60 years ago today, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. We honor her courage, her commitment, and her strength. We thank Ms. Parks for helping put women on the front lines in the fight of civil rights and for sparking one of the most broad and effective acts of civil disobedience in the entire civil rights movement. Rochelle Riley, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, captures our gratitude well:
“There are lessons that came with bloodshed and tears that we must never lose. And many of those lessons can be found in the lives of the leaders who did what they had to do so we can do what we want to do.”
When researching for this piece, I became equally inspired and disheartened. Inspired, because the stories of Rosa Parks and many other African American women working for civil rights touched me and encouraged me, seeing how far we have come and how much these women did to make my world better than their own. But I quickly became disheartened, seeing the stark similarities between the fights going on today in Ferguson, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and all over our country, and the ones that went on in Montgomery or Little Rock exactly 60 years ago. How could we see so much time pass, see so many people die, and still have so much work left to do?
But I was also struck by Ms. Park’s determination. When she was asked to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, she probably felt a great deal more than disheartened. But she continued on. She was “tired, tired of giving in.” And her potentially small act of rebellion, her small act of not giving in, sparked something much bigger.
While Rosa Parks is probably one of the most recognized women in the civil rights movement, her story is often simplified for history books and social studies lessons. Plus the impact of not giving up a seat on a bus doesn’t hit as hard today as it did many years ago. In my research, I found a great post from a blog called Feminist Activism, which detailed some great information on Ms. Parks you probably didn’t learn in class. I will leave you with their call to action, which sums up my feelings exactly:
“It is your duty now, today, to honor Parks and other activists like her who have dedicated, and in some cases given, their lives in the fight for equality. Analyze, strategize and act to create equality. And do it with love.”