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RTA enters bus celebrating New Orleans Freedom Riders into service

6/18/2021


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New Orleans, LA –
Today, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority enters its newest public art bus into revenue service in celebration of Juneteenth. The bus features artwork, “Tribute to the Freedom Riders,” which depicts New Orleans Civil Rights icons and Freedom Riders, Doratha “Dodie” Smith-Simmons, and Jerome “Big Duck” Smith. The latest public art installation bus will enter service on Friday, June 18 servicing various areas of the city.

This mobile public art is a collaboration of Brandon “B.Mike” Odums and Black Imagination Project as well as local New Orleans artists Ceaux Young, Taylor Ashby, Cierra Johnson and Cam'ron Irving. In addition to the public art bus, two other art installations, "Treme with Love" and “Freedom Drum” will be unveiled to expand and foster connections between the city’s history and initiate dialogue surrounding the future. 

“Our community has a great understanding and value for those who have come before us and paved the way for our future,” said Flozell Daniels, Jr., RTA Board Chair. “The newest public art bus acknowledges, appreciates, and displays a profound respect for those pioneers who faced insurmountable odds, all in the name of justice and freedom for all. I am particularly pleased to honor Jerome “Big Duck” Smith in a manner relevant to youth, who will be introduced to his critical role in New Orleans and American history.” 

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides which brought civil right activists to the south as they protested segregated bus terminals. The riders were faced with overwhelming opposition but played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement drawing attention to the unjust conditions of the Jim Crow south. 

“Creating a truly equitable transit system is key priority of the RTA,” said Alex Z. Wiggins, RTA CEO. “By honoring our who heroes tirelessly fought for the freedoms we enjoy today, we are also inspired to continue their work to ensure that all New Orleans have access to transit that is reliable, convenient and equitable.” 
 
“The importance of amplifying and celebrating black stories through art has become our driving force,” said Brandan “B. Mike” Odums, Visual Artist. “As we celebrate two iconic culture bearers in our community, it is important to understand their stories. Working with the local collaborative to explore new and innovative ways to reach our communities and exhibit our art has provided opportunities to think out of the box and reimagine the impact of art within our culture.” 

This art project is the second piece of art resulting from the RTA’s public arts partnership with Brandan “BMike” Odums and Ashe Cultural Arts Center. The first project featured young New Orleans artist Dontay Allen. 


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The Black Imagination Project is a place keeping public arts project that is a platform for New Orleans Black Artists to curate and celebrate New Orleans’ rich history and tell black stories. 

Brandan “BMike” Odums is a New Orleans-based visual artist who, through exhibitions, public programs, and public art works, is engaged in a transnational dialogue about the intersection of art and resistance. From film to murals to installations, Odums’ work encapsulates the political fervor of a generation of Black American activists who came of age amidst the tenure of the nation’s first Black president, the resurgence of popular interest in law enforcement violence, and the emergence of the self-care movement. 

Ashe Cultural Arts Center is a community arts program with innovative programming is designed to utilize culture in fostering human development and civic engagement. We maintain 5,000 square feet of gallery space, creating and preserving opportunities for the curation, exhibition, and commission of fine, folk, and fine-folk art of the African Diaspora. Producing over 350 music, theater, dance, spoken word, drum circles, and multi-disciplinary events a year, Ashé believes in art as paradigm shifting call to action. As ecosystem builders, we host several local and national indie film series and symposiums and are currently developing alternative formats for the dissemination of our creative presentations.   

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