I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks, who was born Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, was the symbol of the civil rights movement that started in the 1950s. When she refused to give up her seat, she started a movement, and her courage is relevant to this day.
Communities have a tendency to learn to live with injustice. Some people try to avoid any form of confrontation while hoping that the problem will go away if they ignore it. That was also the case in the 50s when some black people avoided taking the bus.
Being forced to sit at the back of the bus while white people got reserved seats in the front was demeaning, but avoiding the buses was neither practical for most people nor was it going to change things. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks showed her community the way through her protest. It wasn’t a rally or a march or anything violent that started the Civil Rights Movement; it was the simple act of saying enough is enough and refusing to budge.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks wrote in her biography that the reason why she didn’t get up was not because she was physically tired. She was tired of “giving in” to the daily injustice her community had to endure. Even when the police officers arrested her, she refused to give in.
The events of the Civil Rights Movement continue to inspire young people across America and Parks continues to be the guiding force for many. Much has been achieved over the last few decades, thanks to the efforts of new leaders, but there are still many issues America has to face.
One of the areas that women have been able to successful shed light on is workplace harassment by powerful men. While before men were able to get away with it, there is palpable fear because of the “Me Too” movement.
Oprah Winfrey, who has been using her fame to talk about social issues, remembered Parks in her 2018 Golden Globes speech. When Rosa Louise McCauley Parks died before her 98th birthday, she left the world knowing that the people who tried to destroy her life were never persecuted. Winfrey pointed out that just as the Civil Rights leader suffered for too many years and lived through a broken system, many women today have lived through a broken system for another reason.
However, things are changing. It takes the collective strength of all the women who have to tackle one issue at a time. As far as the “Me Too” movement is concerned, Winfrey said in her speech that the time is up for men who abuse their power.
What Students Need to Learn:
U.S. Rep. John Lewis said it best when he addressed the graduating class of Washington University in 2016. He told the audience that Parks and Dr. King inspired him to get in the way and get in trouble, all in the quest to fight against injustice.
Students who have a college degree also have to make it their personal mission to stand up for what is right. To get into “good trouble” and “necessary trouble.” “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up and find a way to get in the way,” Lewis said in his speech.
Inspiring the Next Generation Business Leaders:
The legacy of Parks is not restricted to social issues. A new generation of businesswomen are rising up to take their rightful place at the high table and at the same time empower other women.
Daria Illy and Grace Hightower are not your ordinary coffee entrepreneurs. The two women are trying to be a part of the Rawanda growth story, and they are taking their female workforce to newer heights with them.
The two entrepreneurs have an interesting story for their customers. On International Coffee Day, they gave their customers a cup of coffee that had two halves. When the puzzled customers asked them about it, they shared their story. Only 25 percent women manage farms, even though about half the coffee is made by women. 50 percent of the coffee Illy and Hightower serve at their shops is made by women.
The idea is simple, yet powerful. Illy and Hightower are not only helping women achieve their potential, they are also winning over some men to their side. According to the two entrepreneurs, men have started to become wiser and they are listening intently to new ideas.
What makes Illy and Hightower push hard and try to change the system? They have their icons to thank for their grit. The entrepreneurs pointed out that people like Parks pushed the envelope and brought about the change they wanted. All it takes for the next generations of leaders, no matter what field they are in, is courage!
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