How Rosa Parks’ Legacy Lives On In The Black Lives Matter Movement

Rosa Parks would believe that #BlackLivesMatter, too.

By , the Huffington Post

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Photo credit: Getty Images/Huffpost

Sixty years ago on this day, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and settled in to American history. We’ve seen the iconic pictures of Parks getting booked at the police station, or later staged seated on a bus looking pensively out the window. Parks has become one of the great, mythic figures of the Civil Rights era — a kind of sanctified figure who feels worlds away from the current, volatile era of social justice. But she isn’t.

Today’s fight for civil rights and social justice may…seem like the very antithesis of the movement in which Parks played an integral part. In many ways, this is true. The intersection of technology, social media, and grassroots activism has produced a very different kind of struggle. The #BlackLivesMatter movement…has been criticized for being divisive (“All lives matter!“), disruptive, aimless, and even violent, in the wake of heated protests in Ferguson and…Chicago.

#BlackLivesMatter protestors are considered a stark contrast to the apparent respectability of the civil rights activists of the 1960s. When we think of those protesters, we think of peaceful black people marching quietly…turning the other cheek and nobly rising above the abuse of water-hose wielding police officers and tear gas.

People believe #BlackLivesMatter…will fail to replicate the successes of the Civil Rights era because its overriding message is one of frustration, not “peace and love.” But this perception of the 1960s Civil Rights era as “respectable” and #BlackLivesMatter as disruptive is far too simplistic, disregarding the nuances of both movements…

In elementary school classrooms Parks has been introduced as the meek Christian woman who refused to give her bus seat up for a white rider simply because she was tired. In actuality, Parks made a calculated act of defiance, orchestrated by the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP of which she was an active and passionate member, designed to be the catalyst for what would become the Civil Rights Movement.

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

(Photo Credit: Stephen Maturen)

It’s important to remember that part of why Parks was chosen to spark the bus boycott was a question of respectability — she was a seamstress and a secretary, “Somebody [we] could win with,” as chapter president E.D. Nixon explained later..

And yet, “respectability” was not the beginning and end of who Parks was. Parks was not passive, she was not meek…  The incident marked the second time she had been kicked off the bus, by the same driver, in a time when these kinds of public protests were…incredibly dangerous.  Parks was defiant, she was inconvenient, she was disruptive. So often, disruptiveness and defiance are mistaken for a kind of violence. Do we expect that Parks quiet, polite, “respectable,” when she refused to give up her seat, knowing that she would be arrested and harassed?

Criticisms of the #BlackLivesMatter movement consistently pit it against the Civil Rights Movement. “What would Martin Luther King think,” detractors ask. “What would Rosa Parks think?” Rosa Parks would believe that black lives matter, because Rosa Parks, alongside King and the NAACP, formed the catalyst for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The iconic photos of Parks in our history books are only a fraction of who she really was, and what she truly represented. Into the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Parks remained a passionate activist, speaking out against housing discrimination, police brutality, and our broken prison system.

In her private writings…she wrote about the frustration, dismay, and anger she felt about racism and segregation. “There is just so much hurt, disappointment and oppression one can take,” she once wrote. “The line between reason and madness grows thinner.” Her justifiable anger and defiance is what links today’s civil rights activist to Parks and her contemporaries. In that sense, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is not a disruption but a continuation of the work that Parks and others began.

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Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Reflects On The Origins Of The Movement

From Oscar Grant to Trayvon Martin to Ferguson, the movement has steadily grown in prominence over the past two years.

By , The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — In July 2013, Opal Tometi walked out of a New York movie theater. She had just finished watching Fruitvale Station, a film documenting the lead-up to Oscar Grant’s death at the hands of a police officer in 2009. …

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women's Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 14: (L-R) Black Lives Matter Co-Founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi at the The New York Women’s Foundation. May 2015. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation)

That is when she discovered that George Zimmerman, who had been charged in the murder of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin, had been acquitted. “I remember sitting on the street corner and getting a slew of text messages, tweets [from] folks who were frantic,” Tometi, who went on to co-found Black Lives Matter, said Wednesday…. 

“I remember in that moment, just sitting with the fact that everybody knew what took place,” Tometi continued. “And despite all the knowledge, despite the testimonies, despite all of that, Trayvon Martin was put on trial for his own death … I was struck with the fact that my younger brother — who was 14 at the time — could have been Trayvon.”

After hearing the news, Tometi was inspired to build a movement to prevent this from happening again. She read a Facebook post by Alicia Garza arguing that the anger people felt was justified and that “black lives matter.” Inspired by Garza’s post, Patrisse Cullors put a hashtag on that crucial phrase and began posting it on social media….

“Beyond just our walls, we need this to actually be very public,” Tometi recalled telling the other two, who would become her co-founders. “We need to have other people interact with this message and also share the work that they’re doing to ensure black lives matter. And how can we, as a collective … make sure that we are coordinated and uplifting a message that will ensure that all of our black lives would matter?”

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

Using a controversial tactic , the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted the speech of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August 2015. (Photo: Alex Garland)

“We created #BlackLivesMatter. We created a platform,” she continued. “We used our social media presence online in order to forward a conversation about what is taking place in black communities … This was actually a racial justice project for black people.”

The movement gained significant traction after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. …Asked about the group’s goals, philosophies and tactics — mainly activists disrupting speeches by presidential hopefuls — Tometi said Black Lives Matter is open to a variety of strategies for addressing systemic racism, and doesn’t claim that one tactic is more effective than another.

“You have a duty in this moment in history to take action and stand on the side of people who have been oppressed for generations … Whatever means you need to take, we believe that folks should do that,” she said…Tometi also addressed the allegation that Black Lives Matter is provoking violence. …“When we say black lives matter, we’re not saying that any other life doesn’t matter.

 

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MO Governor Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Grand Jury Decision

By Ashley Alman, HuffingtonPost.com

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) issued an executive order on Monday declaring a state of emergency in Missouri as the nation awaits a grand jury decision in the case of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

People protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown

People protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown

Citing “periods of unrest” in the city of Ferguson and other places in the St. Louis area following Brown’s Aug. 9 death, Nixon announced the executive order as a measure to protect the citizens and businesses of Missouri from “violence and damage.”

“I further direct the Missouri State Highway Patrol together with the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region,” Nixon wrote in the order, noting that citizens reserve their right to assemble peacefully.

Protesters have already begun demonstrating throughout Ferguson, St. Louis and the surrounding areas, as the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Wilson could come at any moment. On Monday, a group of protesters gathered in Clayton, where the grand jury is deliberating. Others staged a “die-in” in University City, lying down on the street and pretending to have been shot…

Read full article and executive order here.

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