Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Remembering Rosa parks

Remembering Rosa Parks

“Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it. I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others.” - Rosa Parks from her book Quiet Strength 1994

On Monday October 24, 2005 Mrs. Rosa Parks experienced the great transitional rite of passage we call death at the age of 92. Mrs Parks was an icon for human rights, the indomitable human spirit and the idea one person can make a huge difference in the world! Rosa Parks came into the public consciousness when on December 1,1955 she refused to surrender her seat on a Montgomery Alabama bus to a white man. Her act of defiance which ,in those days could have resulted in bodily harm or death was the catalyst for what is called the Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. Parks' action resulted in her arrest. She was the secretary of the local NAACP, a well liked and upstanding member of the community. and Her arrest ignited the slumbering spark of courage and resistance in her people. Once news of her arrest spread, the NAACP and local ministers mobilized and galvanized the community to get her out of jail, support her at her trial but most importantly do something to eliminate racial caste oppression in Montgomery Alabama. The ministers and NAACP formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and initiated a boycott of the city’s transit bus system that lasted 381 days. They formed car pools, they challenged the business and political leadership of Montgomery to make changes. But most importantly they stood unified and firm in the face of terroristic threats upon their safety. Rosa Park was a gentile woman soft spoken, mannerly yet strong willed and determined to make a difference. Would that more of us had that kind of spirit and courage.
The incident on December 1, 19955 was no fluke. Rosa Parks was not just tired that day as myth makers have suggested. Rosa Parks had committed herself to changing conditions for African-Americans in the South. Along with her NAACP activism she attended the Highlander Folks School in Grundy County Tennessee an educational training compound for worker’s rights and racial justice. There, her resolve to end the dehumanizing conditions black people were forced to live under was bolstered and she returned to Montgomery more dedicated to the struggle for human decency and justness. The era in which Rosa Louise McCauly grew up was very oppressive for people of African descent. Black people had no rights whites were bound to respect and were often the targets of vicious and virulent attacks, lynching were common and blacks faced degradation on a daily basis. She made her living as a seamstress. She and her husband Raymond Parks were integral parts of the Montgomery community. Her courageous stand led not only to the unification and empowerment of the Montgomery black community but her arrest and conviction on charges of disorderly conduct and violating the Montgomery segregation laws and her subsequent appeals led to the US Supreme Court ruling the segregated bus service was unconstitutional. Rosa Parks was a fighter. She could have folded due to the immense pressure the reactionary white community put on her, Martin Luther King Jr and the rest of the Montgomery Improvement Association leadership. But to their credit they resisted the temptation to cave in to fear and they were able to galvanize the black community. Their boycott devastated the Montgomery economy. Not only did buses stand idle for over a year the downtown retail area which was also segregated lost tons of money as the blacks refused to shop there or couldn’t easily get downtown without public transportation. The whites capitulated not out of any sense of moral rectitude but because their businesses were losing money! Parks' appeals went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Her case is considered the landmark because it applied to all segregationist laws, not just those affecting interstate commerce. It was a major victory against oppression and racial caste.
In later years Mrs. Parks moved to Detroit where she remained active. She worked in the office of US Congressman John Conyers for several years. She established the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development and was a much sought after speaker until her health declined. Her’s was a life well lived with purpose dignity and meaning. Let us wish her Soul well in its journey home, but most importantly let us emulate her strong will, her courage her willingness to sacrifice for her people and her commitment to social justice.

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