Thursday, 1 December 2016

Rosa Parks act of resistance remembered.

On December 1, 1955, 42 year old Rosa Louise Parks, a black American seamstress was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing  to give up  her seat on  a bus to  a white man. Her act of civil disobedience, led to black  citizens boycotting the bus company for over a year, in what was to become known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which   was to continue for  over a year, setting up the seeds  of a social revolution, putting the effort to end segregation on a fast track.Rosa became nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement” in America. Her act of dignified defiance and courage triggered a wave of protest that reverberated throughout the United States.
Contrary to some reports, Parks wasn’t physically tired and was able to leave her seat. She refused, on principle, to surrender her seat because of her race, which was the law in Montgomery at the time.
She was also a long-time member of the NAACP and highly respected in her community.
The NAACP realized it had the right person to work with, as it battled against the system of segregation in Montgomery. It also worked with another group of local leaders to stage a one-day boycott of passenger buses, when Parks went to court.The group expanded to include other people, chose a name, the Montgomery Improvement Association, and planned an extended boycott.
But the MIA also needed a public spokesman with leadership qualities to make their fight into a wide-ranging cause.Their pick was a little-known pastor who had recently arrived in Montgomery: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rosa was briefly jailed and paid a fine, but for many years would continue as an activist in the movement  for the rights of exploited people.Facing continued harassment and threats in the wake of the boycott, Parks, along with her husband and mother, eventually decided to move to Detroit, where Parks’ brother resided. Parks became an administrative aide in the Detroit office of Congressman John Conyers Jr. in 1965, a post she held until her 1988 retirement. Her husband, brother and mother all died of cancer between 1977 and 1979. In 1987, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, to serve Detroit’s youth.
In the years following her retirement, she traveled to lend her support to civil-rights events and causes and wrote an autobiography, “Rosa Parks: My Story.” In 1999, Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the United States bestows on a civilian. When she died at age 92 on October 24, 2005, she became the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. At the time, she was only the 30th person accorded that honor. She was the first woman to receive the honor, and her coffin sat on the catafalque built for the coffin of Abraham Lincoln.
Let us remember her today, and acknowledge Rosa's act of quiet resistance, that still resonates down the corridors of time. She remains a symbol to all to remain free.Let us also think  what would happen if a Palestinian Rosa Parks chose to sit on a segregated West Bank Bus, Palestinians in the present moment are unable  to travel freely in their own country - they even have to have permits to enter Jerusalem.
We need more brave souls like Rosa Parks sparking the seeds of change.

Earlier post on the Montgomery Bus Protest can be read here.

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