October 25, 2005

ROSA PARKS, 1913-2005

Rosa Parks, the Alabama seamstress whose simple act of defiance on a segregated Montgomery bus in 1955 stirred the nonviolent protests of the modern civil rights movement and catapulted an unknown minister named Martin Luther King Jr. to international prominence, died Monday of natural causes at her Detroit home. She was 92.

Often called the mother of the movement that led to the dismantling of institutionalized segregation in the South, Parks became a symbol of human dignity when she was jailed for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white person when she was riding home from work on the evening of Dec. 1, 1955.

Her arrest for violating Alabama's bus segregation laws galvanized Montgomery's blacks, who boycotted the city's buses for 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. (LA Times)

In a time marked by mendacious leaders, rapacious corporations and a racist war of conquest in Iraq, let's pause to remember Parks, whose individual act of courage 50 years ago started Americans of all colors on the road to redemption from the evils of Jim Crow.

Thank you, Ms. Parks. Rest in peace.

Posted by Richard at October 25, 2005 07:42 AM

Farewell Rosa Parks, the ultimate dissenter...for the good of our country.

Posted by: Sara at October 25, 2005 06:21 PM

Let it never be said that an individual is incapable of changing the world. Rosa Parks is a testament to the fact that only an individual can.

Posted by: diana at October 27, 2005 07:07 AM

Rosa, Rosa, Rosa
Ernie McCray
Forever etched in my mind and soul is an image of Rosa Parks sitting softly, as she had in that historic picture of her looking out of a bus window, with a white man sitting behind her with a kind of “going with the flow” expression on his face.
In this particular vision, as she sits, she is radiating her warm smile my way as I and a few children from a school where I was the principal, on one occasion, and my twin daughters and youngest son, on another occasion, sang to her.
“Rosa, Rosa, Rosa,” we serenaded. “Rose up from the crowd.” I had shared with all the children how her simple act of defiance affected so many people so the next words were: “Rosa, Rosa, Rosa made us feel, oh so proud. Got us up on our feet. Yes, oh yes, she did. Got our souls to humming and our hearts to beat. Oh, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.”
I recalled for the children my first bus trip in the 40’s with my mother somewhere below the Mason and Dixon Line. I told them how I, without knowing what I was doing, since I was only about 4 or 5, wandered up to the front of the bus, breaching the color line, and the chaw chewing bus driver, startled beyond belief hit the brakes and spun the bus, seemingly, across a couple of county lines which must have scared cattle of everykind from miles around. And he told my mother to sit her monkey down - and, the sad thing was: I hadn’t seen anything yet as I found out over time.
With that in mind we sang: “Rosa, Rosa, Rosa stood in the face of hate. Rosa, Rosa, Rosa let civil rights right through the gate. Gave us something we can’t have too much of. Yes, oh yes, she did. Dignity and a spirit bathed in love. Oh, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.”
I appreciated that the children comprehended at a deep level how I couldn’t understand, at any level in my being why, back then, I couldn’t enjoy life’s simple pleasures, why I couldn’t, like white folks, sit down and feed my face - or drink from any water fountain - or sit anywhere at the picture show - or skate at the rink on any day - or swim in all the pools - or sit at the front of the bus and do what little boys like to do: watch bugs smash against the windshield and go: “Yuck!” But all that was asking too much.
You could hear, in our voices, the celebration of the passing of those hateful days when we sang a phrase of praise to Rosa’s taking us “to another place,” putting a “smile on our frowning face,” giving us “a hint of what it’s like to be free,” and “straightening our spines in Montgomery.” Our voices rang about how when Rosa didn’t give up “that old bus seat, she swept Jim Crow right off his feet. Oh, yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.”
All the while, as we sang, Rosa sat softly in her gentle manner, and her magnificently beautiful smile never left her face. That image is a most cherished memory and will forever sustain me as I pursue keeping her legacy alive. Not too long ago Sister Rosa asked us to dedicate our lives to what she dedicated her life to: “...peace, justice, equality, and love and fulfillment of what our lives should be.”
Just think: what a world this could be if we all honored Rosa’s wonderful legacy, understanding that this is the way it has to be if human beings are to survive the 21st Century.

Posted by: Ernie McCray at October 28, 2005 10:07 PM

Ernie, thank you for your beautiful essay. It grieves me to think of how many children have had the same, or other similar experiences as yours and still carry the bad memory in their hearts.

Would you mind if I copy your post to the blog so that more people can see it?

Posted by: diana at October 28, 2005 11:21 PM

I think if more people understood the great impact a singular, solitary and simple act by a simple person can have, they would realize that the world is as it is because too few take the responsibility to act on their own as Rosa Parks did. It seems to me most people wait for the next guy, or rely on large orginations, or seek the safety of numbers in large groups, or hope for mass-movements to bolster their cause, rather than act on their own, and this is why so little changes. Although we should honor Rosa's legacy, we should guard against enshrining her as a great heroine, but remember her as the simple woman she was so that we can identify ourselves with her more personally and know that each of us has a unique calling in life to change the world for the better.

All we need is the courage to be ourselves and trust that small acts can have big ripple effects.

Posted by: diana at October 28, 2005 11:49 PM