“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have college degrees to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott officially lasted for 381 days. Every day, the people who participated in the boycott walked out of their doors to fight for something larger than themselves with full knowledge that their lives could end that day. The immense courage it took to kiss your wife, husband or children good-bye, knowing it could be the very last. While the recent events in our lives over Michael Brown and Eric Garner have galvanized a great number of us and incited some of us to do great work in recognizing that black lives do indeed matter, we have now begun to live our lives as if those deaths did not happen. In a sorrowful way, we have forgotten the anger, sadness and heartbreak we felt when those indictments were not handed down. C.T. Vivian, a pivotal man during the boycott, said that they were willing to be beaten in the streets for our rights during the boycott. He stood on those steps and took a punch to the face from a police officer and still spoke the convictions of his heart. It was thought during that time, that a couple of weeks of protest would not suffice in making systematic change. It will take more than a couple of months of protest to change the laws in our country.
People were willing to sacrifice with no personal gain. They sacrificed their pay, their standing in the community, their bodies and freedom to push toward change. Taxi cab drivers took people to work for ten cents a ride to contribute to the cause of our people. People walked and rode mules to work. Black churches took up shoe collections to replace the worn shoes of those sacrificing leisure for purpose. It was not convenient or comfortable. With the advent of the internet and social media, it has become easy to participate in a protest. Whether it be clicking a “like” button or signing an online petition, most of us have attempted to participate in some way. However, when will we walk miles for days on end to work… to stand up for something greater than ourselves? It is fine to speak loudly about change, it is the measure of who you really are to actually DO something for change that is not convenient…that is not comfortable.
Women were the lynch pin during the boycott. It is said without them, the boycott would not have been successful. Juanita Jones Abernathy speaks about during those times women were to be seen and not heard. They were indeed heard from their mouths to their husband’s ears and then out of their mouths alone. Women were also at the front of the #BlackLivesMatter tsunami that changed all forms of social media for weeks. There are today, still pictures and memes created using those three cherished words that bring tears to my eyes. When we see so many images and hear words from our own brothers today, that have the ability to leave scars on our spirits, it is in the honor of women stronger than us, that we keep moving. It is in honor of women more courageous than us, that we still stand shoulder to shoulder with those same brothers when trouble may come. Women have and will always stand for others without regard to how little that sentiment is returned for them.
The everyday heroes of the boycott understood the importance of going after government. They went after the City Council/Commission. They were aware that Hoover and the FBI were watching and submitting their own narrative. Even still, they kept pushing forward. We must learn and embrace that the people who make the laws that will either bury or uplift us, are indeed controlled by us. There is no excuse to let those that sacrificed their very lives for us, down. Work in your community and take notice of the people who are truly doing the work OF the community. Make sure you are there giving of your time or talent, and when that community leader starts to make their push into local government, be there. When they move on to state legislation, be there. There are men and women still alive today who participated in the boycott and are elected officials in D.C. Say “thank you” and BE THERE every single time there is an election.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience. But, where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” What are you really willing to do to effect change in our communities and our society? Are you willing to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable, stand with and for women in the fight, vote or risk being watched? What exactly are you willing to do…?