Celebrating Rosa Parks' legacy

Published 4:55 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Sunday afternoon a crowd gathered at Turner Funeral Home in Atmore to celebrate the life of Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks, who died Oct. 24 at the age of 92.
Parks is celebrated for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus on Dec. 1, 1955 when she was tired and weary from a long day of work.
"If we had to do it, we would have got off that bus running," celebration organizer Michael Arnold said. "She was tired, but not tired of working, she tired of being treated unfairly."
Parks was born on Feb. 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father, James, was a carpenter and her mother, Leona, was a teacher. Parks moved to Pine Level when she was a toddler with her mother and younger brother, Sylvester. They moved to live with her grandparents on a farm. Mrs. Parks attended school in Montgomery and later married Raymond Parks at the age of 21.
Following her arrest after the historic bus incident, Parks moved to Detroit, with her brother due to several death threats and other mistreatment. Mrs. Parks, her husband and mother relocated to the Motor City in 1957. She was a seamstress and was hired to be on the staff of U.S. Rep. John Conyers from 1965-1988. She was secretary with the Montgomery chapter of the Civil Rights Movements and was one of the most important citizens of the 20th Century.
Several guest speakers were on hand during the special ceremony including Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, pastor Willie Hawthorne, Bishop Dr. Willie Williams, Dr. Hattie Bishop and Elder Mona Simmons. Bro. Michael Thomas also sang, I am Free, during the celebration.
"It went really nice, it was lovely," Arnold said. "I enjoyed it. The turn out was real good. I was happy that the people that did come showed up."
Arnold said he decided to organize the celebration because it would be a great way for the community to celebrate the life of a wonderful woman.
"I just thought it would be something great for the community of Atmore to recognize the great woman that went out on a limb to do something for us that we didn't have to do; she didn't have to do," he said. "I thought it was a fitting and a appropriate thing for the community to do as a whole. It was the right thing to do."
Mayor Shell presented a proclamation from the city during the celebration, which Arnold said was sent to Swanson Funeral Home in Michigan along with the guest book from Sunday's celebration and flowers.
"It's an honor to be asked to be here today," Shell said during the celebration. "It's an honor and a privilege for me to get to present this proclamation in honor of such a courageous woman. She has left an everlasting impact across the world."
In her 1994 book Quiet Strength Parks reflected on the incident.
"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it," Parks wrote. "I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others."
The statement Parks made by her refusal to yield her seat changed the state of Alabama and the nation. Tuesday, friends and local leaders remembered her legacy.
Arnold said a woman of Parks' character is a positive influence on today's youth.
"It sends a message to the younger generation to not give up," he said. "You can achieve what you want to achieve by not giving up. A scripture in the Bible says, 'The race is not given to the swift, neither to the strong, but it is given to the one that will hold out and endure to the end.' That's what Rosa Parks did, she endured to the end."

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