My Everyday Inspirations
What attracts us to role models and how can we use the information about that attraction for our own self-development?
I contemplate women who might fit the billboard of ‘role model’ and my mind rests on Rosa Parks - thought of by many as ‘The ‘Mother’ of the American civil rights movement’.
I first found out about Rosa when I was in my Monday evening choir singing a song about her. Some of the words were as follows,
Oh Rosa Parks, she would not stand for the white folk.
Oh Rosa Parks, she would not stand on the bus.
Ooh what a difference that woman made,
Oh what a difference that woman made.
When I sang that song all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. That experience became a somatic memory, which I have never forgotten.
Rosa Parks was arrested on 1st December, 1955 for failing to stand and give her seat to a white man. She fought through the courts, all the way to the high court, in the USA, where the judge ruled that it was indeed unconstitutional for a coloured woman to be expected to stand and give up her seat for a white person.
What I didn’t realize, and I wonder if you do, is that there were several women before Rosa who would not ‘stand on the bus’?
Irene Morgan 1946
Lillie Mae Bradford 1951
Sarah Louise Keys 1952
Claudette Colvin and Ruth Hamilton 1956 (Two of four women involved in the Browder vs Gayle lawsuit)
All these women were brave, defiant, stubborn, determined and proud to stand up for equality. What is less well known is that Mr. E Nixon , at the time president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, NAACP, was driving the Rosa Parks case through the courts, because Rosa was seen to be a respectable example of a coloured woman. Mr. Nixon’s attitude to women in general was that of ‘’Women don’t need to be nowhere but in the kitchen’’. He did however value Rosa highly as his secretary. What irony to have that level of discrimination against women, whilst fighting for the equality of civil rights for coloured people against whites.
I think all the people in this story wanted to walk through their lives making eye contact with the world. I would imagine that most days they made it and some days they didn’t.
So what attracted me to look at and write about Rosa? I would say that I resonate too with part of her struggle, as being discriminated against as a woman – less pay than a man doing the same job as me, as an example. I also empathise with the whole race discrimination issue, still current today. But I relate more to her rebellious attitude, her determination and her bravery to stand up for change.
How do I see Rosa moving through her life? Upright and confident, the way to walk through the world, looking forwards, not back, unapologetic - owning her will, her heart and her body. The joy of meeting the world head on, with eye contact. The joy of the ride, holding her fear, curious, moving on, interacting as she goes, or not.
I can certainly relate to meeting the world with eye contact ‘most days’, more so at the tender age of sixty than I did when I was younger. I care less presently about the opinion of others because we are all finding our way through life and what other people think is actually none of my business. I can be less self-righteous these days (sometimes) and more accepting of other people’s points of view. Although I own my limitations when communicating with bigots. Some days I need to breathe very deep.
I do care passionately about human and animal rights, equality, and environmental care and try to accept that those things are not everyone’s passion.
So, who's your heroine, hero or role model?
And how are you like them?
What matters to you?
Take the time out to find out and write.
Jacqui Smith, writing for wellbeing tutor in Berkshire UK