Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Celebrating Rosa Parks

Yesterday Rosa Parks died. As I was growing up rosa Parks was somewhat of an icon as I learnt US Civil Rights History in secondary school and her life, and her actions made an ordinary women do a small thing that had massive impact. Her life inspires everyone to make a difference, to stand firm for what is right, to live for justice when its costly and so today on this tiny space on the web I celebrate Rosa Parks, as a testimony of how normal people can change nations. DETROIT (Reuters) - Rosa Parks, the black seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man sparked a revolution in American race relations, died on Monday. The U.S. civil rights pioneer was 92. Shirley Kaigler, Parks' lawyer, said she died while taking a nap early on Monday evening surrounded by a small group of friends and family members. "She just fell asleep and didn't wake up," Kaigler said. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement: "The nation lost a courageous woman and a true American hero. A half century ago, Rosa Parks stood up not only for herself, but for generations upon generations of Americans." Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress for a Montgomery department store when she caught a bus in downtown Montgomery on December 1, 1955. Three stops after she got on, a white man boarded and had to stand. To make room for him to sit alone, as the rules required, driver James Blake told Parks and three other black riders, "You all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." The other riders complied but Parks did not. "No. I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen," she told Blake. Blake called police, who asked Parks why she didn't move: "I didn't think I should have to. I paid my fare like everybody else." Four days later, she was convicted of breaking the law and fined $10, along with $4 in court costs. That same day, black residents began a boycott of the bus system, led by a then-unknown Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott lasted 381 days, and the legal challenges led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that forced Montgomery to desegregate its bus system and put an end to "Jim Crow" laws separating blacks and whites at public facilities throughout the South. Parks and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit in 1957, after she lost her job and received numerous death threats in Alabama. From 1965 to 1988, she worked as an aide to U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. "For a long time people were a little bit afraid of Rosa Parks because she had created this whole new modern civil rights movement," Conyers told Detroit radio late on Monday. "They didn't know what to expect, and they certainly didn't expect someone that quiet. She sought no limelight; you'd never hear her talking about her own civil rights activities and all the things that she had been in," he said. "She has saint-like qualities," Conyers added.


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