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Rosa Parks and the Hug of Activism

Activist Rosa Parks held onto me in a lingering maternal embrace. As our hearts beat next to each other, I became lost in the hug. At the time, in 1988, she was 75 years old and slight in build. I was 23 and fit. Yet, hers was the more powerful grip—one that defied her age. 

The nearby street sounds faded that day in Tuskegee, Alabama. So did the laughter of uniform-wearing school children who were standing by to honor Mrs. Parks at a street-naming ceremony. In her arms, I felt the calm of a motherly cocoon that insulated me from all distractions. When, after a moment, I emerged back into consciousness—back into my role of professional journalist—I realized I might have stepped over a boundary in asking Mrs. Parks to accept my hug. So, I loosened my arms from around her body. I let her go with great reluctance. 

But the Mother of America’s Civil Rights Movement did not let go of me. For a few moments more, she continued to hold me. 

To this day, now decades later, I feel honored by the extended attention. The sensations of her presence remain with me. Though she never bore biological children, Mrs. Parks transferred something to me that day. And now awakened to her life-long social justice work, I know I am supposed to train the spotlight of interest on fair opportunities at work, at school, and in the voting booth, to name a few causes. And, as Mrs. Parks achieved, I will work to leave each cause better than I found it.


Will you Listen to Others™ and join today’s equality campaign? 

Are you willing to Listen to Others as you would have them listen to you™ and join my community? You can share a story, receive my game-changer ideas pdf, or read an excerpt about my experiences in Civil Rights Baby: My Story of Race, Sports, and Breaking Barriers in American Journalism.  

The Listen to Others™ campaign is one way to address, understand, and reduce the race-based advantages and disadvantages that have created a permanent upperclass, a permanent underclass—and a troubling, widening gap in the U.S. The accumulated wealth of white families is 10 times higher than that of Hispanic families and 13 times higher than that of black families.* Through Listen to Others™, we can roll back discrimination in career advancement and in housing purchases, two cornerstones of wealth-building.

 
 

*Source, Institute for Policy Studies (2016), #ReversingInequality
*Book and banner photos by Marie Julliard