Part II: Modern Day Rosa L Parks

The Tenacity of Courage

Article Written by Tamika Seals Robinson

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, when ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” Frederick Douglass (from “Southern Barbarism”)

Frederick Douglass relayed the sentiments above 134 years ago in Washington, D.C. as the nation celebrated the 24th anniversary of Emancipation, as a warning that foreshadowed the civil unrest this nation is currently immersed in and enamored by. Since Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion in South Hampton County, Virginia in 1831 through the 159 riots (the Long Hot/Red Summer of 1967) that erupted across the U.S. from June 12 through July 30 of 1967 and the L.A. Rodney King Riots of 1992 to those protests we are experiencing today due to the culminating anger spurned by the senseless deaths of black and brown people; the moral compass of our nation must now with finality be balanced. 

As the belly of our nation has continued to swell from the tumors of anger, tension, division and hatred stimulated by the infections of racism, racial inequality and injustice for centuries; citizens around the world have begun to wail in agony together as an undeniable testament to the depth of pain laying actively dormant within them collectively. Although the senseless deaths of countless black and brown people is not novice to this nation nor this land, the murder of Mr. George Floyd has caused a fundamental shift in the mindset and hearts of the most humane among us. A shift where the tenacious spirit of the human soul has risen as a great tidal wave of courage that has reached its crest.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” 

–James Baldwin (from “As Much Truth as One Can Bear”)

Much like their great grandparents and grandparents, we now see a resurgence of this courage in a generation of young men and women whom have not only grown weary of the injustices they have repeatedly and consistently been subjected and forced to bear witness of; they have simply reached that pivotal moment where their determination to effect systemic change has superseded and subdued all fear. As Mrs. Rosa L. Parks once replied when asked why she refused to get up knowing the dangers she would face, these young men and women “have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up [fear diminishes, as] knowing what must be done does away with fear.” 

For almost two weeks since the murder of George Floyd, the nation has witnessed the effects of this shift in the form of peaceful protests, civil disobedience, riots, looting, vandalism, etc. all around the globe seemingly with no end. One such demonstration of civil disobedience occurred in Montgomery, AL. on Monday, June 1 when four young adults courageously seized the opportunity to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from its pedestal in front of Robert E. Lee High School just one day after Mayor Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, AL. made the bold decision to remove the statue of Captain Charles Linn, one of the city’s founders who was a soldier in the Confederate Navy, from its pedestal in Linn Park. Although many do not understand and/or are incapable of comprehending, these confederate statues and monuments glorified by many are a constant reminder of the oppression and systemic racism black and brown people have faced for over 400 years. They are tangible reminders that their lives are not nor have ever been valued and respected in this country.

“The progress of the world will call for the best that all of us have to give.” 

-Mary McLeod Bethune

Just as Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., Rosa L. Parks, Malcolm X, President Barack Obama, Colin Kaepernick and countless others have steadfastly faced their fears to become the change they so desperately sought for our nation; the young men and women all around our nation today have chosen this moment in time to continue carrying the cross that weighs so heavily upon us all. In the face of imminent fear, they have banned together as a united front against the oppressive spirit of this world that has for far too long plagued us and impeded our growth as a nation.

However, as history has repeatedly shown us, when the youth in our cities across this nation continually feel unheard, undervalued and invisible; they will unite under a common mission and mobilize to achieve a common goal. Once this mental mobilization and spiritual shift occurs, nothing will be able to stop, hinder nor halt their forward progress. 

My question to you is will you tap into that tenacious courage that dwells deep within to help balance the moral compass of our nation or will you remain willfully ignorant of its need for balancing?