Sixty years ago today, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, she became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Parks was swiftly arrested, and in protest, many African-Americans boycotted public transit — a protest that stretched 381 days. It only ended when the U.S. Supreme Court desegregated public transportation in Montgomery. The day after the ruling, Rosa Parks rode in the bus' front row.
Not only did Rosa Parks take on Jim Crow laws and segregation, she continued to fight for civil rights around the world up until her death in 2005. She demonstrated against apartheid in 1984, and founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which introduced young people to important Civil Rights Movement and Underground Railroad sites around the U.S.
Around the world, people are remembering Dec. 1, 1955. Hillary Clinton paid tribute to Parks with a keynote address at the Dexter Avenue church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the boycott in Parks' honor. But there's another way to commemorate Rosa Parks' contribution to American society: you can recognize some of the women who've followed in her footsteps, breaking down barriers and proving that her legacy continues.
Alicia Garza is a 34-year-old activist from California and works as a special project director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, where she defends the rights of black women working in childcare, housekeeping, and aid. She has worked for years to expose police violence and protect the rights of women. And she also, with two friends, founded #BlackLivesMatter.
"When we began, #BlackLivesMatter was a series of social media platforms that connected people online to take action offline," Garza told Yes! Magazine. But it has now set off a powerful civil rights movement that Parks herself would be proud of.
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, and this year she may just make it to become TIME Magazine's Person of the Year. This 18-year-old began writing for the BBC at age 12 under a pseudonym, baring her fears for the world that the Taliban would attack her school and that she — as a girl — would no longer be allowed to attend.
Eventually, she came out as the author of the BBC blog and received death threats from the Taliban. While coming home from school in 2012, gunmen entered her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her in the head. She survived, and her movement is now stronger than ever — the Malala Fund exists to bring education to all girls, and her story has been shared in her own book and a film.
Emmy-nominated Laverne Cox quickly rose to fame for her role as Sophia Berset on the (awesome) show Orange is the New Black, becoming the first trans woman of color on a mainstream TV show. Since then, Cox has become an activist who speaks out for LGBT equality, and has produced her own show, TRANSForm Me, as well as two documentaries on trans violence: Free CeCe and Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.
While we still have the gender wage gap in North America, Saudi Arabian women are only getting their first chance to vote this December. They may also run for a municipal council seat, which human rights advocate Nassim al-Sadah has declared her candidacy for. al-Sadah has been campaigning for women's rights in Saudi Arabia for some time now, having sued the interior ministry for her right to drive a car.
Now, she set up a campaign committee and workshops to encourage women to vote in the ultra-conservative state. "Men have to know that women must sit beside them in every decision-making and that their voices should be heard," she told The New York Times. Women are not allowed to campaign wherever men are present, or reach them through social media — an idea al-Sadah opposes, much like the #HeForShe campaign sweeping North America. "I can't win if I don't talk to men."
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