Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks: Sitting Down To Stand Up

Rosa Parks died at the age of 92 nearly 50 years after she sat down to stand up. A poor African-American woman living in Montgomery, Alabama, who eked out a living as a seamstress, could no longer accept the Jim Crow laws of the South that separated whites from blacks in public accommodations, public schools and just about every other aspect of life. When she boarded a Montgomery bus in December, 1955, sat down at the front of the bus and was asked by a white man to give up her seat to him as local law required, she refused him. Her act of civil disobedience landed her in jail and earned her a fine of $14.

Little did she know at the time what her single act of courage would do for the cause of civil rights. A young, little known minister, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was inspired by her actions to organize boycotts of Montgomery’s buses, which was the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. She became known as the “mother of civil rights.”

Rosa Parks did what she did because she truly believed it was the right thing to do. She wasn’t motivated by fame or money. This simple, modest but courageous woman believed that basic human dignity for African-Americans was worth standing up for. That type of sentiment is missing today. In sharp contrast, the civil rights leaders of today are all about big business—it’s all about the power, money and fame that comes with the territory. They are motivated by all the wrong things.

At a celebration in her honor in 1988, Rosa Parks spoke of her legacy: "I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die-- the dream of freedom and peace." In her memory, we should never forget those words.

No comments: