When Parks refused to move, we were raised higher

January 11, 2011

By Calvin Studivant,

Alternate vice president, Bus Department

December marked 55 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus — “an act that challenged the moral conscience of an entire nation,” said President Obama in honoring her legacy.

Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to Rosa Parks’ act of courage on Dec. 1, 1955.

The Montgomery bus boycott lasted 382 days and brought Parks to the attention of the world. The Supreme Court subsequently struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

President Obama said the Montgomery bus boycott “marked a turning point in American history…and the eventual outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination.”

Continued President Obama, “Rosa Parks and the many other leaders and foot soldiers in that struggle for justice championed our founding principles of freedom and equality for all. As we commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, I encourage all Americans to honor their legacy — the legacy of Americans who marched bravely, worked tirelessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of making our country a more perfect union.”

In 1996, President Clinton presented Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

After her death in 2005, at age 92, Parks’ casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days — making her the only woman and second African-American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol.

And congratulations to the brothers and sisters of Local 23 in Santa Cruz, Calif., who, under the leadership of Sister Sharon Hightower Toline, helped to organize a historical presentation of Rosa Parks and her legacy. On Dec. 1, the transit district reserved the front seat on buses as a dedication.

On another note, I am happy to report that Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority employee Rhonda Taylor (Local 1594, Upper Darby, Pa.) had her termination case overturned in arbitration. Sister Taylor, out of work since February 2010, was reinstated with full back pay, minus 30 days for suspension, and the discipline will be expunged from her record. General Chairperson Waverly Harris, Vice General Chairperson Brian Caldwell, and members Curtis Fulmore and David Stinsman presented the case. I was honored to have provided assistance.