Black Resilience: Motivating Rosa Parks, Viola Desmond and You…

Rosa Park’s legendary sit-in by the window on the Mongomery, Alabama city bus in December 1955 reminds us of Viola Desmond’s earlier decision in 1946 to use her 40-cent movie ticket to sit wherever she pleased in the Roseland Film Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Forbidding Black people from using public spaces—restaurants, swimming pools, prime seats in public transportation, movie theatres, sports facilities (the late Harry Gairey Jr.’s ice-skating experience as a Toronto teenager in 1945, for example)—was a longstanding tactic designed to foster feelings of alienation from society.

Both events reflect a clear determination to resist systemic, and socially entrenched injustices intended to dehumanize racialized people, deny them equality and inflict undue stress even in the most mundane activities of life. These stories also remind racialized people that their freedom and dignity must be unapologetically demanded—asserted as inalienable and non-negotiable. True allies in the struggle for Inclusion, Diversity Equity and Anti-Racism (IDEA) recognize attitudes of resilience and actively support them.

Reflecting later on the bus incident Rosa Parks explained: “I thought of Emmett Till – a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in [August] 1955, after being accused of offending a White woman in her family's grocery store, whose killers were tried and acquitted – and I just couldn’t go back.”

In her autobiography, My Story, Parks added: “I was not old,… I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Today, as Canadians proudly celebrate Viola Desmond whose 40-cent protest—$6.52 cents today– is commemorated on our $10 bill, we also remember, with gratitude, Rosa Parks who played her part in extending the ever-growing line of resilient Black leaders and wore her personal mantle of courage and determination with distinction. #inclusion #diversity #equity #antiracism

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