Rosa Parks died yesterday at age 92. Over the days to come, we'll hear a lot of very-much deserved prasie for Parks' refusal to abide bigotry and her courage in the service of a cause. Unfortunately, we'll also hear a new round of recitations of the stubborn myth that Parks was an anonymous, apolitical woman who spontaneously refused to yield to authority and in so doing inspired a movement. The truth, as Aldon Morris wrote in his book The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, is that a decade earlier in the 1940s Mrs. Parks had refused several times to comply with segregation rules on the buses.
In the early 1940s Mrs. Parks was ejected from a bus for failing to comply. The very same bus driver who ejected her that time was the one who had her arrested on December 1, 1955...She began serving as secretary for the local NAACP in 1943 and still held that post when arrested in 1955...In the early 1940s Mrs. Parks organized the local NAACP Youth Council...During the 1950s the youth in this organization attempted to borrow books from a white library. They also took rides and sat in the front seats of segregated buses, then returned to the Youth Council to discuss their acts of defiance with Mrs. Parks.
This history is not hidden. But the Times' obituary describes Parks' arrest nonetheless as an event which "turned a very private woman into a reluctant symbol and torchbearer..."
Parks was certainly reluctant to see too personal valoration of her as heroine distract from the broader movement. But she was not private about her politics. And her refusal to give up her bus seat was nothing new for her.
As she would later tell an interviewer, "My resistance to being mistreated on the buses and anywhere else was just a regular thing with me and not just that day."
The myth of Parks as a pre-political seamstress who was too physically worn out to move has such staying power not because there's any factual basis but because it appeals to an all-too popular narrative about how social change happens in America: When things get bad enough, an individual steps up alone, unsupported and unmediated, and spontaneously resists. And then an equally spontaneous movement follows. Such a myth makes good TV, but it's poor history. Movement-building takes hard work, no matter how righteous the cause or how desperate the circumstances.
The above is from jre's "Rosa Parks, Misremembered" (Portland Indymedia) and Joan e-mailed to note it. It's Thursday and we're doing the indymedia roundup.
Karla e-mails to note Mark presenting several voices in "Rosa Parks, 2000th US Soldier Killed, and the Struggle" (Hudson Mohawk IMC) and here's a section focusing on Leslie Cagan:
I woke up this morning to the news that Rosa Parks had died yesterday. She had lived a long, full life and had contributed to the struggle for human dignity, for freedom and justice more than most of us can even imagine doing. Nearly 50 years ago she took one seemingly small step that set off a campaign that shook the south and sent repercussions throughout the nation and around the world.
Her refusal to go to the back of the bus was not, as some would tell the tale, because she was physically tired. No, on that day in Montgomery, Alabama Rosa Parks took an action that reflected just how sick and tired she and a whole generation was of being treated like second class citizens.
When Rosa Parks sat in the front of that segregated bus, refusing to give up her seat for a white man, she sent a clear statement about the power of one, the importance of individual action. But her action grew out of a social context and an emerging movement. Right from the beginning, her action was part of something bigger than herself, and the strength of her seemingly singular action was that it was tied to a community and part of a movement. When we recall the bravery of this one woman we must also remember the power of collective action.
Today, I came to work thinking about Rosa Parks and how much we owe her. It is profoundly true that we stand on the shoulders of those who struggled before us, those who chartered new paths and opened up new opportunities.By the time I was at my desk, I knew it would be impossible to stay with Rosa Parks today. Instead, my attention was quickly moving to the almost surreal death count...would today be the day that we heard of the 2,000 death of a U.S. serviceperson in Iraq? Would today be the day we needed to put out our call and urge tens of thousands of people in every corner of the country to make their opposition to this horrible war as vocal and visible as possible? And yes, by early afternoon the news came through. This war that never should have happened, this war based on lies, this war that has already taken thousands of innocent Iraqi lives - perhaps more than 100,000 lives - is raging every single day.
Today the news came about the 2,000th U.S. serviceperson. It is strange to use this as a marker and not, at first, even know the person's name. And no, of course, their life was no more important or precious than the previous 1,999 people from this country who have died, nor more important or precious than any of the Iraqis who have been killed in the daily carnage brought by our government to their nation. And yet it makes sense to mark this date, this death. It makes sense to use it (if I might even think in those terms) as a rallying cry, as a moment to mobilize people. The reality is stark and we simply must use every tool we have available if we are going to become a force that is actually strong enough to stop this war.
Rebecca e-mailed to note "NOW Remembers Rosa Parks, Mother of Civil Rights Movement" (NOW) and asked that it be included in the indymedia roundup:
The National Organization for Women joins the world in mourning and saluting Rosa Parks, whose intrepid act nearly 50 years ago spurred a movement for basic human rights for all people of color.
On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks took a seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., on her way home from her job as a department store seamstress. When a white man boarded the bus and demanded her seat-laws in Alabama at the time required blacks to give up their seats to whites-Parks refused. For her act of defiance, she was arrested and fined $14. For the next 13 months, blacks boycotted the Montgomery bus system to protest the law, nearly bankrupting the company because the vast majority of passengers were black. In December1956 the Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama laws segregating buses were unconstitutional.
Parks was an ordinary woman who did an extraordinary act. Her simple act of dignity and courage came when it was needed most, bringing disparate factions together and launching a movement that changed the country and the world. Because she sat down, hundreds and later thousands stood up.
Today, more than ever, we could all stand to take a lesson from Rosa Parks. Many of us witness abuses of privilege and power every day; but how many of us stand up -- or even speak up? How many of us remain quiet, silenced by the embarrassment or peer pressure? Parks' courage inspired a generation -- and we must pick up her torch for the generations to come.
Whether you are working for women's rights, peace and justice, for environmental justice and the conservation of the planet, or the education of all our children, Rosa Parks' moment of bravery in the face of racism and inequality reminds us that every person, no matter their place, can take a stand.
Portland e-mails to note Molly Templeton's "The Songwriter Never Sleeps: Bright Eyes is Wide Awake in the big city" (Eugene Weekly):
The 2005 Bright Eyes press kit is 45 pages of mainstream adulation long. Many of the interviews included are by New York-based publications and take place in standard East Village hipster locations, like Life Café or Tomkins Square Park (oft-referenced in combination with those "new Dylan" comparisons Oberst used to garner). He's skinny, they say; he's vulnerable and incredibly talented, with a 250-song catalog, and he loves his new NYC stomping grounds, where this year's two disparate, beautiful and flawed albums, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and Digital Ash in Digital Urn, were largely written.
New York features frequently in the lyrics of Morning, the stronger of the two, from the bittersweet, lovely first single, "Lua," to the tumbling "Train Under Water." It's part of Oberst's story now, the way the snowscape of his hometown of Omaha used to be. The strange -- and probably unavoidable -- trouble with this is that Oberst's only been there two years. While he had a young lifetime of experience in Omaha, he has a college sophomore's love for New York City, the kind of love that keeps you in downtown bars and off the trains that cross the East River. "I always get lost when I leave the Village," he murmurs, an excuse to a lover, "So I couldn't come meet you in Brooklyn last night."
If your a new member, you may wonder why music's being noted. Music will always be noted here. And with regards to Bright Eyes, one of the first overtly political songs critical of the Bully Boy was performed by Bright Eyes on The Tonight Show. The song's entitled "When the President Talks to God" (written by Conor Oberst) and though not on an album, you can get it on the CD single entitled "First Day of My Life." (You can also find it online by searching the title.) Here's an excerpt of the lyrics:
When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?
Does he ask to rape our women's rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?
Does what God say ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?
Gina wanted this from Democracy Now! noted because it's on Haiti and so was an article she found that she wanted to share:
Rev. Jackson Meets Aristide in South Africa
In a visit to South Africa, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson lent support to exiled Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide has been living in exile in South Africa since being ousted in a coup in February 2004. Rev. Jackson said: "The people did not remove him, the US government removed him."
The article Gina wanted to share is Chuck Strouse's "Free This Priest: Father Gerard Jean-Juste is no outlaw. He's a Magic City hero" (Miami New Times):
Now Jean-Juste -- a puckish, pudgy-faced, twelve-year South Florida resident who left Miami soon after the riot and has ministered to Haiti's poor children ever since -- is stuck in a prison cell in Port-au-Prince. Falsely accused of participating in the killing of his cousin, journalist Jacques Roche, he has become a martyr. Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience. Thirty-four members of Congress have called for his release. And 400 clergy of all stripes signed a petition demanding his freedom.
The man ultimately responsible for jailing Jean-Juste on the trumped-up charges -- he was in Miami at the time Roche was kidnapped -- is long-time Boca Raton radio commentator Gerard Latortue, who's now the country's interim prime minister.
The dispute is a distinctly South Florida affair.
"Jean-Juste is still a hero here," comments Dufirstson Neree, a thrice-minted Ivy League grad and Haitian American who's running for Congress from an area that includes Little Haiti. "No one can defend the position that he is a terrorist or a menace to society."
Three decades ago, Jean-Juste became the first Haitian ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in the United States. In 1978, just two years before a huge wave of his countrymen transformed Miami in a boatlift, he helped establish the Haitian Refugee Center, a group that has fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for the rights of people from the world's first independent black republic.
Jack Lieberman, another HRC cofounder, remembers that Jean-Juste manned the center in Liberty City and helped keep the peace during the many Eighties riots that shook the Magic City. "When he first came to the Haitian Refugee Center, most of the church agencies wanted to treat the Haitian refugee issue as one of charity," Lieberman says. "Jean-Juste pointed out that there was an injustice. Cubans were treated better than Haitians."
In the years that followed, Jean-Juste organized marches against Haiti's Duvalier regime, bad U.S. immigration law, and discriminatory policies in everything from housing to blood donation. For the Miami Herald I covered a half-dozen protests he led with megaphone in hand. I studied Kreyol and sat with him in the empty office of Veye Yo, a political meeting house on 54th Street he helped create.
He often spoke of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. He was a true leader.
End Zone e-mails to note Cara DeGette's "All shook up: Feisty and rebellious, D-11 president Sandy Shakes explains her wild ride and defection from the pro-voucer crowd" (Colorado Indy Springs):
The breaking point for Shakes, she says, came on May 25, 2004. That day, accompanied by Ridder, she drove to Denver to attend a conference, called "Revolutions in Colorado Education."
In attendance were about 50 wealthy charter school and voucher advocates. The two arrived just as Denver businessman and voucher proponent Alex Cranberg was introducing Schuck as the next speaker.
"Steve got up there, and he was red and he was beating and pounding his fist on the podium, screaming 'This is the revolution, and we are going to have to be willing to get bloody!' and that moment is when I said, 'It's over the line,'" Shakes recalls.
"It's not about kids for these guys. It's about a revolution, and the revolution is that the haves are going to have and the haves are going to control, and we are going to tell people how it is going to be, without any discussion about what would be adequate for these kids.
"A revolution? Getting our hands bloody? I just looked at Norm and said, 'He's lost it.' "
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