By Kristen Johnson
On this day in history, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, which led to a bus boycott organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. This one act of non-violent civil disobedience by a very brave seamstress led to a bus boycott that would stretch on for more than a year, and eventually led to desegregated buses, because the strike led to a huge financial toll for the busing system. (History.com).
Standing up for what is right, though it is difficult and unpopular, can lead to great social change, as was the case with the actions of Rosa Parks that day. There is so much we can learn from (and about) this civil rights icon to inspire of today, 61 years later:
Mrs. Parks’ history of activism: Prior to her refusal to give up her seat in 1955, Rosa Parks was already involved in civil rights issues. She joined the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter in 1943, and served as the youth leader for the chapter, as well as a secretary for the NAACP President until 1957. (Biography.com). Perhaps her involvement with such an active civil rights group gave her the courage she needed to stand up for the rights of all African Americans that day in 1955.
Suffering for the cause: Although she continued to work on civil rights issues, Rosa Parks most certainly paid dearly for doing what was right. She lost her department store job, and her husband lost his job too after his boss forbade him to talk about his wife or her legal case. However, she made a new life for herself with her family in Detroit, working as a secretary and receptionist for a U.S. Representative, and also serving board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (Biography.com). Sometimes the road is tough, but if we stick it out, good things can come of it.
She relied on her faith to see her through: Rosa Parks indicated that the civil rights movement could not have been successful without the involvement of the Church. It was the only place people could gather and get information without fear of being treated unjustly. They met in churches to pray, sing, and find strength to fight against the hatred surrounding them. (LA Times). When Churches work together to better the world, and to fight against justice, huge change can be made.
“I don’t know if I was chosen by God, but I felt he was a very strong influence in my life and I was very glad that I could have the strength and faith” to refuse to relinquish the seat, Parks said in an interview. (LA Times)
How much more can we do to better our world if we refuse to sit idly by while marginalized people are further subjugated, and the poor continue to suffer?
We can do better. Stand up and be counted.
James 4:1 (NRSV): 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
Serve all with love.
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