12:52 PM

​Power of One: Discussion at Ohio State is part of tribute to Rosa Parks

A conversation about the legacy of civil rights leader Rosa Parks and her impact on the world today helped pack an auditorium at the Fawcett Center on Monday night.

“The Power of One: We Are Walking In It!” was part of the 13th Annual Statewide Tribute to Rosa Parks at The Ohio State University. The discussion was hosted by WBNS-10TV news anchor Jerry Revish and featured Congresswoman Joyce Beatty; attorney Brenda Drake, wife of Ohio State President Michael V. Drake; and Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks.

“Rosa Parks was more than just that day on Dec. 1, 1955,” Beatty said. “She went on to become a great advocate for decades with the NAACP, she fought for housing and she fought for civil rights.”

Ohio is recognized as the first state to enact legislation identifying Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day. It honors the day when Parks refused to leave a whites-only section of a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Beatty sponsored the legislation as a lawmaker in the Ohio Statehouse.

The discussion, sponsored by the university’s Office of Outreach and Engagement and the Central Ohio Transit Authority, focused on the challenges Parks faced, the current state of the civil rights movement and the work that needs to continue for a more equal society.

Drake said part of the task begins in preparing the next generation to serve as leaders. She said it was critical for young people to build a good foundation of skills before they can lead.

“All of us want to make a difference in young people’s lives and one of the ways to do that is to support young people’s education,” Drake said.

One question directed at the panel asked them to consider the issues that would be important to Parks, were she still alive today.

“Rosa Parks love the militancy of young people, she love the spirit of young people,” Theoharis said.

Parks would have been inspired by and supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, she said.

The conversation also turned to the role of women leaders at a time when widespread sexual harassment scandals are coming to light.

Drake said the women leaders have a responsibility when they get into positions of power to create a better environment for those around them.

“I think it’s very important for those of us who get into a position to effect change to take advantage of those opportunities,” Drake said. “The other thing we need to do is speak up, if we are in a position to speak up. Even if the more comfortable thing to do is sit back, we need to speak up.”

Beatty said it was important to remember the work Parks did in the years after the bus protest. She noted the effort to build a better, fairer world would take generations.

“We’re walking in her legacy but we have a long way to go,” Beatty said.