Today we went and romped around the American Museum of Natural History (along with about 1/2 of New York, by the crowds.) Lily had never been, and was suitably awed and terrified by the giant dinosaur fossils. She was also suitably exhausted by the endless walking past dioramas. We are in that awkward too-big-for-a-stroller/too-little-to-walk-far phase. My arms got a workout today, is what I'm saying.
Yesterday I had the privilege to share my own version of the Rosa Parks story during our congregation's Martin Luther King Jr. legacy worship service. This is the story I shared...
Inauguration Day/Martin Luther King Day... Good things are heading our way. They must be.
Rosa Wasn't Tired
In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama and in most places in the South of our country, black people and white people could not share. They were not allowed to share restaurants, or water fountains, or cars or trains or schools or church. Or buses. And not only couldn't they share, the water fountains and schools and trains for black people were not as nice as the ones for white people, not nice at all. Worse than that, if a white person and a black person tried to share, or be friends, or get married, they would get in big trouble.
There were all kinds of rules about not sharing: like that black people had to sit on the back of the bus, and how only white people got to sit down if the bus was crowded. All of these rules seem so ridiculous to us now... can't sit down on a bus!? But in 1955, if black people broke those rules they could be hurt, or arrested and put in jail. It was a sad and scary time for black Americans. Black Americans knew these rules weren't fair, and many people were trying to figure out ways to get the rules changed. But it was hard, it was very hard to change the way things were.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks got on a bus. She was heading home from work. Rosa was a black woman. She knew all about the rules, and how dangerous it was to break them. She also knew that lots of people were trying to figure out how to get the rules to change. She and many of her friends and family were working to help make life fairer and easier for Black people.
That night Rosa was sitting on the back of the bus and the bus got crowded. What was the rule about who gets to sit down when the bus is crowded? Yup, only white people. The bus driver asked Rosa to get up so a white person could sit down.
Rosa knew she could get in trouble. Rosa knew that she could get hurt, or put in jail, or made to pay money in fines. Rosa knew that saying no was dangerous.
Rosa said no. She would not get up.
Sometimes books say that Rosa Parks didn't get up because her feet were tired. Rosa wasn't tired; she was fed up with unfair rules.
Rosa said no. She would not get up.
She was arrested. She was put in jail. She was made to pay money in fines.
The night Rosa was arrested for refusing to follow the unfair rules, her friends got together and figured out a way to maybe, just maybe, get the rules changed. They asked all the black people in Montgomery Alabama to NOT ride the bus. If Rosa couldn't have a seat, if the rules weren't fair, then nobody should ride the bus until the rules were changed.
This was the Montgomery bus boycott. Thousands of black people (and some white friends) stopped riding the bus. They walked, they rode in cars, they paid for taxis. They got fired from their jobs, they got very sore feet, and they got hurt. But they didn't ride the bus. Not for 381 days. The bus company lost a lot of money. The mayor and governor and all the people who made the rules got really, really mad. They fought. They fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which decided that the rules weren't fair.
And the rules got changed.
And in 1956, the black people of Montgomery Alabama got back on the bus.
And they sat in the front.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” - Rosa Parks