Students React to the Death of Activist Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks' death brings strong reaction on campus
October 27, 2005 12:34 PM
One of the central figures of the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks, passed away at the age of 92 on October 25, in her Detroit home. An iconic emblem of equal rights, Parks is best remembered for her refusal to get off a "whites only" seat on the bus the evening of December 1, 1955, which led to the rise of a near 13-month-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
At SF State, the country's pioneering advocate of Ethnic Studies, a room in the Student Union is named in her commemoration and many students expressed a loss upon news of her death.
"She was already an activist before this happened. This time, she just didn't feel like getting up," said Randy Leonard, 19, a civil engineering major.
Parks' refusal to budge that winter night in 1955 spawned many different theories as to why that discrimination was the last straw. Many claimed her to be an exhausted cleaning lady with tired feet or a "plant" by the NAACP, but factually, she was a 42-year old seamstress on her way home from a day at work.
In the end, students agree that it was because she was tired, both physically and mentally, of being treated as less than a human being.
"She changed the way people perceived African-Americans, and that they're not just going take it anymore," said Sarah Broom, 24
"Women didn't really have a say back then, much less black women," said 23-year-old BECA major Joamel Gaviola.
Antricia Allen, 19, expressed that being an older woman thrown in jail created a consciousness that helped gather the African American community to boycott. The 381-day protest crippled the Montgomery bus system, in which 70 percent of the riders were black. Carpools were arranged by local churches, but most people walked, even as far as 20 miles on foot to show their disapproval.
There is also criticism about whether or not this culminating event was the actual spearhead of the movement, or if it overshadowed the actual people and day-to-day struggle of lesser-known activists propelling the movement forward.
"It (discrimination) had been happening to black folks for a while," said Gaviola. Although history would never be able to tell if the impact of the boycott created the actual movement itself, many identify it as a serendipitous event that only added momentum to the progression of equal rights.
"If it wasn't Rosa Parks, it would have been someone else. Emmit Till kind of started it already," said Leonard. (Emmit Till was a 14-year old African American boy who was murdered by two white men for whistling at a white woman.)
At the age of 92, almost 50 years after the boycott, Rosa Parks faced a different kind of world.
"Every day on the news there's black-on-black crime and gang violence. She must have asked herself "What was the point of me standing up if we were going to kill each other anyway? I risked my life," said Allen.
Although the laws have changed, people's view still have not changed, expressed Leonard.
"Throw a bunch of minorities in the Midwest and people would still react the way they did back then. The problem is that they're still not educated enough," said Gaviola.
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