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Tuskegee march to pay tribute to Rosa Parks

By Samira Jafari
Associated Press Writer

TUSKEGEE — More than 200 students, residents, ministers and dignitaries linked arms and marched through Tuskegee on Wednesday to pay tribute to civil rights activist Rosa Parks, a native of the town who died Monday.

City officials made it a priority to share Parks' significance with the younger members of the audience.

"She accomplished more than those of us that stand up or attempt to stand up just by sitting down," said Jesse Upshaw, chair of the Macon County Commission.

Parks, 92, died Monday at her home in Detroit. She ignited the Montgomery bus boycott and the modern civil rights movement on Dec. 1, 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man.

"What if Sister Parks had moved to another seat? . . . That's something to think about," Upshaw told the crowd.

"The situation on the buses was terrible," added E.D. Nixon Jr., whose father moved quickly after Parks' arrest to launch the boycott. "It took a lot of courage for Mrs. Parks. She could've been beaten. She could've been killed."

Series of events

The memorial was one of a series of events scheduled this week commemorating Parks before her funeral next week in Detroit.

Parks' body will lie in state at St. Paul AME Church in Montgomery on Saturday and Sunday. A viewing also is scheduled from 6 a.m. to midnight Nov. 1 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, with the funeral service at 11 a.m. on Nov. 2 at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Burial will follow the funeral service at Woodlawn Cemetery, where Parks' mother, brother and husband are buried.

National park site

Wednesday's march began in the courthouse square in downtown Tuskegee and went on for about four blocks to city hall, where Mayor Johnny Ford called on the president and Congress to designate a national park site for Rosa Parks.

"It's all right to have monuments. . . . But she was born here. She grew from this soil," Ford said.

The marchers walked down a strip that parallels Martin Luther King Boulevard and later will be named after Parks.

Ford said marching through downtown represented the 50,000 who took part in the bus boycott: "Today we wanted to march one more time for Rosa."

Among those speaking to the crowd at city hall was attorney Fred Gray, a longtime friend to Parks and one of the attorneys who represented her after her arrest.

"We were able to build a movement on her foundation of courage," Gray said. "It's a model of how we should go forward addressing our challenges today."

The few dozen teenagers who attended the memorial credited Parks for the freedoms they enjoy today.

"I feel that she inspired me," 15-year-old Jasmine Tate said. "If it wasn't for her, the things we do today we wouldn't be able to do."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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