GA

From the Archives: About the time I met Rosa Parks...

(funny enough, Myspace.com is back open and you can find old treasures from yore like this poem from 2006)

About the time I met Rosa Parks...
By Faith Cheltenham

Sun's rays cowered from smog as Gram and I approached Robinson's May, that great giant of a percent off.

"Don't wanna go inside"
Didn't want to do a lot of things those days, this was when I was about ten.

Gangly and huge at the same time: skin, bones and f^^king boobs.
Standing about 5 foot 6", I didn't want to do a lot of things back then.

Shopping with Gram sure wasn't top of the list.
She'd poke in to see about fits and I'd have to huddle to cover my chest and curl up back into less.
I really didn't want to go into Robinson's May, but grandmother was insistent with a pinched lip and flared nostril, she said, "Yes, this is going to happen".

So I half snarled, with a curled lip in response as I came out of the car. I'd just finished reading The Outsiders, wished I could be smoking a Camel and emulating the lean of James Dean.

But I was to meet Rosa Parks this day!

I hadn't wanted to go inside, even with air conditioning. So in I went, and turned to the right.
I stumbled into an unfinished hall, pics of ROSA PARKS and a replica of the bus seat...what the f^^k?
Oh, the privilege of youth. Of "knowing", what wasn't something that would help you.

Dismissively I walked down that hall. "I've got my own pains and thanks, but what you got that's really gonna get me up? The right to sit? I got to kick it free of charge! You wanna see the scars?

See I was ten, and things at that point didn't matter. I was struggling all the time, and angrily navigating my way through: church brothers in dark parking lots, Best Girl Friends who couldn't watch their hands, abusive parent(s), and errant father(s), not to mention my own real desires. Every sin in the bible...that was me at 10.

So, I continued dismissively down that hall. Grandmother found me and began, RE: Rosa Parks: and where Gram had been when Rosa sat "for all of us". What it had meant for the turning of our race, escaping from the hellhole of never being good enough in the first...I tuned her out.
Oh, the privilege of youth. To know who will always love you, and not think that someone could help you.

And so I met Ms. Parks.

Led by another (slowly, for she was using a walker even then), we ran into each other with the exhibit still unfinished and she's was supposed to come the next day for its opening. "All the way down here for nothing?" complained her caregiver, who had no idea that I had been deeply considering the same thing, especially at age ten.

Gram took me by crook and marched me straight up. "Oh, Hello!  This is my granddaughter Faith. We're so honored to meet you". She was the smallest of women, tiny even but she had held onto her seat, and kept her peace. Looking at her, I realized she'd probably been polite too.

"Stay in school, Educate yourself", was all I remember Rosa Parks saying.

Did I wish for something more tangible from the legendary lady? What for, when such a natural knowledge came upon me as we left that place. My life while hard, could have been much harder, so I can make it less difficult for another, even though the pay won't be great (and there's sure to be many unfinished honors and mixed up dates).

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