We all know who Rosa Parks is and what she did. Well, nine months before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Claudette Colvin did it. One of the key differences? Claudette was only 15.
Claudette was arrested and taken to jail for not giving up her seat for a white person. Remember, this was 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, where segregation was commonplace.
Not only did Claudette do the same thing Rosa Parks did, she also was one of four women who challenged the law in court. She was one of the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that overturned bus segregation laws in Montgomery and Alabama.
So why did she not get the recognition for her efforts? Part of the reason may have been her age. Part of it may have been due to a poor choice. During this time, she became a pregnant teen. In the civil rights movement, the preference was to have someone with a more pristine reputation to be the rallying point.
Today, Claudette has begun to receive recognition for her leadership and backbone in standing up for something which was not right. And, this recognition is well-deserved. Courage is defined by the stand Claudette took by sitting down, holding her place, and staying true to the essential principle of freedom. In her own words:
“I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.'” – Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin is courage.
Courage involves large and small acts. Moments of courage happen during troubled and good times. We often recognize courage in troubled times. We think of a farmer struggling with balancing harvest and a young family while caring for his wife dying of cancer. We think of an aunt and uncle trying to find sense in their daughter’s death from a car accident and begin to put their life together again. We think of the teen saying “no” to the offer of drugs and instead thinking more of their future than current popularity contests. Courage is evident in each person’s eyes and perseverance through tough times.
In our good times, we may need to muster our courage to step out of our comfort zone and engage in new thinking or ignite an innovation. In our good times, we may need to think out in time and have the courage to make a change before we are confronted with a big, big problem. Courage should be evident in our horizon view and the course we plot in a refreshing direction.
We all have a name, just as Claudette does. And, just as Claudette Colvin, our name should embrace courage. In troubled times, we must find and exhibit our courage to right a wrong and stand up for a core belief. In good times, we must find and exemplify courage in the way we lead ahead in the way we need to grow and change.
No matter your age. No matter your circumstances. No matter if good or bad times. Know you have the courage from within.
Courage. Let it be our name, too.