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Celebrating Black History Month with My SHEroes (Pt. 1)


PART I

As a Black woman, having been raised in a Southern city – Dallas, Texas in the 1970s right after the turmoil of the 1960s, I would be remiss if I didn’t pause to celebrate my Blackness during this Black History Month 2014.   Join me today and tomorrow as I celebrate some extraordinary women who made their mark in our lives, during the most dichotomous and tumultuous time of our country’s history… THE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA.  They embody a key pillar of being a BusyGal – They made things happen, they didn’t wonder, what happened!

Rosa Parks (2013 – 2005)

Rosa Parks Mug Shot
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” “All I was doing was trying to get home from work.”

On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks was arrested after she refused to obey a bus driver and give her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Ala. Her act of defiance, and the 381-day bus boycott that followed, soon became keystones of the modern civil rights movement. In 1999 Congress honored her as “the first lady of civil rights.

Clara Luper (1923 – 2011)


“My biggest job…  is making white people understand that black history is white history.  We cannot separate the two.”

In 1958, Luper, then a high school history teacher, helped ignite a national movement by leading a sit-in protest at the lunch counter of the Katz Drug Store in Oklahoma City. (The Katz chain began integrating its stores several weeks later.)  Luper went on to become a prominent figure in the national civil rights movement.  A schoolteacher, Luper continued to work with the local chapter of the NAACP throughout the 1960s to stage sit-ins and nonviolent protests that ultimately led to the desegregation of al restaurants in Oklahoma City.  Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said in a statement upon her death. “She made Oklahoma and the United States of America a better place to live in and was a shining example of the distinctly American idea that while we might hail from many cultures, we are one people.”

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 – 1977)

fanny
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!” “Nobody’s free, ’till everybody’s free!” “What was the point of being scared?  The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little at a time ever since I could remember.”

In 1963, after she and two other voting rights activists were viciously beaten while in police custody in Winona, Miss., Hamer decided to devote her life to the fight for civil rights. A year later she helped draw national attention to the cause as a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged Mississippi’s all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

Diane Nash (b.1938)

Civil Rights Movement in 1960
“I believe if I go to jail now it may help hasten the day when my child and all children will be free not only on the day of their birth but for all of their lives.” — Said when she was pregnant with her first child, arrested and subsequently convicted and sentence to serve two (2) years in prison for  teaching non-violent direct action to high school students in Mississippi in 1962.

Nash was the key strategist behind the first successful campaign to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, leader of the Nashville Student Freedom Ride campaign to desegregate interstate travel, and a founder of both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Selma Voting Rights Campaign.  With Rev. James Bevel, she was co-author of the Selma 1965 Right-to-Vote Proposal which became the 1965 Selma Movement and greatly aided in the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Daisy Bates (1914 – 1999)

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“What is happening at Little Rock transcends segregation and integration — this is a question of right against wrong!” “No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies.”

Bates and her husband founded the Arkansas State Press, a weekly paper modeled after the leading black publications of the era. In 1957 she guided the 9 black students who triggered a civil rights showdown when they attempted to enter the all-white Central High School in Little Rock.

ElizabethAndHazel
“If we have honestly acknowledged our painful but shared past, then we can have reconciliation.”

It’s September 1957 and Elizabeth Eckford, then a a sheltered, scholarly teenager in a homemade dress, walks past Little Rock Central High School while a white student mob marches behind her, spewing racist abuse.  When the photo was taken, Central High was set to be desegregated, if only symbolically, in compliance with Brown v. Board of Education.  One of the “Little Rock Nine” hand-selected for the mission, Elizabeth never made it into the building that day.   A mob surrounded her. “Lynch her!” some hooted, while Gov. Orval Faubus’s National Guard kept the black students out of the school.

Tomorrow we’ll dig a little deeper and get more understanding for who Coretta Scott KingPrathia HallElla Elizabeth BakerMildred Loving, and Dorothy Height were as the voices of consciousness rose in the nation through the Civil Rights Movement.


quote-racism-is-still-with-us-but-it-is-up-to-us-to-prepare-our-children-for-what-they-have-to-meet-rosa-parks-141948

— Felicia M. Lopes | The Busy Gal


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