It’s the second to last week of Black History month and I thought it might be a good idea to have a mini refresher course on two main characters in the Black Historic lexicon: Rosa Parks and Charles Drew. Both left an indelible impression on the civil rights movement and their contributions to society helped push forward the rights of African Americans.
Rosa Parks is most often remembered as the Black woman who refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery of 1955, sparking a boycott that eventually led to the desegregation of buses in Montgomery while also pushing the African American civil rights movement forward in America. Rosa Parks was not just a woman who was tired and did not want to give up her seat for white riders—she was already a very active member of the civil rights movement. She is quoted as saying:
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Rosa’s exhaustion was due to the weight that all African Americans must carry—the weight of oppression, systemic racism and erasure. Because Rosa Parks took a stand against racism by sitting down, African Americans in the United States have a lighter weight to carry now.
Charles Drew was an African American surgeon who organized the first large scale blood bank in the United States and mentored a generation of Black surgeons at Howard University. He is quoted as writing:
"...So much of our energy is spent in overcoming the constricting environment in which we live that little energy is left for creating new ideas or things. Whenever, however, one breaks out of this rather high-walled prison of the "Negro problem" by virtue of some worthwhile contribution, not only is he himself allowed more freedom, but part of the wall crumbles. And so it should be the aim of every student in science to knock down at least one or two bricks of that wall by virtue of his own accomplishment."
Drew’s accomplishments in medicine, his work ethic, and his dedication to raising up the next generation of Black medical professionals helped knock down many of the bricks that made up the “Negro prison.”
Towne Street theatre has highlighted these two amazing individuals in plays before. Parks and Drew’s accomplishments inspire the work that we do and we honor them by remembering what they fought for. We also continue their fight through creativity and engagement with our audience.
Towne Street's In Response:Surviving 2020 was created to address the overwhelming police violence that African Americans were facing that year as well as the trauma of the Pandemic and all of the systemic racism that was exposed during this time. It includes plays by Rich Rubin about Rosa Parks and Charles Drew. You can watch them here. Feel free to check out the rest of Towne Street Theatre's Youtube page here for more engaging content!