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Honoring Rosa Parks this February

artwork+by+Helen+Tadesse
artwork by Helen Tadesse

artwork by Helen Tadesse

artwork by Helen Tadesse

Helen Tadesse, Photo Editor

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February 4, 2018, will mark what would have been Rosa Parks’ one hundred and fifth birthday. When Parks refused to give up her seat to a White man on a bus in 1955, she unknowingly sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, an influential beginning to the Civil Rights movement.

   Parks was on her way home from work in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, when she refused to give her seat up to a White passenger, even though the bus driver asked her to. According to the History Channel website, this was not her first act against Driver James Blake. In 1943, Parks payed her fair, but then refused to exit and re-enter through the back door, as African Americans were required to at the time. She eventually stormed off the bus after Blake pulled her coat sleeve (history.com).

   But the next time, on that Thursday evening in 1955, Parks stood her ground. When she and three other “negroes” were asked to stand and give up their seats for a White passenger, the other three obliged, but Parks did not. Two officers soon arrived at the scene and arrested her.

   Following Parks’ arrest, the African-American community began to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They sent flyers home with students to inform their parents not to ride buses in protest. According to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development official website, Martin Luther King Jr. became the spokesperson of the movement and the boycott took off. It lasted 381 days, spreading the nonviolent message across the south. This in turn came to inspire sit-ins, eat-ins, and other protests against Jim Crow Laws (rosaparks.org).

   Following the boycott, Parks received a lot of harassment and threats, and later had to relocate herself and her family to Detroit in order to avoid her avid harassers. It’s easy to look back at the brave acts in history and forget how truly impressive and revolutionary some of these actions were. At the time, Black people that spoke out for their rights were often attacked and sometimes killed for their actions, and Parks really had no way of knowing if her decision to refuse to give up her seat could start a movement, or could possibly end her life.

   Parks risked her livelihood for change, so people could live the way that they do today. She continues to inspire people to stand up for what they believe in no matter how scary it may be. This is why we celebrate and memorialize her. “If you were brave enough to not give up your seat on the bus, then I should be brave enough to say ‘hi’ to someone I don’t know when I walk down the street, or be brave enough to try to make a change in my community too,” said Senior Black History Club Vice President Drew Reems-Webley.

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Honoring Rosa Parks this February