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A large contingent of East Carolina University faculty, staff and students turned out for the university’s memorial service for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, held Oct. 26 in Mendenhall Student Center. Above, the ECU Gospel Choir performs for the event. (Photos by Marc J. Kawanishi)

Parks' Legacy Recalled

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

As civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was laid to rest near her home in Detroit Oct. 26, more than 200 members of the East Carolina University community gathered at Mendenhall Student Center to honor her legacy.

Parks, a seamstress who was arrested after refusing to cede her bus seat to a white man in segregated Montgomery, Ala., nearly 50 years ago, died Oct. 24 at the age of 92. She is credited with a key act of civil disobedience that launched the Civil Rights movement and the rise of the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.

SGA president Cole Jones, left, and Garrie Moore, vice chancellor for student life, compare notes during the Parks memorial.

“Imagine being denied the right to vote; denied a quality education; freedom of speech,” said Cole Jones, president of ECU’s Student Government Association. “Imagine being forced to give up your seat. Sometimes we forget about our freedom, our freedom to take a seat. Let us all continue to welcome the obstacles, the challenges that symbolize the legacy of Rosa Parks.”

In addition to performances by ECU’s Gospel Choir and music faculty John Kramer and Eric Stellrecht, voices from across campus spoke out about Parks’ legacy, and her effect on American history.

“Over the course of the past 15 months, Chancellor Ballard has talked about getting the right people on the bus. Rosa Parks is a perfect example of having the right people on the bus at the right time, sitting in the right seat,” said Garrie Moore, vice chancellor for student life. “Things happen when you have the right people on the bus. She sat down because she needed to take a stand, and a stand for the course of humanity, not for herself.”

Pat Dunn, ECU faculty and city councilwoman, said Parks not only served as an example of the power of one person to make a difference, she also served as a kind of mirror of the racial climate in the United States.

“She held up a mirror to the white majority; showed how things really were and it was a vivid picture,” Dunn said. “She helped to free us of our own slavery of racial segregation.”

Lathan Turner, director of ECU’s Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, wondered what Parks would think of the Civil Rights movement as it is today.

“What would she think, if she knew how we can sit by each other, and speak to each other, and walk with each other, almost 50 years after she made that historic decision not to get up from that seat,” Turner said. “We hope she would be proud of our accomplishments, in as much as we are proud of the contribution she has made to this nation.”

10/10/05
This page originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/archives.cfm.