Remembering Rosa Parks
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 3, 2005 1:49 PM
Years ago, a young Wilbur Barnes was on his way to school when a bus driver told him to walk past the empty seats in the front and take a seat in the back because he was black.
That policy, common across the country, eventually ended after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., on a December day in 1955.
Early today, a small group of members of the Goldsboro-Wayne branch of the NAACP took their seats in the front of a Gateway bus to honor Mrs. Parks, who died last week.
Barnes, now 75, was one of the people who participated in the ceremonial ride. He said Mrs. Parks' death led him to think about how things have changed over the years but how the racial divide still exists in some ways in Goldsboro.
"Some things have changed," he said. "But there is still racism here in this city."
One of the bus riders today was the Rev. William Barber, the newly elected president of the state chapter of the NAACP. Barber said he remembers meeting Parks in Maryland in 1986 and feeling the power of her presence.
"When you sat there and looked at her, it appeared as if she was carrying the weight of history on her shoulders," Barber said. "She was a woman of great dignity and encouraged us to continue the fight for justice in this country."
Much like the others on the bus this morning, Barber said Mrs. Parks' death made him conscious of the ongoing struggles facing minorities in this country and county, particularly youths.
"We are the teachers of the youth, they learn from our example," Barber said. "And right now, I feel we are uninspired."
Barber said Mrs. Parks' death leaves a void in the hearts of those who looked to her example.
"Rosa Parks was the mother of an entire generation," he said. "Are we continuing to set her example?"
Others on the bus agreed.
Sylvia Barnes is the president of the Goldsboro-Wayne branch and said she sees the struggle of past generations resurfacing. One day, she said, young people will be forced to meet those challenges.
"People are beginning to realize that the things we fought against in the '50s are coming back," she said. "We need youths and adults to come together so that history isn't forgotten."
Mrs. Parks was honored throughout the country this week. In some southern states, including Alabama and Georgia, the front seat in city buses was reserved in her memory. Mrs. Parks' was honored over the weekend as people from around the world viewed her body lying in honor in the rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Minister Katherine Townsend said she saw images from the viewing on television and wanted to be there to honor Mrs. Parks.
"It was an honor to see a black woman honored in that way," Townsend said. "I'm proud to have lived to see that moment."
Barber said he hopes people will remember the past and how one woman inspired millions.
"If Rosa hadn't done what she did, we may not have ever seen a Martin Luther King," he said.
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