It was not a typical day. The landmark bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama was about so much more. Often history overlooks the action that was sparked when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Indeed it was her fortitude that cold December day that ignited a firestorm of courage nationwide.
What is often overlooked, however, is that there were far-reaching implications that resulted from her courageous decision. First, a routine was derailed. During that first week of December 1955, members of the Montgomery Improvement Association, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the helm, initiated the first of steps of the landmark Montgomery bus boycott. Knowingly, the civil rights heroes courageously started carpools and refused to take the bus. Their daily schedules were interrupted. Livelihood was impacted. Families sacrificed to join hands with King and Parks in an effort to mobilize. It was all part of one of history’s most significant social justice endeavor.
Second, Montgomery civil rights activists and sympathizers were resolute. They were determined to stay focused regardless of negative consequences. Almost overnight, people found a way to remain steadfast in order to fight for equal treatment. Most did not waver as the boycott went on for more than a year.
Finally, these community leaders found relevance versus rhetoric. Activists opposing the segregated bussing system were willing to back up their words with action. They attended community meetings to find meaningful ways to collectively address differential treatment. The quest for social justice was a top priority, more significant than the mundane fanfare and being on the “who’s who list” at the finest galas and banquets.
In short, Rosa Parks staying seated compelled others to do something! She refused to stand up so that others could sit down. People empathized. People lost jobs and much more. People took action. More than half century later it’s time that we learned to go beyond rhetoric and become servant leaders again in our communities.