Meeting Rosa Parks: Where Independence Matters

by Brianna G. Harte

Dressed in a plain purple blouse and sleek black pants, Ru walked on the sidewalks, staring at the cement. All she could possibly think about were the representatives who pestered her with questions of what she has done with her life and why she could desire a job at a well-known company. Only a short time ago did she stand in a gymnasium filled with tables, classmates, and more experienced adults with business cards laying on a table with pamphlets scattered across. Light streamed in from the windows and the bulbs high above. The air seemed to be heated by the anxiety radiating from hopeful students, including her own.

How she could describe her dedication to learning Mandarin and Taiwanese fluently and volunteering at a homeless shelter over the summers for years. How the ideas branching from classroom lessons evolved on paper could be described. How she would admit that she’d come to complete tasks was by doing them with companions who shared her persistent nature.

We’re looking for someone who can lead projects and work on their own, representatives would say.

It’s great that you show dedication to your work, but what have you done on your own?

Ru shook her head. I don’t know how. . .

Her heart started to flutter and her eyes went out of focus. Colors melted together. She thought she was going color blind or had contracted a disease. That is, until a figure emerged out of nowhere. She was middle-aged, perhaps younger and dressed in a plaid dress that complemented her dark skin tone well. Black hair wound into a bun, keeping out of her face and pronouncing her confident face.

Ru turned to look for the path she was on. It vanished beneath her feet.

“Hello, child,” the woman greeted pleasantly.

“Hi,” Ru said, butterflies gathering in her stomach again. “Who are you? Where am I?”

“My name is Rosa Parks. As to where you are, I believe you are at an educational facility,” the woman said lightly.

“Wait, you’re the famous woman who stood up against the norm by sitting on a bus the wrong way?” Ru asked incredulously. “I’m not dead, am I?”

A laugh rang from the woman’s heart. “No, child. You’re not dead. You are, let’s say, taken out of the rhythm of your life. And yes, I am she.”

Not knowing what else to say, Ru reflected upon her day’s experience with uncertainty. “Mrs. Parks, can I ask you something? What made you act the way you did? Why didn’t you listen to the authorities when they said you had to give up your seat?”

“My dear, what is your name?”

“Ru, ma’am.”

“Ru, do you remember the awful laws put in place so long ago?” Rosa Parks asked. “They demanded that those of color be separated from the whites as though we were different. As though we were dirty. You are Chinese, right? Well, imagine if you could not sit in the same room with a white person just because you were a little different. Think about how it was to live like that your whole life. It’s humiliating to feel so lowly of oneself.”

Ru nodded as the idea took hold. “Weren’t there others on that bus that gave up their seats for whites? Why didn’t you just go with them when you were told to? You could have blended in with them, going unnoticed.”

“Dear Ru, being a follower never took anyone far. It was not going to help my people. If no one stood up for us, none of you at your educational facility could blend in as easily,” Rosa Parks explained. “I was tired of being pushed around. I was going to do something about it. If that meant acting contrary to the others like me, so be it.”

“I wish I could be like that. All I can do is follow others.” Ru stared at her feet still squeezed by heels. “I’m just afraid of failure. Failing on my own would draw too much attention to just me. There would be no one to console with.”

“Ah, successes and failures come hand in hand. No one could initiate the Civil Rights Movement if they were afraid of letting us all down. Each of us in it had to find it within ourselves to be unlike those before us and fight for it. You can’t give in to hopelessness. It will pull you back it you never fight it. For you, find it in yourself to act for yourself. Do something worthwhile and push onward. Don’t do something just because everyone else is. Do it because it means something to you.”

Stress faded from Ru’s heart. “I will, Mrs. Parks. Believe me, I will.”

“I do.”

Rosa Parks began to vanish along with the bubble of colors they were in. As it dissipated, the air seemed fresher. The sky brightened and became far more attractive than the concrete. Standing tall, Ru strode onward, head up and prepared to act on her own terms.

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.

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