Wednesday, January 13, 2010


As we spend these next few days celebrating the memory and contribution of Martin Luther King, Jr., I find it also important to call Rosa Parks to mind. Ms. Parks really was the one who primarily assisted in catapulting King onto the national and global stage. By his own admission, King did not desire the kind of limelight that resulted. He wanted to be known as an outstanding pulpit figure (which he certainly achieved), the pastor of a prestigious congregation (which also came to pass) and eventually, maybe an academic (which didn’t happen, although his sermons and writings are academically astute). But on December 1, 1955, when Parks refused to give her seat to a white person on one of the city buses of Montgomery, Alabama, the time was ripe for all hell to break loose and, indeed, it did. The call went out for a leader and, although he first resisted, King eventually acquiesced to the requests and stepped into the Civil Rights leadership role, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott.

But it all began with Parks. She refused to stand up from her seat because she “was tired of giving in.” Life experiences had helped shape her response. A seamstress who knew the sharp rebuke that could come from the personality of bigotry knew first-hand how such could cut deeply into her life. She served as secretary to the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and equipped herself in a non-violent way at the Highlander School in Tennessee, a program designed to explore worker’s rights and racial justice. As she reported years later, she finally purposed that how she felt and believed on the inside would find its expression on the outside.

The dictionary word for such is probably integrity – what you see on the outside is what you are really getting. To follow the Rosa Parks decision is my second resolution of the year. I have worked on this for some time and believe that I have made some progress, based on checkpoints that I can evaluate from my past. One probably never becomes fully “integrated” - what is seen is actually what is. Nonetheless, I am determined to try.

Congress eventually recognized Parks as the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement.” And it all started when a 42 year old woman grew weary of things as they were and decided to let it be known outwardly how she felt inwardly.

1 comment:

  1. James Madison wrote that “our conscience is our most sacred property”. To all of us we are endowed with the ability, discretion and freedom to oppose the inhumane, outrageous, and the morally questionable actions of our fellow humans; moreover we have right to express our deepest held convictions in the public square. Gary, as you point out, I just hope I will have the courage to exercise that prerogative when confronted with injustice. Rosa Parks has shown us the way.