In this day and age, we remember December 1 as World AIDS Day. Even with the medical advances in treating HIV and AIDS, it still impacts people around the globe, particularly people of color. In the height of the fear, ignorance, and paranoia of the 1980s, I attended more funerals than I care to remember. Back then, if you were so diagnosed, it was an automatic death sentence– get in the checkout line and wait to die.
I also remember celebrities who made a positive difference in the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS who challenged those notions. Persons such as Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson stood as advocates in the fight against this disease, and commendations are the least that can be given, not to mention the countless number of unsung heroes and sheroes who continue to make a difference today.
However, I think of this day for a different reason, one that goes back to the events that unfolded on December 1, 1955, when I was only three and today’s generations were yet to be born.
In Montgomery, Alabama, segregation was the status quo. Ridership of public transportation was predominately Black, yet whites sat in the front of the buses while Blacks sat in the rear. The middle section was a buffer zone: though Blacks could sit there, they had to give up their seat if the “whites only” section was filled and a white passenger wanted it. To add to the absurdity, Black passengers could not sit across the aisle from white passengers.
At the time, Rosa McCauley Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress and a secretary for the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter. On that day, with the “whites only” section full, the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat to a white man. For Rosa, with the memory of Emmett Till’s lynching on her mind, enough was enough, and she said, “No.” She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
That event set into motion a year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system, which Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, led. On December 21, 1956, Rosa took her seat in front of the bus. It set the stage for the modern-day Civil Rights movement, which was ultimately for all people. Though Rosa and her husband, Raymond Parks, moved to Detroit, her activism continued. Upon her death on October 24, 2005, her body lay in honor in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
It was one of the high points of my life, as well as humbling, to meet Rosa Parks in Atlanta in 1992. If I didn’t know who she was, to look at her, one would see a petite, pleasant, unassuming woman who could easily be someone’s grandmother or great-grandmother. And yet, I looked into the face of a woman who changed the course of history: an ordinary woman who did something extraordinary.
To anyone who says that their vote won’t count or that one person can’t make a difference, remember this day and Rosa Parks, even if you weren’t born yet. She only said one word, and it brought about change. What more can you do to make a difference wherever you are? We still have a long way to go, and we never know how our lives will touch others.
As Rosa Parks stated, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Believe in dreams and never give up.—
W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”
His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelists E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she/they want to read.
W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”
His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 13 public library system collections in Minnesota, the Des Moines Public Library System in Iowa, and the Quatrefoil (LGBT) Library. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: four M/M romance novels, “To Thine Own Self”(a 30-plus couple), “Dare To Dream” (single dad), “Playa No More” (age gap), “Built to Last” (friends to lovers), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.
Mr. Evans has reported and written for print and on line media outlets including the HuffingtonPost, The Washington Post, The Advocate, Bilerico, BaltimoreOUTloud, Washington Post, Baltimore Gay Life and the Washington Blade. His series of articles on issues such as Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A), Relationships, Depression, and Racism strongly resonate with the LGBTQ Community and its Allies.
To read his work for HUFF PO, visit: https://huffingtonpost.com/wyatt-obrian-evans/
Mr. Evans has written an in-depth, multi-part and award-winning series on racism within the LGBTQ Community for Bilerico..
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