The Freedom Riders delivered their message to Washington law makers, and were joined by 1961 Freedom Rider and Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis who told them, "You’re so inspiring to see all of you riding across America. We will not be at peace until immigrant workers are treated like all other human beings. You have a right to be treated with dignity." The Ride culminated with a 100,000 person strong immigrant rights rally -- at the time, the largest such event in history. The Riders shared their personal stories; became leaders in a cause greater than themselves -- the struggle to improve the lives of all workers -- and experienced the transformative power of going from living in the shadows in fear to speaking their minds and finding strength in collective action. They learned that it may take a lifetime to accomplish their goals, but they also found the courage to fight for change.
How The Long Ride Journey began
Director Valerie Lapin Ganley's Personal Statement
“I am not an artist who became an activist, I am an activist who became an artist.”
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Valerie Lapin Ganley
616 Manor Drive
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Freedom Rider and Filmmaker
Valerie Lapin Ganley
Through their efforts, the Freedom Riders created better understanding of immigrants and their experiences; built bridges among people of different backgrounds; launched Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation; and demonstrated how we can join together to not only expand immigrant rights but to protect workplace rights, civil liberties and human rights for us all.
Today, our nation's principles have been shaken to the core by the president’s hate filled rhetoric and acts, and immigrants are under attack. As Congress is expected to take up legislation that would limit immigrant rights, the Freedom Rider’s message of tolerance is more important now than ever.
Distribution support provided by
upon receiving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
As we rode from town to town and I met many immigrants, I often thought of my beloved Grandpa David. When he was thirteen years old, shortly after his bar mitzvah, he fled from religious persecution in Russia. He never saw his parents again. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean and passed through Ellis Island. He served as a medic during WWI and later became a pharmacist. He dispensed medicine during the Depression, literally giving away the store. His two children went to college. My Uncle Danny earned a Ph.D., and set up water systems in places like Bangladesh. My mom became a teacher and later owned a travel agency with my father. My Grandpa David cherished his freedom, was staunchly patriotic, and he was proud to be an American citizen. Many of the Freedom Riders reminded me of my Grandpa David.
I was honored and humbled to join the other Freedom Riders. I was awed by their strength, courage, intelligence and determination. I’ve carry the lessons of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride with me to this day and try to live by its principles everyday: to treat people with respect. I continue to find inspiration from my fellow Freedom Riders who toil in the hard work of social justice organizing everyday.
After the Ride, I continued working in the labor movement with hotel workers and truck drivers. Most of them are immigrants. I have seen first-hand the racism they experience and how their rights as workers are abused when they are forced to work in dangerous conditions, denied benefits like workers comp, and their wages are stolen by unscrupulous employers.
In 2013, the Senate passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform. I thought the dream of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride would soon be fulfilled. I set out to make an historical film about social movement building and how to achieve social justice goals. But Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives convinced the Republican leaders to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote. Then Donald Trump ran and won the presidency on a platform of hatred, bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia. Although the journey just got longer, the work of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride continues. Instead of being an historical documentary, The Long Ride now serves as a blueprint for the work yet to be done. As original Freedom Rider John Lewis told us:
“Hang in there. Keep the faith. Walk with the spirit of the Freedom Riders and ride with the spirit of the Freedom Riders of 1961. And generations from now another group will say the Freedom Riders of 2003 left a page. They left a map. They left a road. Because our struggle is not a struggle that lasts for one day or one week or one year, our struggle is the struggle of a lifetime.”
Some of the people we meet in The Long Ride include:
Angelina joined the Ride three months after her son, Esteban, a legal immigrant, was arrested for a traffic infraction. He was denied his medication and died while he was in custody. Angelina, still in mourning, joins the Ride so her son’s death will not be in vain and finds solace in the determination of her fellow Riders.
Meheret escaped from the violence following the Revolution in Ethiopia in 1977. Her mother had been killed and her father was a political prisoner. She was granted political asylum in the U.S. As a massage therapist, she is alarmed by how poorly management treats the spa workers. Many suffer from on-the-job injuries, but are not provided with health benefits. Meheret is leading an effort to organize a union. Management is retaliating with an anti-union campaign. A union activist was fired, and some immigrants were so scared that they would be deported that they left work and disappeared.
Rigo came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was two years old. When he was a child, he and his family picked grapes toiling in the hot sun without water, shade or bathrooms. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta became his heroes when they organized the United Farm Workers Union to improve working conditions. Rigo followed in their footsteps and became a union organizer. During the Ride, he realizes he must become a citizen to gain greater rights. Two years later, he took the oath of citizenship. He campaigned to elect President Obama and California Governor Jerry Brown. In 2013, in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, Rigo was arrested while blocking traffic at the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration against Congressional leaders who were blocking passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Today, Rigo fights for the rights of low-wage pharmacy and Wal-Mart workers.
Marta, a Brazilian, entered the U.S. on a work visa. But it was revoked when she was laid off from her job during the Silicon Valley 2001 Dot Com Bust. She nearly lost her family too. She and her partner, Leslie, live in constant fear that Marta could be deported because as a same-sex couple, they are denied recognition of their relationship for immigration purposes. Marta was eventually granted asylum. But it can be revoked at any time. The estimated wait time for a green card, which would allow her to work, is 12 years. After the Ride, same sex marriage was legalized. Marta and Leslie got married, and Marta became a U.S. citizen.
Eunice grew up in Maricopa County, Arizona. When she was a child, her Korean-born father was spit on while they were shopping at a mall. When two high school friends were deported, Eunice decided to commit her life to fighting for justice for immigrants. During the Ride, the motor coaches are transformed into “school buses,” mobile classrooms where Eunice teaches lessons about immigration and civil rights history. After the Ride, Eunice became an immigrant rights attorney and testified before the California Legislature in support of bills to criminalize retaliation against immigrant workers who speak out about unfair working conditions and the use of deportation threats to get away with wage theft. The bills were enacted into law.
Original Freedom Rider
Congressman John Lewis
Freedom Riders being detained
by the Border Patrol
About The Long Ride
The Long Ride is a timely new 77 minute documentary about the historic 2003 Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride which sparked the new Civil Rights Movement for immigrant workers in the United States. Alarmed by increasing workplace abuses, more than 900 immigrants and allies traveled from ten cities across America to focus public attention on the plight of immigrant workers and call for reform of the broken immigration system. They were inspired by the 1961 Civil Rights Movement Freedom Riders who risked their lives fighting to end segregation. The film chronicles their journey and the on-going fight for immigrant rights to this day. The Long Ride follows the journey of more than 100 Riders from Northern California.
I have been making documentaries since my early twenties, but I’ve been an activist even longer. I participated in my first political action when I was 11-years old riding in a bike-a-thon through the smoggy streets of Los Angeles in support of extension of the Clean Air Act. I’ve worked on presidential campaigns and as a Capitol Hill Legislative Aide. I’ve sat-in hotel lobbies and in the street and gotten arrested standing up for workers rights. It is through this work that I am not only informed, but also inspired to make films.
At the time that the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride was launched, I was working with the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union, Local 2 in San Francisco, and I was asked to be a Freedom Rider. My role was to document the experiences of my fellow Freedom Riders traveling across the country from Northern California.
A very special thank you to all the Friends of Freedom
who made this film and distribution possible through their generous funding and in-kind support.
Patricia and Hugo Arabia, James Araby, Elisa Arevalo, Gail Bateson, Richard Bermack, Marcie Berman, Joan Bernick,
Carol and David Briscoe, Kathryn J. Burke, John Callaghan, Kelly Candaele, Luciana Castro, Debra Chaplan, Sherri Chiesa,
Leslie and Adrio Decicco, Porfirio Díaz, Christine Elbel, Fran and Ed Elson, Margo Feinberg and Fred Ross, Linda A. Feldman,
Sharon and Woo Ferrell, Janice and Bob Fostakowsky, John Friedeborn, Barbara T. Ganley, Barbara Ganley and Bill Roper,
Meghan and Ben Ganley, Michael Ganley, Patti and David Ganley, Rich Garrett, Johanna Gendelman, Kathleen Gillis, Abby Ginzberg,
John M. Grant, Victoria Griffith and Peter Haberfeld, Ernie Harburg, Hieide Heintzelman-Eng and Ron Eng, James Higgins,
Margot Hilton, Ricardo F. Icaza, Clare Jackson and Charley Goetchius, Connie Jubb, Ruth Kalin, Michele Kessler, Java Kitrick,
Sigal and Giora Landesberg, Mel Levine, Ian Lewis, Kathy Lipscomb, Terri and Mark Lisagor, Donna Mandel and Ken Jacobs,
Pete Maturino, Susan McDonough and Warren Mar, Craig Merrilees, TJ Michels, Mike Miller, Gladys Miller-Rosenstein, Christina Montorio,
Martina Nicholson, Kevin O’Connor, Nancy Oye, Christina Perez and Peter Olney, Roxie Ray, Gerald Regan, Lori Richards,
Marilyn Rigler, Sara Rigler, Martha Roper, Aggie Rose-Chavez, Taly Rutenberg and Joel ben Izzy, Sal and Edy Santangelo,
Jerry Seedborg, Eleanor Shapiro, Louise Simmons, Lori Sonken and Marc Messing, Emily Sprague, Peter and Pat Sussman,
Jane Sweetland, D Taylor, Karen and Roy Thorpe, Margaret Tranovich, Neva Walker, John Walsh, Jeff Weichert, John Wilhelm and Laura X
Fiscally Sponsorship Provided by
Some Freedom Riders risked arrest and deportation by merely participating in the Ride. Nevertheless, they bravely spoke publicly about their immigration experiences and the difficulties they face in their adopted homeland. The Riders confronted the immigration system head-on while demonstrating at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, and were met by angry, anti-immigrant counter-protestors. They faced their inner most fears when they learned the fate of their fellow Riders traveling from Los Angeles who were detained by Border Patrol officers.
Valerie Lapin Ganley, Producer, Directer and Writer
Camille Servan-Schreiber, Cinematographer
Rick Butler, Cinematographer
Jason Cohn, Additional Camera
Jason Cohn, Sound Recordist
Rick Butler, Sound Recordist
Megan Lardner, Production Assistant
Los Angeles Camera Crew
Lauren Veen, Editor
Carl Weichert, Editor
David Santamaria, Additional Editor
Carl Weichert, Motion Graphics Artist
Matt Hemmerich, Motion Graphics Artist
Matt Hemmerich, Audio Mixer
Chelsea Miller, Audio Mixer
Valerie Lapin Ganley, Researcher
Rosario Chacón-Méndez, Translator
Marta Donayre, Translator
Patricia Ganley, Painter
David Koff, IWFR Video Project Director
Nicole Cousino, IWFR Video Project Coordinator
Northern California Freedom Riders
Carmencita Abad, Danilo José Acevedo. Dominga Aguisanda, Nabil Ahmad, Francisca Albano, Gaspare Aliotti, Héctor Archangel,
José Maurício Barrera, Baltazar Barron, Martha Benitez, Raúl Cabrera, Chizuko Calhoun, Felipe Campos, Martha Campos,
Nanauatzin Campos, Daniel L. Cardozo, Eunice Cho, Sheila Chung, Bishara Costandi, Secundino Cristóbal, Claire Darby,
Julius de Vera, César Díaz, Isela Díaz, Tho Do, Angelina Domínguez, Marta Donayre, Solange Echeverría, Karly Edwards,
Berny Enriquez, Anita-Jayne Eubank, Meheret Fikre-Selassie, Raymundo Flores, Reverend John Freesemann,
Doretha Fuller-Evans, Olia Furmully, Abdullah Furmully, Reverend Forrest Gilmore, Cecelia González, Gabriela González,
Miguel Guerrero, Fausto Guzman, Dora Hernández, Raeann Hernández, Ramiro Hernández, Juan Carlos Huezo-Fuentes,
Sister Marion Irvine, Swaroopa Iyengar, Lisa Jaicks, Piper Kamins, Khamsaeseng Keosaeng, Mikkail Komarova,
Tatiana Komarova, Valerie Lapin, Victoria Alicia Larco, Abby Levine, Jing Yi Lin, María Luisa Estrada Lomelí, Pedro Lomelí,
Lília Teresa López, María L. López, Lídia Elizabeth López-Guzman, Grace Manawatao, Sister Judy McDonnell, Ana Medina,
Delia Medina, Eva Liana Molina, Miguel Molina, María Carmen Moreno, Seth Newton, Lily Queen Nguyen, Jorge Nuñez-Adler,
Katy Nuñez-Adler, Maya Nuñez-Adler, Father Bill O'Donnell, Iván Ortega, Beverly Ortiz, Raúl Peña, Jesús Pérez, María Perla,
María Reyes, Christine Riordan, Reyna Rodríguez-Lemus, Carmen Rojas, Dev Ross, Francisco Ruiz-Figueroa, Phillipa Ruttgaizer,
Liam Saengchan, Abel Salas, Raymundo Sánchez, Leticia Santo, Maggie Santos, Bernardo Sédano, Lillie Simpson, Anand Singh,
Andre Spearman. Christopher Sprinkle, Norman Ten, Marin Trujillo, María de la Luz Ugalde-Rivera, Carlos Urrutia,
Rigoberto Valdez, Lorna Villanueva, Joaquín Vivero, Sophie Witsenburg, Helen Wong., and Rena Wong
Freedom Ride Bus Drivers
Larry “Lucky Larry”Curran and David “Super Dave” Hoffmann
Karen Araujo, Advance Team Coordinator
Kate Shaunnessey, Route Coordinator
Andy Schreiber, Assistant Route Coordinator
Regina Botterill, Route Staff
Long Ride Home
Written by Michael Franti, Adrian Scott Newman and Jason Patrick Bowman
Performed by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Courtesy of Capitol Records under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Written by Michael Franti and Manas Itene
Performed by Michael Franti & Spearhead
Courtesy of Epitaph Records
Sergio el Bailador
Written by José Guadalupe Esparza Jímenez
Performed by Bronco
One Life by 331
Troubles in the Way by Niko Evans
Free Music Archive
Bed by Jahzzar
Cree by Satellite Ensemble
Flying by Jahzzar
For Land for Love For Time Instrumental by Weinland
I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie
Mangata by Jon Luc Hefferman
Room With a View by Jahzzar
The Sun is Scheduled to Come Out Tomorrow by Chris Zabriskie
Type Your Name Here by Jahzzar
Hopes for Tomorrow by Marco Zannone
Special Thanks to:
Sherri Chiesa, JR De Vera, Michael Ganley, Tory Griffith and Peter Haberfeld,
Heide Heintzelman Eng and Ron Eng, Joshua Moore, Mary Telling and Rigo Valdez
Funding was generously provided by:
Ruth Lapin, Fleischhacker Foundation, Puffin Foundation, Puffin Foundation West, Ltd., Yip Harburg Foundation