Paula Williams: Sometimes, we have to be a spark

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 02:29 AM

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks.  She was born on Feb. 4, 1913, and died on Oct. 24, 2005, at the age of 92.  She is known as the first lady of civil rights, the “mother of the freedom movement,” and my favorite: “the spark that lit the fire.”
That was hardly her intention on that fateful day — Dec. 1, 1955. Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  It wasn’t that she was tired and just didn’t feel like getting up.  She later said that she was just tired of giving in to that unfair segregation law. Her arrest that day spurred the Montgomery bus boycott and other efforts to end segregation. The city of Montgomery had no choice but to lift the law requiring segregation on public buses.
Rosa Parks always called herself “a simple seamstress,” but her decision to keep her seat that day should serve as an inspiration to all girls — to all people of all ethnicities — that one person truly can make a difference.  Her simple actions changed the course of civil rights and personal freedoms for our entire country.
Maya Angelou said it this way: “We women are fortunate to scan the generations and discover women who dared to be “sheroes” and role models for girls and young women.  Madame Curie, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks have brightened our days and influenced our thoughts.  Because of their courage and insight, we have come to believe we can be the best and deserve the best.  Thanks to all of them.”
I like that term:  “sheroes.” This generation of girls needs positive role models, and that is why Parks’ story is so important to continue to tell.  Here is Parks’ most famous quote:  “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”  She didn’t just aspire.  She acted.  We must teach our children that aspirations must be accompanied with meaningful action.
Life is not fair on many occasions, and there is often not much we can do about it.  But there are times in our lives when we have to take a stand.  There are times when our simple acts can make a difference.  Thanks, Rosa Parks, for being a “spark” and inspiring us all to do the same.

Paula Gulledge Williams lives in High Point and teaches at Pilot Elementary School in Greensboro. Her columns appear on this page every other Thursday. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.