By Karen Gochnauer

     What would you do if some day, a policeman stopped you and asked you if you had your birth certificate with you? Most of us don't regularly carry it with us, but if you didn't, the policeman would throw you in jail!

     A young African American woman living in the 1950s had to deal with these crazy laws every day of her life. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was one of the thousands of brave African American people who helped to overcome the barriers of whites and blacks. I'll discuss and explain some of the obstacles she overcame, who opposed and helped Rosa, and some of the goals she reached for the African American society.

     To begin with, Rosa Parks, a soon-to-be Civil Rights Activist and spokeswoman, had many oppositions. Blocks came from every angle as the "white class" and barriers from the government attempted to keep Rosa and her people "under control." The same government that had given Rosa rights as a citizen of America was passing laws saying things like, that it was all right for restaurants not to serve people that were black. The government was denying Rosa and the people like her of the same rights that you and I have naturally. And no one really cared or considered it unusual!

     Mrs. Parks was one of the brave people who took a step in the right direction by standing up for what she knew was right. In 1955, Rosa boarded a bus for home, feeling very tired and emotionally drained from the segregation and mistreatment of African Americans. "I did not get on the bus to be arrested," Rosa said. "I got on the bus to go home." Mrs. Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man and move to a section for "Blacks" at the back of the bus, so the bus driver ordered her off the bus and had her arrested.

     Martin Luther King, Jr. said this after Rosa's arrest. "If we are wrong, justice is a lie. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water." Rosa's trial lasted half an hour, she was found guilty, but there was no sentence.

     Secondly, I'd like to point out that no matter how hard you work at something, there are always people who will, or want to, get in your way, and there will be people who will want to help you along. The driver that had her arrested was not one that unfamiliar with troubling Rosa. He was, in fact, the same one that, 12 years earlier, had put her off a bus because she would not get off the bus and reboard through the "Black" entrance.

     Rosa says that her belief in God is at the core of everything she does. She gets comfort in His strength. Some of her other supporters, however, are quite human. The Women's Political Council passed out handbills that read "We are asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial of Rosa Parks. Please, children and grown-ups, don't ride the bus at all on Monday." That was the day that Rosa was scheduled to appear in court. That evening, there was a meeting attended by Rosa at Holt Street Baptist Church, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the speaker. When he was finished, Mrs. Parks stood up among the crowd, and was silent. There was no need to talk. Her quiet message was, "Here I am, among you." Rosa's ultimate bravery inspired many later "stirrings of America's great, segregated, melting pot."

     My last point is the most important of all. Rosa reached many goals and helped to break numerous barriers for the African American community. She helped to put just one more big crack in the wall of segregation. Soon after, that wall came down. Rosa inspired and lighted fires of hope for a better future in the hearts of the surrounding African American population.

     Other people, like Claudette Colvin, age 15, would not give up her seat and was arrested eight months before. Also, Mary Louis Smith was arrested in October for the same "crime". These women, including Rosa, believed in standing for the right reason, and it definitely paid off. In 1996, Rosa received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Also, in 1999, she received the Congressional Gold Medal. All people who speak out against injustices everywhere deserve a great place in history.

     In ending, I need to say, we have to warn the coming generations what a terrible thing racism can do to a healthy country. It can tear it apart! This occurrence in history has shown the American people what it really can do to great and envied countries. Racism can change and greatly damage lives forever.

     How would you react if someone looked down on you as if you were a creature lower than dirt? What would you say to someone if they said that you couldn't even walk on the same side of the street as someone who had a different color of hair? The next time you see someone who is not like you, take a second glance; think about the real "them."

     Karen Gochnauer is a student in Mrs. Chamberlin's 7th grade ACE Language Arts Class Bernard Campbell Junior High Lee's Summit, Missouri.