October 31, 2005

Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005)

October 31, 2005

Today, started out a normal day. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. I was out the door by 6:35 a.m. I got to the train station at 7:00 a.m. and was at work by 8:30 a.m. I set at my desk checked my emails, listened to my voicemails, and read my daily devotional. Between returning phone calls, checking in on my Lifelong Learning Coaches, and my grantees I was informed that the CEO of my organization gave permission to everyone to attend the funeral of Ms. Rosa Parks (the second of three funerals held in three days). I sat at my desk contemplating whether or not I should attend. I had loads a work, plus a site visit to complete later that day and hardly any of my co-workers seemed interested in going. By this time it was 11 a.m. and I had decided to go alone if I was unable to get any of my co-workers to go with me. The funeral was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. but we knew that the lines were going to be long and they were.

When I and my co-worker, Krsna, walked the three blocks at 12 Noon from our office to the historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church the line was wrapped around the corner and into an alley. We waited patiently in line with about 100 people. 12:30 p.m. and we had just made it out of the alley onto 15th Street. 1:00 p.m. and we were just at the corner of 15th and M Streets. The church, however, was in our view and we could hear the singing of the choir (traditional hymns) coming from speakers that had been set-up outside the church. We also got a glimpse of the 100 or so other on-lookers who were camped across the street from the church. 1:15 p.m. we make it half way up the street and reach a table of bottled water. Thank you, Lord. We are both hungry and thirsty because we hadn't eaten lunch. There just wasn't any time. We were serious about getting into this funeral. 1:30 p.m. and we are about half way to the front entrance of the church when the guards and police officers start walking the line announcing that the church was filled to capacity. At that point, people just started jumping out of line to run across the street to the overflow room. Krsna and I just moved right on up until we were right in front of the hearse and at the entrance of the church. 2:00 p.m. we are all standing outside listening to Dr. Dorothy Height and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. 2:05 p.m. Krsna spots her former mentor and she goes to speak to him and I lose her in the crowd. 2:15 p.m. I look up to see Krsna walking up the stairs inside the church. At this point, I'm like o.k. I can't believe she left me, but I heard a still small voice tell me to find the gentleman that she knew. 2:20 p.m. I approach the gentleman that Krsna knows who just happens to be one of the people who decides who gets to go into the church. I tell him that I work with Krsna and that were together but got separated. Now, this is amazing he looks at me. This guy doesn't know me at all, but he knows my co-worker and when I mention her name he nods and tells me to wait a minute on the side. I stand still and wait patiently. He comes up to me and points me to the gate and at 2:30 p.m. I'm walking up the stairs into the church. 2:35 p.m. I'm sitting beside Krsna downstairs in the overflow room watching the funeral on the big screen t.v. and Krsna is laughing at me because I got left behind. 2:40 p.m. Krsna and I look at each other with the same determined look. We just had to get upstairs to the sanctuary to see the funeral with our own eyes. 2:45 p.m. we start for the stairs and reach the top which is cramped to capacity. We stand at the back of the sanctuary while Oprah Winfrey speaks. Of course there was a crowd just to see her and to our benefit they left out of the balcony once she was done. 2:50 p.m. Krsna and I are headed up the stairs to the balcony. Wow, what a view. I use her phone to cancel my 3:00 p.m. site visit and we both are standing there on the balcony with tears in our eyes overwhelmed by the fact that we are attending the funeral of Ms. Rosa Parks. Ms. Cicely Tyson comes to the microphone and stirs everyone to tears and to their feet with her rendition of Ms. Jane Pittman reciting the poem, "Life Ain't No Crystal Stair" as she honors Ms. Rosa Parks. 3:15 p.m. and celebrity after celebrity, news anchors like Gwen Ifill all pay tribute to Ms. Rosa Parks. Senator Ted Kennedy wows the crowd with a personalized version of the 23rd Psalm in honor of Ms. Parks.

I'm standing in that balcony scanning the room seeing famous and non-famous, black and white people and people of a lot of other races all together with looks of awe on their face. I see someone guarded by half of dozen Secret Servicemen who looks like Donald Rumsfield and I'm thinking I can't believe I'm here in this place, too. I begin thanking God for the opportunity to be part of this historic event. Then, Ms. Tramaine Hawkins comes to the mike and sings a soulful version of Amazing Grace that brings everyone to tears - heads nodding, feet stomping, and hands clapping. What a day!

I never thought when I woke up this morning that I would be attending the funeral of one of the most famous giants of the Civil Rights Movement. As a matter of fact, I started to roll over and call in sick. What a blessing I would have missed if I had.
4:05 p.m. the service is almost over and Krsna and I decide to go back to work before the crowd leaves as we walk out the church and up the street, we hear the church singing "We Shall Overcome." People were stopped in their tracks for blocks just looking and listening. We are walking back to the office and I'm thanking God, thanking Krsna for coming and hooking us up with the guy who let us in who come to find out was one of her mentors from when she was a teenager. Wow! I'm like walking in awe, reverence, and respect for the life of a small woman who made a huge impact to our world. Ms. Rosa Parks was truly a woman of courage and faith.

Thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to be part of the Homegoing Celebration of the life of this great lady!

Note: Ms. Parks first funeral was in Selma, Alabama. Then, her body was on view at our nation's Capitol. Her final funeral will be held November 1st in Detroit, MI.

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