Sunday saw the 58Th. Anniversary of an event that changed history and it was down to a small, poor, quietly spoken African American woman. She was of course Rosa Parks. She has now taken her place among the most revered people in history because of her courage, her resolve and her great dignity. Her refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white man kicked off a series of events which would change America for ever, the fire she lit still burns brightly today, for proof of that you only need look at the White House and its incumbent Barrack Obama.
Rosa Parks taken from the bus to prison
The story does not need retelling by me but I will say that Rosa Parks took her place in history and she continues to inspire those of us who struggle for a better world. She gives hope as well as inspiration. The repellent racism which blighted America at that time and still does today was not eventually challenged by armies, it was extraordinarily challenged by a small black woman who was travelling home after doing a tiring day’s work as a seamstress, she let the genie out of the bottle and it will never now be put back in.
Along with people like Mandela and Martin Luther King she has taught us that we should never give up, who would have thought that such a minor incident would go on to shake America and the world?. How many thought that white supremacist rule would ever be overturned in South Africa, how many thought that Mandela would die in jail and be forgotten and Apartheid would always be with us?. We all know now that one man did not give up despite the overwhelming odds and he, Mandela, inspires us still. When you are ready to quit, when you are tired and exhausted, when you are losing hope, think of Rosa parks and carry on. Think also of the song we associate with her all over the world where people are oppressed and believe that right will prevail and that “we shall overcome some day”.
1999 Rosa Parks is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton