Tributes Continue For Parks

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Political leaders and activists in New York and around the country continued to voice their tributes and memories of departed legend Rosa Parks with some calling for a national holiday.

"I call upon President Bush to lower flags and fly at half mass for the nation should officially celebrate the life of a woman who changed the world,� declared the Rev. Al Sharpton. “One of the highlights of my life was meeting and getting to know her. She made it possible for future generations to live in a nation that did not reduce them to second class citizenship."

Charles Barron, New York City’s fiery Council Member and former Black Panther, noted that he had just submitted a Resolution to make December 1, Rosa Parks Anniversary National Day of Absence Against Poverty Racism And War Coalition. “When we honor Rosa Parks, we honor the best of us,� he said. Barron will host War Veterans in support of the Resolution on the steps of City Hall, October 27, at 1 PM. He wants businesses and schools to either close on December 1, or allow employees and students to take the day off or leave early in order to participate in commemoration and protest events scheduled for that day.

Added Rep. Jesse L. Jackson: “Rosa Parks became the 'Mother of the Civil Rights Movement because 50 years ago she sat down, and inspired a modern Civil Rights Movement to stand up. She took the 1954 Brown decision's principle of 'equal protection under the law' to public transportation. That major step led us to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Open Housing Act – all of which helped make America a better nation. She was a very small woman who had a big impact."

Born Rosa Louise McCauley on Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, Parks died October 24, at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years-old. Almost 50 years ago, going home from her job, the 42-year-old seamstress did not feel like getting up out of her seat on a Montgomery bus, just because a white man and Jim Crow said so. The cops were called and she was arrested and fined $14.

Those were the days when a boycott had bite. For 381 days, tens of thousands Black people adhered to the Montgomery Bus Boycott organized by the then relatively unknown Rev. Martin Luther King. The rest is history.
The Montgomery bus boycott kept fueled the movement which led to the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which outlawed from racial discrimination in public accommodations.

While Parks is known internationally for refusing to obey a U.S. law which made the white man’s whim greater than her need, she was not the first to take this position. At least two other women were arrested the same year. Nine months before Parks’ arrest, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old Booker T. Washington High School student, was arrested for rejecting a white woman’s demand for her seat—she now resides in the Bronx. Parks was also, evidently, following in the tradition of other unheralded fighters against racial injustice. “During second world war, soldiers coming back from the North sat in the front of buses in uniform. It caused a great uproar in Montgomery and Birmingham, all through the southern states," recalled activist and educator, Sam Anderson. “These Black soldiers refused to move. Some drivers ignored them, others got into fight. After the war in the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were several attempts to integrate the buses, but it didn’t gel until Rosa Parks and Montgomery. She was an organizer with the NAACP, and she was trained in one of the progressive training centers in Kentucky, and the boycott was a result of her taking the stance that she did.�

Parks also was a great inspiration to women in particular, showing them that they could play leading roles in political transformation. “Rosa Parks shook up the world and awakened the conscious of a nation on December 1, 1955," said New York City Council member Yvette Clarke. "For the nation, she is a symbol of strength and courage. For all women, she is a role model and trailblazer. For our community, she was a teacher, activist and spark that lit the fire of one of the greatest movements the world has ever seen.�

Rep. John Conyers, who is the sponsor of HR40, the Bill that seeks Reparations for Slavery, knew Parks well—she worked in his office for more than 20 years.

“Everybody wanted to explain Rosa Parks and wanted to teach Rosa Parks, but Rosa Parks wasn't very interested in that,� Conyers told the Associated Press. “She wanted them to understand the government and to understand their rights and the Constitution that people are still trying to perfect today.�

He added: “For those of us who are the beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, it is hard to imagine living during a time where Jim Crow was the rule of the land. The civil liberties we take for granted today came about through tremendous sacrifice and hard-fought battles. And in the struggle that was the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks was one of our greatest generals. She is a testament to one of the oldest lessons-everyone can serve."

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