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January 11, 2023 -- It was December 1, 1955; Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus.
A historic stand led to the 381-day-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, which sparked the eventual desegregation of the city’s public transportation system.
More than 67 years ago, this was a pivotal moment in the history of the civil rights movement.
This year marks the 17th annual Rosa Parks Day.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty hosted a tribute to the late civil rights leader, known to the world as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
This year's tribute celebrates The Power of One, which collectively honors individuals who have brought forth societal change and demonstrated courage to build a freer, fairer, and more just nation for everyone.
The new documentary, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” provides a look into the legacy of the woman known for challenging racial injustices plaguing our society.
Filing into the Fort Hayes Performing Arts auditorium, seventh and eighth grade students from Arts Impact Middle School (AIMS) were invited to watch the 2022 documentary.
“To look back over Rosa Parks's legacy and realize that one day, young people would be sitting in an auditorium viewing her story, recognizing her as The Power of One is incredible,” said Monica Jones, Chief Equity Officer at COTA.
Similarly, Terri Williams-Ifeduba, District Director for Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (Ohio 3rd Congressional District), shares the importance of understanding “The Power of One.”
“We now have buses that are not segregated; that is not an issue of today. But what issues are they going to face? Viewing this film gives young people the opportunity to pick up this mantle of the civil rights movement, to push forward and make it part of the current day’s movement,” said Williams-Ifeduba.
Throughout the film, students hear from Rosa Parks in her own words as actress LisaGay Hamilton reads her letters.
In her letters, Rosa Parks shares moments of her life and the challenges she faced growing up in a segregated society.
“Without seeing the history of Rosa Parks and what she was able to accomplish, it would be difficult for students to feel like they too could accomplish the big things they need to achieve in their lives and what is important to them and their families,” said Williams-Ifeduba.
Jones shares how COTA’s commitment to this program allows the organization to be mindful of public transportation's role in fighting to end discrimination.
“We recognize that we are tied to history. We are tied to the history that impacts who operates our vehicles, our buses,” said Jones.
Six percent of COTA operators are African-American.
“We see the direct impact of Rosa’s protest because they show up to work daily and provide a service to this community,” said Jones.
“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” provides a boldness to do the right thing when the future is unknown. Jones shares one crucial takeaway that she wants students to remember.
“We have to ensure that we create this collaboration of young people who understand that they are now part of a legacy. Rosa’s legacy is now a part of you. What will you do?” Jones asks.