Rosa Parks: Presente!

Today is the 65th anniversary of the arrest of Rosa Parks. When she was forty-two years old, she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus after working all day as a seamstress at a department store. Many Black folk had done the same thing before. They were arrested, kicked off or killed. Her act of divine disobedience sparked a successful bus boycott that lasted 381 days. But her co-workers refused to speak to her and she got fired from her job. She received constant death threats. When she moved north to Detroit a year later, the threats and intimidation continued. In 1965, a conservative organization plastered huge billboards along the Selma march that depicted Dr. King and Rosa Parks as “Communists.”

James Baldwin once wrote that Western society often memorializes people like Rosa Parks to try to “outwit history.” The white power structure can re-make anyone in their own image. A few years back, the Republican National Committee tweeted, “Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.” The truth is that Rosa Parks was a holy agitator who worshipped a God of love and liberation, not law and order. Her activism went far beyond bus de-segregation. She committed her entire life to issues that Republicans lambast and Democrats remain lukewarm about. She tirelessly challenged police brutality, mass incarceration and voter suppression. She fought for a social safety net and reparations! Racism remains because most white people embrace what Rosa Parks rejected. Let’s honor her memory by throwing in with the struggle for collective liberation that she sacrificed so much for.

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