It was on December 1st, 1955 that four black passengers were told to give up their seats to white passengers. Three complied. One did not. When the bus driver told her he would have her arrested if she didn't stand up, she calmly told him "You may do that." And for that statement, we all can be grateful.
I know this is not news to anyone who reads this site. Although I bet many of you were unaware of the exact date. Five and a half decades. A long time, marking a long journey of progress. Think about it. In the years that followed her bravery, little black girls had to be escorted to school with armed federal agents. In the decades that followed, 2 little black girls had to be escorted to school with armed federal agents because their father was the President of the United States.
In that short interview with Ms. Parks I learned something new. She was not sitting in the front of the bus. She was sitting in the rear, "colored" section. When the white section became full, the driver told the first four black passengers to stand so that white people could have their seats.
She was not the first black person to challenge these laws. But the NAACP realized that she was the perfect poster child for their cause. A married woman, hard working and with a good reputation, her case made plain the struggles of all black people living under Jim Crow.
My grandmother was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1909 and emigrated to Brooklyn as a teenager. She was widowed young and raised five children in Brooklyn by scrubbing floors and toilets. When this story broke news, my mother or one of my aunts read the story to my Grandmother during dinner. "Good for her," my Grandmother said. "I bet her feet hurt."
It's funny that one persisting myth was just that-the idea that she refused to stand because her feet hurt. Rosa claimed in later years that she felt just fine that day. Maybe she did. But I'm always amused to think of my Irish grandmother putting herself in the shoes of this Alabama "negro" and with great empathy deducing that her feet must have hurt. If anything can unite the working people of the world against their oppressors, it's the pain in their ankles, backs and wrists. True or not, it's always the part of the story that I remember most clearly.
I would like to propose a new annual tradition of honoring Ms. Parks. I think every December 1st in every city of this nation the first non-handicapped seat on every bush should be left empty, with a small piece of ribbon bearing her initials. It's easy to forget a day like today. If Google had not changed their logo for the day, I might have forgotten to.
There's only one way to end this diary....Thank you, Rosa.