This week, schools observed Monday as a holiday in tribute to Civil Rights Movement leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had the honor and privilege of attending a basketball tournament at the University of Washington, Hec Edmundson Pavilion where the memory of my brother, Tim was being honored. He worked this annual tournament on behalf of youth. I thought it fitting to finish out the week with his thoughts that also honor a tremendous woman who served to spark the beginnings of this movement.
Take a stand!
That is what most people think of when confronted with injustice and prejudice.
Rosa Parks took a seat.
By doing so, she ignited what proved to be the momentum to propel the civil rights movement to the front of American consciousness and to secure it’s rightful place in history.
By refusing to follow a bus company rule that she give her seat to a white rider, Ms. Parks defied over 100 years of racism in the south without lifting so much as a finger.
The beauty of the defiance was its peaceful nature.
In this day and age where ecoterrorists destroy buildings or protesters resort to violent tactics, Rosa Parks personified peace.
This caught the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ,who himself preached protest through non-violence, and made Montgomery, Alabama the stage for the performance of demanding equality.
What few were expecting was the fortitude of the people of color to inconvenience themselves by walking everywhere, leaving the bus company with huge losses.
This forced them to change their policy regarding people of color.
Never to this point had any attempt at equality been given a nod of approval by any white government, business, or social organization.
It wasn’t until a non-threatening woman of color delivered what proved to be a knock out blow to Alabama racism.
Granted, change did not happen overnight, but then again, lasting change rarely does.
She propelled the movement which later demanded integrated schools, businesses, and marched on Washington D.C. to demand legislation for equality.
Had this woman pushed and shoved her way to get what she wanted, or succumbed to what must have been terrifying threats of violence and ridicule, perhaps change would have been much longer in its arrival.
Yet she showed the courage that few had to this point- simply by taking a seat.
I had the honor of hearing Ms. Parks speaks in my home town, a few years before her death.
She was as humble and unassuming then is she was in the 1950′s.
Make no mistake however- she was still every bit as resolute about her purpose.
For that, people of all color owe her an incredible debt of gratitude and respect.
A bestowing of a coin or stamp should be an automatic for such a fine American and civil rights champion.