An actress portraying Civil Rights heroine Rosa Parks described voting as an integral part of being an American citizen during a Women’s Equality Day event Aug. 24 at Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support.
Alex Ford spoke on the difficulties Parks had gaining the right to vote amidst racial segregation in the early to mid-20th century. The national theme for the day, which Congress designated as Aug. 26, is “Celebrating Women’s Right to Vote.”
Parks is well-known for defying Jim Crow segregation laws when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger Dec. 1, 1955. This action spawned the modern Civil Rights movement to end legal segregation in the U.S., DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Charles Hamilton said.
Hamilton reflected on how Parks may have felt the morning of this act, and whether it was pre-planned or a moment of courage.
“I think about the soldiers who go out in harm’s way and the courage they have to do that,” Hamilton said. “Kind of like how Rosa Parks did, taking on the pressure of being put in jail, the pressure of being assaulted and the impact she has today.”
Ford detailed how Parks’ experiences from childhood to womanhood shaped her life of activism. These included sleeping in her clothes in case the Ku Klux Klan attacked her family in the middle of the night to meeting her husband, Raymond Parks, who was involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ford also portrayed Parks’ difficulties registering to vote, including taking literacy tests, paying exorbitant poll taxes and missing narrow time frames to register.
“I talk to you now of my family and my struggles to remind everyone [that] our people are at war,” Ford said. “I can talk, and go on for hours about that fateful day in December, but there’s so much more before that date that happened to me. So much more that explains my reasons why I stayed seated.”
Federally Employed Women Philadelphia Chapter, the DLA Troop Support Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office and NAVUSP Weapons Systems Support Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee sponsored the program.
Ford reminded the audience that just because marginalized groups now have the right to vote, the fight for equality is not over.
“When your time to stand and fight comes, remember your past,” Ford said. “Remember who made you the person you are today, and use that as your power.”