Rosa Parks, the mother of the modern civil rights movement, embodied the values of courage, fairness and compassion when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama public transit bus to a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. Her spirit inspires Ohio to recognize her legacy in “The Power of One”, Ohio’s annual statewide tribute to Rosa Parks.
In 2005, fifty years after Parks’ brave act led to events that sparked the civil rights movement, then-State Representative Joyce Beatty wrote legislation that was signed into law by Governor Bob Taft to make Ohio the first state to designate December 1 as Rosa Parks Day.
“Ohio’s leadership in honoring Rosa Parks continues our state’s long tradition of honoring civil rights,” Beatty said. “The year-to-year growth of “The Power of One” tribute shows how seriously the leaders in our city and state take the importance of our civil rights history and future.”
Hosted by the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), The Ohio State University and Beatty, the eighth annual celebration will take place Nov. 29-30 and feature a panel discussion “Conversations” with Charles Neblett and Rutha Harris, two of the three surviving original Freedom Singers; Bettie Mae Fikes, Freedom Singer; and Danielle McGuire, Rosa Parks historian and author of At the Dark End of the Street. The panelists will share their unique perspectives, experiences and knowledge in a conversation about Mrs. Parks and the civil rights movement.
“Rosa Parks’ enduring legacy is the courage she showed in standing up for herself and others,” said Valerie Lee, vice president for Outreach and Engagement and vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Ohio State. “In the face of adversity, she demonstrated that heroes can come from anywhere. I have great admiration for her and the impact that her noble act has had on the world.”
Jerry Revish, WBNS 10TV news anchor, will moderate the discussion, which will take place on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the WOSU@COSI TV Studio, 333 W. Broad St. The panel discussion will air on WOSU in January as part of its Columbus Collaborative Series and WOSU Ohio. At the conclusion of the discussion, studio audience members will have a chance to ask questions of the panelists and Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, associate professor of History at Ohio State.
The following day, five hundred children from Columbus City Schools will participate in the annual Rosa Parks Children’s Assembly at the Capitol Theatre, which will feature Byron Stripling, artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Arts Group, performing an interactive musical performance; and Alexis Wilson Stripling, daughter of renowned ballet and Tony nominated Broadway choreographer Billy Wilson, re-staging one of her late father's ballets, “Rosa.” This ballet, performed by two dancers, is a tribute to Rosa Parks celebrating her strength and dignity which lit the spark of the civil rights movement. This piece is performed to the song “I Told Jesus” made popular by Roberta Flack.
“Over the years, the annual statewide tributes have inspired hundreds of community leaders and thousands of children to learn more about Rosa Parks and the role of public transit in the modern civil rights movement,” said Curtis Stitt, president and chief executive officer of COTA. “We look forward to playing our part in keeping her legacy alive in Columbus and throughout Ohio.”
The tribute has also been recognized nationally, and in 2011 it was entered into the National Congressional Record during a session of the U.S. House of Representatives. Two years earlier, the American Public Transportation Association gave the tribute its Grand Prize Award in the Special Events category.