Never-ending trip to do good passes through Ashland
By Debora Gordon
Anyone walking or driving around Ashland in the last few weeks has doubtless seen a double-truck promoting peace, love and joy, and its intention to deliver food, clothes and building materials to the Hopi Reservation. The truck belongs to Curtis Reliford, originally from Louisiana, and now a resident of Santa Cruz, California, when not on the road, to bring his messages of kindness, peace, love, kindness and “being the change we wish to see in the world.”
Raised in his early years by his godmother, he became rebellious as he grew up, seeing his godmother’s husband being called “boy” in stores, “I knew something wasn’t right.” Reliford went on to describe his youth devoid of male role models and being frequently beaten by his stepfather after returning to his mother’s house at the age of 13.
Later, he found himself getting into fights at school, and did not graduate from high school, after beating up the class president. Reliford went on to describe gang involvement, time in juvenile hall, and drinking and smoking marijuana. He began selling marijuana, which he characterizes as being among the “wrong decisions” he made.
Reliford, a Black man, recalls disturbing encounters with police when on the road being interrogated and their attempts to provoke him. He recalls overhearing a group of white men discussing lynching Black men in Louisiana, when he was still in high school, which later led him to start a group (now defunct) called “Brothers Helping Brothers,” where young and old Black men, from ages 8 to 80, came together to learn, to do community service and to go to museums together to learn about their world.
“Today, the way to live my life is what I have been seeking all of my life,” Reliford said. “I drive around in a big truck and trailer, promoting peace, love and kindness.” He describes loading up the truck with up to eight tons of food, clothes, and building materials and delivering it to Indian reservations throughout the U.S.
Doing good work is “what shot those (negative) voices down,” he explains. “Why am I here? Where am I going? It was a snowball effect,” which he describes hitting him as hard as Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans in 2005, when he began his mission to spread love, peace and kindness. “Every day is a new beginning for me. I never know who is going to approach me or how they will approach me.”
Reliford goes on to describe the racism he has encountered in driving throughout the United States. “I come through in that truck, with joyful music, dancing, elaborate art, and all of this is to draw people in to hear my story.”
Reliford explains, “We all have stories, but I haven’t heard people talking about love, peace, kindness — not nearly enough — in the United States. I thought it was supposed to be a melting pot for all races, and we can all come together and communicate with teach other. If I had a prayer to come true, I would pray that one day, all people would come together, with a oneness of love and kindness, caring and sharing for each other. That’s my prayer to the world.”
He was further moved to continue this work after the death of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in 2020.
In the meantime, Reliford — who has since moved on from Ashland — continues to drive his truck, collecting supplies and distributing them to many Native American reservations and, through this work, he hopes encouraging peace by demonstrating love and kindness.
Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text him at 541-631-1313.
Aug. 26 update: Spelling of Curtis Reliford’s name corrected.