Monday, October 31, 2005

"Rosa Parks Eulogy" (John Conyers)

Still sick. About to crawl back into bed. Zach found this and it's important enough that I can post is and not feel the need to hunt down anything else. (Thank you, Zach.)

From John Conyers, Jr.'s website, "Rosa Parks Eulogy:"

I am travelling between Detroit and DC early this week to participate in services in remembrance of Rosa Parks. This is my first draft of a eulogy for a dear friend, who I will miss very much.
Rosa Parks Eulogy
October 31, 2005
Today, as we remember and say goodbye to Rosa Parks, I am moved to ask that we all consider her example in the struggles our world faces today. Rosa Parks led by example. She was not the loudest voice or the most forceful. She did not create change by arrogance or violence. She showed that one citizen's voice; a soft and determined voice can be heard, saying simply: "Love justice and despise oppression."
Those simple words. With them, the impetus to reconnect with this struggle for racial justice in America began with this humble woman, a seamstress in Alabama, who on December 1, 1955, chose to no longer obey the ordinance that blacks sit in the back of the bus and if it was full, then they give up the bus to white passengers. It is hard to conceive of the total segregation that this Nation was immersed in. On that day, she refused to obey a bus driver's order; and it began the chain of actions and organizations and commitments that led to a resurgence of the civil rights movement as we know it. Her arrest sparked a boycott of the Montgomery city bus lines. It went on for over a year as more and more people of all backgrounds and colors and economic classes joined in. Finally this matter reached, in November of 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that desegregation codes deny under the 14th amendment the equal protection of laws to African Americans. It did not stop at the borders of the United States. The power of her ideas was not constrained by continents or oceans. Nelson Mandela, after his release from prison, visited Detroit. When he got off the plane, politicians, businessmen and other dignitaries waited to greet him. The one person he recognized was Rosa, and he began to chant "Rosa Parks, Rosa Parks."
A word about Rosa as a person, not as a civil rights icon. I got to know her quite well when she moved to Detroit after her heroic actions in Montgomery, and to this day I believe that her support of me in the primary in the 1964 election made the difference in my being elected to Congress. After my election, the very first person I asked to join me in the Congressional office was Rosa Parks. Fortunately, she accepted my offer, and we worked together for more than 20 years, and remained close friends.
She was so modest. They said she got fired from her job a month after the boycott. Here is what she said in the book she wrote: "A month after the boycott began, I lost my $25-a-week job when the Montgomery Fair department store closed its tailor shop. I was given no indication from the store that my boycott activities were the reason I lost my job. People always wanted to say it was because of my involvement in the boycott. I cannot say this is true. I do not like to form in my mind something I do not have any proof of.''
That exemplifies this incredible humbleness that marked everything that she did. I said the first person I am going to bring into my congressional office staff is Rosa Parks, and she accepted. Never once have I ever heard her raise her voice in anger. Never once have I heard her speak negative or unkind remarks about anybody, this persona, this modest woman of incredible determination who, by the way, brought Martin Luther King into Montgomery to help lead the Montgomery bus boycott, which was the start of his career as a civil rights leader. Yet this humble woman, quiet, dignified, always pleasantly composed, was able to bring forward this and other countless acts of civil disobedience which resulted in us changing the way that America operates.

That's an excerpt. It's on a government website so we could excerpt in full but John Conyers, Jr. i.d.s it as a work in progress. For anyone who missed his appearance on Democracy Now! last week ["John Conyers On Rosa Parks: 'She Earned the Title as Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.'"], Parks worked on Conyers first campaign for Congress and, after he was elected, was part of his staff. His comments provide insight. (As opposed to a State Department Secretary who . . . I'll leave it at that.)

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