"Rosa Parks already knew, of course, that a court case would
turn her into even more of an outcast in white Montgomery. Although
unconcerned about her own physical safety, she also knew that any
public position she took would cause dire trouble for her husband: the
police would harass him, perhaps even frame him on some trumped-up
charge. Her mother's health, meanwhile, was frail: could she endure a
long-drawn-out trial? Rosa Parks fretted over those dilemmas, but in
her heart she never doubted what she had to do..."
In 1997 author and historian Douglas Brinkley took a group of
high school teachers and students on a civil rights tour. In the
course of that journey, he discovered that, despite her fame as the
mother of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks had had no biography
written about her apart from "...a few illustrated children's books
spinning her life as a morality tale." This was indeed a serious gap
in the herstory records. Lucky for us he decided to put in the time
to write the missing book, combining interviews with Parks and
important people in her life with intensive archival research. Rosa
Parks, the product of his labor, is well worth reading.
I was four when Rosa Parks was arrested. During my childhood
civil rights were front line news, not history or even a done deal.
When my kids were in school Parks was an icon. Very few people didn't
know about her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.
But few knew much more. And I strongly agree with Brinkly that much
of the information put out there had decidedly simplified moralistic
Brinkly gives us much more. There's the very real danger
southern blacks were in for the most innocuous acts (Recall how Emmitt
Till was brutally murdered for a whistle or comment directed to a
white woman and the murderers were acquitted by an all white jury?),
never mind challenging Jim Crowe laws.
There's Parks as a complex human reacting to unpredictable
unfolding events. As much as she respected Martin Luther King Jr.,
for example, she did not share his his belief in nonviolence as the
"...Rosa Parks's own philosophy came closer to the views of
playwright Lorraine Hansberry: 'Negroes must concern themselves with
every single means of struggle: legal, illegal, passive, active,
violent, and non-violent. They must harass, debate, petition...sit
in, sing hymns...and shoot from their windows when racists come
cruising through their communities.'"
There's the before and after in regard to that famous moment in
time. We meet Parks at her birth in Tuskegee, Alabama. As the last
chapter concludes a septegenarian Parks is embracing Nelson Mandela.
"Then the two brave old souls, their lives so distant yet their
dreams so close, fell into each other's arms, rocking back and forth
in a long, joyful embrace. And in that poignant, redemptive moment,
the enduring dignity of the undaunted afforded mankind rare proof of
its own progress."
On a personal note, this week's community garden was especially
special and memorable. As any of you who have planted veggies know,
sometimes they give a new meaning to the mandate: be fruitful and
multiply. We had distributed bags to all our people and were still
drowning (not literally) in cukes. Right beside us was the concert.
I volunteered to give the rest out to the audience. They were very
happy with their surprise.
Yesterday I had to break into my house. I'd switched backpacks and
forgotten my keys. A storm was on the way, with the potential of
raining in through the screens. Joey cat, from inside, started pawing
insistently at the studio screen. I touched it there and...ooh,
loose! In a New York minute I had it pried open and far from
gracefully scrambled through. The house stayed dry and I won't be
hearing "Did you remember your keys?" for the next few years.
Ever have an experience like that?
Sent from my iPod