What Will You Decide?
Growing up, I've always admired Rosa Parks. My church would have a Black History Month program where we dress up as and speak on pivotal civil rights leaders. Rosa was always my favorite. My admiration for Rosa has grown over the years. It started just as most civil rights favorites do, through repeated exposure. Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Harriet Tubman are just a few of the names most talked about in February, history class, and black history programs. As I got older, I learned about more influential figures in history, but I still drawn to Rosa Parks. We all know that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, got arrested, and gave people the momentum to start the civil rights movement. But did Rosa start the day thinking that she was going to sit on the bus and refuse to give up her seat? She probably had that thought all the time. We all have grandiose thoughts about what we would say to our boss, our parents, or the bully in the hallway, but rarely do we act on them. We play out scenarios in our mind of what each person says and does. If you're anything like me, you have a vivid imagination and sometimes your scenarios go a little too far! But it's just that, our thoughts and imagination. Rosa's story started on December 1, 1955. She, and many other African Americans, were forced to live a segregated life. At the end of a long day's work, she would get on the bus through the front door to pay her bus fare, then re-enter through the back of the bus to find a seat. Rosa found a seat behind the "Colored Only" sign. While it wasn't law that black people give up their seat to white people as the bus filled up, it was customary for bus drivers to require it, enforce it, and make it punishable should one refuse. As the bus made its way through the city, more and more white people were left standing in the aisles. The bus driver asked the black people to give up their seats to make room for the white people and all complied, except for one. Rosa was arrested, and the rest is history. What intrigues me most about Rosa's story is that she made one decision and that one decision facilitated a major change in America. Unlike Dr. King, Rosa didn't have a platform or extensive education that propelled her into the civil rights spotlight. Rosa was an unknown woman living the segregated life like everyone else. She was just like you and me. She went to work everyday amidst the injustices that are occurring in the world. She watched the news everyday and heard stories of black men being killed because they "made eyes" with a white woman. She watched the news and heard about Emmett Till being beaten, tortured, shot, and killed at the age of 14 because he "flirted" with a white woman. Rosa was tired, both physically and mentally. She was tired of people who looked like her being treated unfairly and losing their lives over these injustices, but what could she do about it? She was a seamstress. Nobody would listen to a seamstress. Nobody would listen to a woman. Nobody would listen to a black woman. The odds of Rosa making an impact were slim. She thought like we think. She thought like I thought. I am a small, insignificant person in this world, incapable of making a difference. Rosa proved us wrong. She proved me wrong! One decision, made not that long ago, allows me, a young, African American woman to be here today, on this platform, writing to you. What decision would you make if you knew that that decision would have an impact on someone 60 years later? One small decision can start a revolution. Some of us decide to go to school for an advanced degree. Some of us decide to start a family. Some of us decide to start our own businesses. Some of us decide to speak out against injustices. What will you decide? I decided to be authentically me. There were so many times I tried to be like someone else so I could be successful. I didn't realize that the best way for me to be successful, is to be myself. I decided to use my education and experience to increase the presence and effectiveness of minority groups in the workplace. I don't know if I will make a huge difference, but I have decided to try. If Rosa had decided to give up her seat on the bus, where would we be today? What is the world missing out on, because you haven't decided? I Decide Diversity. What do you decide?