Making a permanent impression since 1994
October 31, 2005
We are all Rosa Parks
By Michel Lee
Ever heard of Claudette Colvin? I didn't think so. The chances of recognizing that name are about as slim as me singing in pitch. But that's a different story.
That's right. Rosa Parks has gone down in history as the courageous African American woman who sparked the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.
We've heard countless times that she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus that fateful day and was arrested by the police. Thus began the infamous bus boycott.
Do I sound like a history teacher yet?
However, we overlook the contributions of other, unnoticed men and women who were also tired of being treated like second-class citizens, who were also up to there with all that segregation nonsense.
Did you know that Claudette Colvin refused to give up her
seat to a white passenger on a
So, then why do we revere Parks, and not Colvin?
Colvin was pregnant and too young to be a
"martyr" for the cause. Third, many civil rights leaders thought that
she was too dark-skinned to be an effective campaign poster girl. (And
we're still talking about the civil rights movement, right? The one
pursuing the whole "colorblind" shebang?)
Parks, in contrast, worked for the NAACP. She was
demure and quiet, unlike Colvin, who scratched and clawed when police arrested
The fact is that Parks had more media appeal than Colvin. End
of story. Now, onward to the moral of my story.
My point isn't to prove that Rosa Parks' act was undeserving of praise nor is it to prove that Colvin should have been the real "hero.
In fact, Rosa Parks is one of my greatest role models. She
was a remarkable woman and, undoubtedly, worthy of all the praise she garnered.
And so is Colvin. It takes much humility to step down from a chance at
My point is that we are all heroes.
We all have the potential to change the world, whether its by mowing a neighbor's lawn or catalyzing a national civil rights movement.
We are all Rosa Parks. We all leave our marks on someone's history with our acts.
Yet we are also Claudette Colvin. The world will not always notice what we do. We must gain satisfaction from what we do, not what comes as a result.
And you never know. One act might change the world. So take a chance, jump at every opportunity.
One act is a pebble, but sometimes it becomes a mountain.
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