I was born three weeks to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. By the time I entered middle school, it had been a generation since Rosa Parks’s famous arrest in 1955. Her story had aged enough to feel safe for textbooks. Parks was held up as a hero, a seemingly powerless little, old African American lady who had made a spontaneous decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus and literally changed the world with her courage. So the story went.
I was inspired by that story, as I still am, but what I didn’t know as a young student is that the version I was being taught omitted much of the truth. What I wasn’t taught changes everything.
No one told me, for instance, that Rosa Parks had been the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 12 years by the time she was arrested or that she had traveled to the Highlander Center in Tennessee for a 10-day training in voter registration and nonviolence shortly before her arrest.
On the day of the arrest, December 1, 1955, she was 42 years old, hardly a “little, old lady,” and her decision, though it wasn’t planned for that particular day, was rooted in years of undramatic daily work for change.
No one on the bus with Rosa Parks tweeted the news of her arrest; no one reached hurriedly for a cell phone. Fellow passengers instead started making phone calls when they got home, and word quickly reached JoAnn Robinson, head of the Montgomery Women’s Political Council (WPC). For years, the WPC had been pressing the city and the bus company over abuses that “colored” riders (in the language of the day) were subjected to by bus drivers, who were all white.
Robinson made a few calls of her own, and late that night she made the decision to call a
one-day boycott for the following Monday. From midnight until seven, Robinson and two of her students made copies of a flyer and distributed them around the city.
By the time local pastors arrived for a previously scheduled meeting at 10 on Friday morning, more than 50,000 flyers had blanketed the black neighborhoods of Montgomery. The pastors had little choice but to get on board, as it were.
Don’t miss this: JoAnn Robinson, a college professor and civic leader whom almost no one has heard of, called the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which had been organized and ready to launch for at least 18 months before Rosa Parks’s arrest.JoAnn Robinson did what Rosa Parks also did: she gathered with others who shared her concern, and together they plotted a way forward, undramatically and over time, fitting those efforts into already busy lives in ways that were sustainable. We carve away facts from that story until it fits the lone-hero narrative, but, in truth, it is a movement story.
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Want to be a person that helps change the world?
For people of faith, "What’s most important?" is the wrong question. Instead, it might be better to ask: What is mine to do? What work is God calling me to in this moment?
Once again, we have to be careful to bring this into scale. We are not discussing your life’s calling. I honestly don’t think you have one. I think you have thousands. Big ones and little ones—a conversation you are called to have tomorrow morning, a smile you are called to offer in a particularly difficult moment. These can change, well, everything.
Instead of asking, What should I do with my life? ASK - What should I do next?
(Shared from/ Written by- David LaMotte)