Posted by R. Neal
I happened to catch some coverage of yesterday's Rosa Parks memorial service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington. I had to rewind the TIVO to listen again to the wonderful speech by Johnnie Carr, a Montgomery civil rights leader and Rosa Parks' lifelong friend.
At 94, Ms. Carr has seen it all. In her eloquent and moving remarks, she paid tribute to her friend and said that "we have accomplished a lot, we've come a long way, but believe me, we have a long way to go" before Dr. King's dream is fully realized. She admonished youth to obey their parents and leaders, avoid drugs and gangs, get a good education, and to be the best citizens they could be. She said she could very well be looking out at the faces of future governors and presidents, and challenged them to be good leaders.
Also related, Jesse Jackson has an opinion column in today's Chicago Sun-Times noting the progress gained through the sacrifice of people like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, but warning that the radical right-wing would lead us back into the past:
We stand on the shoulders of giants, and one of those, the diminutive Rosa Parks, was honored by the American people this week, as her body lay in the Capitol Rotunda and thousands walked to pay their respects. Even as we honor Rosa Parks for her courage and her historic commitment, we must not romanticize her mission.
Her mission was to end legal apartheid in this country, to even the playing field, to afford all Americans equal protection under the law. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was not legal under the Constitution. But states continued to defy the law and to vilify the court as "legislating" change. That's when segregationists first began demanding "strict constructionists," by which they meant judges who would defend segregation as the law of the land.
There are those who will honor her now in the morning while working to overturn her legacy in the afternoon. President Bush honored her and then nominated Samuel Alito, a states' rights, strict-constructionist throwback to a bygone age, to the Supreme Court. Alito is a "favorite" of the conservative right wing in the nation that has stood on the opposite side of history from Rosa Parks. His legal foundation is clearly adverse to civil rights, women's right to self-determination and labor.
Rosa Parks' legacy is secure, but her mission is unfinished. We have gone from the back of the bus in Montgomery to the back of the rescue in New Orleans. Her struggle for justice now falls upon the living. She is gone to glory. We are left to carry her torch.
And to Rosa Parks, goodbye, sweet angel, take your rest. You prepaid your ticket on a heavenly flight. Now you can sit where you choose. When you get tired of sitting, you can just walk around heaven all day.
Rosa Parks took a courageous stand. Now it is indeed our turn to honor her legacy by continuing the path of progress she pioneered.