Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks

I'm sad to read the news Rosa Parks has died. I'm happy, though, that she lived for 92 long years. At college (University of Virginia), I studied the civil rights movement for several semesters and those classes are some that I remember best and most fondly. Rosa is commonly lauded as as a lone crusader who sparked the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama. In reality, it was a bit more orchestrated; she was an active member of the Montgomery NAACP chapter and it was the leaders within that chapter that planned Rosa's civil disobedience on December 1, 1955. In no way does that diminish her bravery or the impact her actions had, and, truthfully, I always found it comforting to know she had that support system behind her.

She came to speak to a small gathering of faculty and students my third year (I think) and I was priveleged to be one of the students in attendance. While I was waiting to enter Cabell Hall Auditorium at the opposite end of the Rotunda on The Lawn, I saw a frail white-haired woman being escorted up the steps. Clearly it was Rosa, and she received warm but quiet applause from the people waiting and even the students walking by on their way to classes. She acknowledged the gesture with a quarter turn and a quick wave. I honestly forget the particulars of her speech inside, but remember well her no-nonsense style of speaking. Seeing her and hearing her voice gave me an existential experience, easily putting me in Montgomery on that late day in 1955. It was a powerful.

Good bye Rosa.

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