Boston plans for the December 1 Rosa Parks National Day of Absence
By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Planning for the Dec. 1 Rosa Parks National Day of Absence jumped into high gear as more than 60 representatives from a broad cross-section of labor and community organizations met on Nov. 5 and agreed to hold a series of militant actions in Boston on Dec. 1 to honor the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks arrest for her refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. These Boston actions will be part of the Dec. 1 National Day of Absence against Poverty, Racism and War.
Meeting participants unanimously agreed to Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner’s proposals of naming Dec. 1 in Boston “Rosa Parks Human Rights Day” and of submitting a home-rule petition to have this day declared an annual Rosa Parks holiday in the city.
Possible Dec. 1 actions discussed include a rally at Boston’s city hall followed by a march through the financial district and then various working class and oppressed neighborhoods ending with a teach-in at Roxbury Community College. Plans will be formalized and final leaflets produced at the next meeting Nov. 12. A petition to demand that Boston Public Schools on Dec. 1 in honor of Rosa Parks Human Rights Day is being circulated (see below).
Councilor Turner, Frantz Mendes, Vice-President of the United Steelworkers Local 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers and Rachael Nasca of AFSCME 3650 and the Women’s Fightback Network, co-chaired the meeting at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)-District 35 union hall, also the site of Local 8751’s office.
Tony Hernandez, IUPAT staff organizer and coordinator of Labor for Felix Arroyo, Boston’s only Latin@ City Councilor, opened the meeting by “welcoming this organizing in our home.”
Larry Holmes, a national leader of the Troops Out Now Coalition set the tone of the meeting by providing a national update on Dec. 1 pointing out that, to date, over 1,000 individuals and organizations have endorsed and created Dec. 1 organizing committees across the U.S. Actions are being planned in at least 40 cities. Press conferences have been held in New York City and elsewhere.
Holmes emphasized the significance of the Boston City Council Resolution introduced by Charles Yancey, Chuck Turner and Felix Arroyo that was passed 13-0 in support of the National Day of Absence and how this has inspired other cities such as Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland to introduce similar resolutions. In New York a public hearing will be held on Nov. 18 in regards to a resolution introduced by NY City Councilor Charles Barron. Holmes also emphasized the vital contributions of African American women in the 381 day Montgomery bus boycott.
Tony Van Der Meer, Africana studies professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, gave a brief historical overview of the resistance of persons of African descent from the onset of slavery to the present day. He also told participants how Rosa Parks, as well as others in the developing civil rights movement, were sparked to action in response to the racist murder of Emmett Till. Van Der Meer spoke of the importance of building a movement in solidarity with the survivors of Katrina to demand justice and the right of return for the thousands who have been dispersed throughout the country.
Ron Bell, of Dunk the Vote, pledged his organization’s support for Dec. 1 actions. Bell was a principal organizer of the “Retracing the Struggle,” march Oct. 30 which retraced the route walked by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965 to protest segregation in Boston public schools.
As Carl Sisson, USW Local 8751 steward, introduced his brother Daryl Sisson, a New Orleans Hurricane Katrina survivor, the meeting went silent and listened intently as they described the federal government’s racist abandonment of mostly African Americans in the Delta region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The Sisson’s painfully conveyed how their loved ones are now dispersed across the country and how they are unable to reconnect with them due to FEMA’s criminal negilence and wholesale abandonment of them and hundreds of thousands of working class and oppressed survivors. “Our heritage has been stolen,” said Carl Sisson. Those in attendance pledged their support for the Sisson’s including supporting the right of return for survivors.
In addition to Mendes and Sisson there were 15 members and Shop Stewards from USW L. 8751 who attended and pledged their support to help build this important event.
Gibran Rivera, progressive District 6 candidate for Boston’s City Council, endorsed Dec. 1 and thanked the participants for supporting him. Rivera’s campaign is the first time in recent memory that a Latin@ candidate has seriously vied for this council seat, historically held by white conservatives.
Bishop Filipe Teixeira, the Young Cape Verdean Club, and Isaura Mendes spoke eloquently about the struggle against police brutality and violence.
Theo Gray, a founding and steering committee member of the Archdale Roslindale Coalition, spoke about its battle against government agencies that were responsible for the racist, toxic raw sewage flooding that ravaged this working class neighborhood in Boston in October 1996. The Coalition is on the verge of an historic settlement for damages. Theo stressed that in no way would the neighborhood have won environmental and economic justice without the incredible unity of this multi-national neighborhood.
Rev. Franklin Hobbs of Healing Our Land reminded participants that Dec. 1 is World Aids Day and they pledged to make this a top priority at the Dec. 1 actions.
Earl Guerra, Isiah Anderson, Cassius Belfon, Marquis Anderson, four of the Somerville 5, as well as Carol Anderson, mother of two of these youth spoke about their case against racial profiling and police brutalty.
Representatives of the South Asian community spoke of the significance of the day-long general strike in India in October joined by at least 40 million workers which shut down vital sectors of the economy.
Other participants in the Nov. 5 meeting included members from the Boston Troops Out Now coalition, Bromley Heath Maintenance Workers, Community Church of Boston, Disabled People’s Liberation Front, the International Action Center, New England Human Rights Organization for Haiti, Stonewall Warriors, United American Indians of New England, Veterans for Peace, graduate students from University of Maryland-College Park, as well as as union members from AFSCME and the Communication Workers and Service Employees.
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The next Planning Meeting for the Dec. 1 Rosa Parks Day/National Day of Absence will be 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 at USW L. 8751, 25 Colgate Rd., Roslindale - http://www.iacboston.org/images/8751office_map.gif.
For more information please contact:
USW L. 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers:
Chuck Turner, District 7 Boston City Council:
Troops Out Now Coalition: 617-522-6626
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Union labor donated
Download the following documents including a labor petition and much more at www.iacboston.org.
Dec. 1 petition to close Boston schools
December 1 Rosa Parks Human Rights Day of Absence Committee
To Thomas Payzant, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
December 1 2005 will mark the 50th anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks helped to open the modern civil rights movement by being arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing an order to give her bus seat to a white man. The heroic Montgomery bus boycott against racist segregation that Rosa Parks sparked became the first mass movement to defeat legalized segregation in the South, as well as the struggle that introduced the world to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott’s principal spokesperson.
On October 26, 2005, Boston City Council by a 13-0 vote passed a resolution honoring Rosa Parks and proclaiming 2005 “Rosa Parks Year”, stating in part, “That the Boston City Council encourages all businesses in the City of Boston, both public and private to either close on December 1, 2005, or allow the many workers and students in the City who will want to attend the Rosa Parks Commemoration event taking place during normal business hours, to take the day off, or leave work and school early with impunity.”
We call on you to declare December 1, 2005 Rosa Parks Day and to cancel Boston Public Schools as it has done on such days as the “Tall Ships Day”, the Pope’s visit to Boston and the commemoration of the passing of acting School Superintendent Kennedy.
We further call on you to encourage students, teachers and staff to participate in the Boston Rosa Parks commemorative event gathering in Boston City Hall at 11 a.m. on Thursday, December 1. As poverty is deeper and more profound now than ever; racism raises its ugly head from the Katrina tragedy. From the attacks on affirmative action, to efforts to re-segregate Boston Public Schools, to Bush’s Supreme Court appointments and his unjust war and occupations, a national event such as one honoring Rosa Parks seems very fitting. The struggle for justice to which she dedicated her life is as pertinent today as it was 50 years ago. Commemoration of Rosa Parks will send a most important educational message to the students of Boston.
Return petitions to:
Chuck Turner, District 7 Boston City Council, 51 Roxbury St, Roxbury, MA 02119 or
Prof. Tony Van Der Meer, Africana Studies Dept., 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125
Boston City Council’s Rosa Parks resolution
On Oct. 26, the Boston City Council passed a 13-0 resolution in tribute to Rosa Parks and also in support of the Dec. 1 National Day of Absence of Poverty, Racism and War. Activists in New York, Baltimore and Detroit are organizing support in those areas to get a similar resolution passed. In Oakland, Calif., Million Worker March Movement leaders such as Clarence Thomas are discussing a possible Dec. 1 resolution with the city council there.
Councillors Charles C. Yancey, Chuck Turner, Felix Arroyo, Rob Consalvo, Maureen Feeney, Michael Flaherty, Maura Hennigan, James Kelly, Jerry Mcdermott, Stephen Murphy, Michael Ross, Paul Scapicchio and John Tobin passed the following resolution on Oct. 26.
Rosa Parks 1913-2005
WHEREAS: Rosa Louise McCauley was born February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, a school teacher; and
WHEREAS: At the age of 11 she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls and later at Alabama State Teachers College. At twenty, Rosa married a barber named Raymond Parks; and
WHEREAS: Mrs. Parks, on December 1, 1955, refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama, resulting in her arrest; and
WHEREAS: Mrs. Parks' defiance triggered the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott and earned her the title Mother of the Civil Rights Movement; and
WHEREAS: The 382-day Boycott introduced the world to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was President of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the Boycott's spokesperson; and
WHEREAS: The federal district court on June 4, 1956, ruled bus segregation unconstitutional; and
WHEREAS: Mrs. Parks and her husband, Raymond Parks, in 1957 moved to Detroit, Michigan where Mrs. Parks served on the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers; and
WHEREAS: The Southern Christian Leadership Council later established an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award in her honor; and
WHEREAS: Mrs. Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to offer guidance to young African-Americans; and
WHEREAS: President Clinton presented Mrs. Parks with the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 1995; and
WHEREAS: Mrs. Parks spent her last years in Detroit, where she died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 92; Therefore Be It
RESOLVED: That the Boston City Council, in meeting assembled, remembers Rosa Parks and the sacrifices that she made in advancing civil rights; And Be It Further
RESOLVED: That the Boston City Council, in meeting assembled, proclaims the year 2005 as Rosa Parks year in the City of Boston and honors Rosa Parks by flying the flag of the United States of America at half mast for one week on all City of Boston Properties; And Be It Further
RESOLVED: That the Boston City Council encourages all businesses in the City of Boston, both public and private to either close on December 1, 2005, or allow the many workers and students in the City who will want to attend the Rosa Parks Commemoration event taking place during normal business hours, to take the day off, or leave work and school early with impunity.
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