0 Comments

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