Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Happy Inauguration Eve!
Mick and I were driving along yesterday and the conversation turned to Rosa Parks and how we wished she were still here to witness the events of this week.
You can tell from my profile that I live in Michigan and for a good long time I lived in Detroit proper. Back in the early 90's when Mick and I were just starting our relationship, I lived in the Cass Corridor. It was supposedly crime ridden and dangerous but I loved my neighborhood and I had a bunch of good friends who lived nearby. I worked at the Fox Theatre as the Security Reception chickie and I didn't have a car so I had to shop at the nearest store within walking distance. There was this awesome health food store that I used all the time, The Cass Corridor Food Co-op. It was just as all food co-ops are I suspect in Boho neighborhoods, near college campuses. But because this was in Detroit, it was much more black (lots of black staff and patrons), my friend Fork even worked there for a while cause she's uber fab. This was the tiniest grocery store you could imagine but they had everything you could possibly need for a healthy existence. One day, I was doing my weekly shopping and trying to maneuver my cart through the small and short aisles when I was met by an opposing cart wheeled by a small, elderly woman with her hair in a neat bun, as I backed up and tried to think where I knew her from, it hit me that this little, tiny, unimposing woman was Rosa Parks, The Rosa Parks! I was stunned and speechless. I'm certain that my mouth was actually agape. She thanked me for moving my cart out of her way and I, in that instant, tried to convey to her how much she meant to me and to my actual life. It was because of her first step, her going to jail that I could enjoy the life that I had at the time. I had gotten a college education, I worked for a major corporation, I could go where I wanted, I could do what I wanted, and my new boyfriend was not black and I wasn't in trouble because of it. It was because of her and so many others that I could walk down the street with my too many bags of groceries and not get forced off the sidewalk because of the color of my skin, I could go vote, I could do so many things. All of this was swimming in my head while I was backing my cart up. I told her thank you, but then I felt stupid, like it wasn't enough and it kind of lamely fell out of my mouth instead of being the grand proclamation I'd intended. I walked home with my too many bags of groceries to my spartan studio apartment and cried a little. I couldn't believe I'd met this amazing woman and I couldn't even tell her what she meant to my life.
Later, one day while sitting at my desk after hours at the Fox Theatre, I got a radio call that a VIP would be coming through my area and to unlock the appropriate doors, I did and waited. A short while later, a bunch of people and Mrs. Parks came through my lobby! I was intent that this time I would tell her and let her know what a huge deal it was. Of course, I went up to one of her people and asked if I could thank her, they said yes. I put out my hand and offered her a hearty thanks for her act that changed my life and eveyone elses and I began to tell her what a huge deal it was and how she was so great and amazing and courageous. She just shook my hand and accepted my thanks and offered a "you're welcome". It was so no big deal to her, it was just as she was at the grocery store. Once again I was amazed with her in that she seemed to perceive her act as just something one does when needed, much like moving a cart at the grocery store to let someone else by.
I am so lucky to have met her not once, not twice but many times, I'd see her at the grocery store until she became unable to do her shopping by herself. Each time, she impressed me with her dignity, grace and humble manner, she inspired us more than we even knew. I wish she could see America today.