Message From The President
Even though historians have extensively documented Rosa Parks' pre-Montgomery bus boycott political activism, too many people still believe that her heroic refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955 was inspired as much by her tired feet as by her steely resolve to face down segregation.
What too many Americans don't understand about Mrs. Parks' act of civil disobedience is that she wasn't fighting for a seat on a bus; she was fighting for her rights as an American citizen. While growing up in the Jim Crow South, Mrs. Parks learned that her brown skin did not negate her privileges and protections as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Mrs. Parks also understood that there is no greater privilege of citizenship than the right to vote. As secretary of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, she organized a voter registration drive for black Alabamans in 1943. Unfortunately, her own voter registration efforts were twice thwarted by Alabama's Jim Crow laws. Her third try was successful and Mrs. Parks fully embraced the role as a voter and encouraged others to register and vote throughout her life.
Sadly, too many American citizens skip the polls on Election Day. Participation in Michigan's 2018 primary election broke previous records but only 27 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. That hardly seems a cause for celebration.
In their scholarship application packages, the 2018 Rosa Parks Scholarship winners wrote poignant essays about social and political issues that shaped their youth. From ending sexual harassment to improving urban schools to challenging police brutality, our scholars said they are motivated to engender positive social change. But while social activism is important, electing people who reflect our values is the most impactful way to move the social justice needle. Many of our 2018 scholars will have their first opportunity to vote in a general election on Nov. 6. I hope they will honor Mrs. Parks' memory by showing up on Election Day.
Kim Trent received a scholarship from the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation in 1987 and now serves as president of the foundation's board of trustees. She is also a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.