Like Rosa Parks, Modern Activists Are Also ‘Tired’ But Motivated

Like Rosa Parks, Modern Activists Are Also ‘Tired’ But Motivated

[OP-ED] Sixty years after the 42-year-old seamstress was forcibly removed from a Montgomery, Ala., bus, a new generation is now carrying the torch she passed along

by Thabiti Lewis, December 1, 2015

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Like Rosa Parks, Modern Activists Are Also ‘Tired’ But Motivated

Who would have thought that 60 years ago on December 1 1955 when 42-year-old Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on bus number 2857 in Montgomery, Ala., that we would still be struggling over equity and civil rights? 

As a secretary for the NAACP, Parks was the perfect candidate to generate the media interest in civil rights violations of the Jim Crow south. Parks, who was employed as a tailor at a department store and did not have a criminal record, was the perfect person to use to challenge the constitutionality of the city’s segregation laws.   



People always recount that Parks was “tired” that day in 1955 and thus refused to move, but her fatigue was not physical.  She was tired of giving in to laws she knew were unjust.  So when the bus driver, with whom she had clashed before, asked her to move from the middle section of a crowded bus and give her seat to a white man, she refused. 

This very public episode was the catalyst for the 13-month long Montgomery Bus Boycott.  While the unjust transportation laws were defeated, Parks lost her department store job and in 1957 she and her husband Raymond moved to Detroit. 

Six decades later, students across the country from Yale to the University of Missouri are protesting to get colleges to hire more diverse faculty.  Six decades later, they are still trying to advocate to the world that Black lives matter, too.  This generation of activists in their 30s and 40s, like Parks, are taking the lead and joining youth to protest excessive police violence and a general atmosphere of violence directed against people of color. 

Six decades later there is still much to do.  Like Parks, we have to be “tired ” of giving in to injustice of any form or fashion. 

Thabiti Lewis is an associate professor of English at Washington State University, Vancouver and author of "Baller of the New School: Race and Sports in America." 

 





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