As the futuristic Monorail glided high above Harbor Boulevard, a vision from days long past trotted into view. Dressed in post-Civil War cavalry uniforms, the Buffalo Soldiers charged like the wind around Disneyland Thursday afternoon.
The Buffalo Soldiers are participants in a program in VisionQuest, a national organization that provides an alternative to jail for juvenile delinquents with wilderness camps, wagon trains, sailing and biking expeditions, group homes, at-home treatment and learning centers.
The soldiers are in town this week to speak at the California Center for Judicial Review convention in Anaheim, hoping to enlist judges' support to initiate legislation to allow VisionQuest programs in California, according to Bob Burton, founder and chairman of the board.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry of the VisionQuest Buffalo Soldiers--one unit is based in Pennsylvania, the other in Arizona--are predominantly black units carrying on the history of an all-black light cavalry unit that began in 1866 in New Orleans, its members said.
VisionQuest, according to its organizers, was set up for youths ages 10 to 21 who are not able to develop or maintain satisfactory relationships with their families or friends or cannot adapt to a school environment.
"I had some family problems and a couple burglaries, and I knew I didn't want to be behind bars when I made my decision to join up," said 1st Sgt. Tifton Hollis, 19, of Williamsport, Pa.
"Everybody hates it when they first start out," he said, "but after a while you realize the leaders want to help you through. I didn't have any idea about responsibility and they taught me to have more faith in myself.
"If it weren't for the program, I'd probably be in jail now."
"Seven out of 10 kids are making it (in society) after going through our program," Burton said. He said that California incarcerates one quarter of the youths incarcerated in the United States.