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People Perspectives #Rosa Parks

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. For the muggles, when a butterfly flaps it's wings somewhere in the world, there is potential for a storm on the other side of the globe.
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” ― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
 Every life has a message, often shaped by defining moments which are not usually of our own choosing. But somehow, our lives groom us for our destiny. The life of Rosa Parks is one such case. She was a former Alabama seamstress, credited as the Mother of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Who was Rosa Parks?

On the night of Thursday, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and took a courageous stand for what went on to be the start of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a simple act. In the days of color discrimination in the United States, when she was asked by the bus driver to relinquish her seat to a white passenger, Rosa refused. For this, she was arrested and fined for violating the segregation laws in the States. The butterfly had fluttered it's wing, and that created an impending storm in the world in the near future!

In days that followed, it inspired activists and community leaders including the then 26 year old Martin Luther King Jr. to organize the historic Montgomery bus boycott, that lasted more than a year, where people forfeited the use of the segregation dominated bus service. More than 40,000 people were part of it, and went to the extent of travelling 20+ miles on foot to reach their destinations. This spawned off several legal battles, and along with the movement, ultimately went on to end the segregation on public buses all over the country. One of these first acts of civil disobedience was the start of the Civil rights movement.

Rosa was dedicated to the cause of social justice. During the boycott and trials, Rosa lost her job and faced ongoing death threats and harassment. But her stance was unwavering. Her experience as a grassroots activist had prepared her for this: it gave her the perspective, skills and endurance to withstand all of the challenges that came her way.

Lessons for the youth of today.

  • Wherever we are and whatever we do, make a statement. When the work we do has the potential to change the life of even a single person in the world other than us, we have made our statement. Otherwise, we just exist!
  • Your responses to the ordinary can prompt the extraordinary. Sometimes it is simple serendipity, but often it is an opportunity of effort. But in these unsolicited, ordinary experiences do we have the power to make a difference. Our values give the face to our actions and behavior, which in turn shape our environment, just like Rosa showed the ability to impact change - even when we are underestimating our ability to make a contribution. You do not need to be rich, or powerful, or high on the corporate ladder - you simple need to care enough.
  • Success is the result of diligence. The fear of consequences has never made a success story. The small calculated risks, the small acts of courage and kindness, the investment of a part of your time and effort in the upliftment of others, and the diligence is seeing things through to the very end is what defines success today. The power of resilience may not always be predictable, but is always inevitable.
  • Our accomplishments are possible because of the people who care. Success does not come in isolation. Human inter-connectivity garners the support needed for achievement. Rosa Parks went on to inspire the support of leaders and stalwarts like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with a community who shared her ideologies of giving a voice to segregation atrocities. Find and connect with the right people and you will find the most clear path to your your goals.
The need to act with strength as individuals, while building a strong collective voice: this is the lesson for justice that we take from the life of Rosa Parks. George Santayana famously said,
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 
As the wheel of history turns, however, the past is rarely repeated verbatim. Rather, lessons from the past, including those from Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, are often nuanced. They whisper to us across the years.

The world today is polarized. We are divided by politics, race, national origin and more. These “lessons” can serve as a lamp unto the feet of all who are determined to change the narrative, to heal divisions and to promote reconciliation.


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