Your Voice Matters (YVM6)
On this day, when we remember one of the greatest orators and activists in history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I would like to focus on another individual who is not nearly so well known, but whose voice and actions were likely the spark for something much, much larger than herself.
On March 2, 1955, a fifteen year-old girl named Claudette Colvin boarded a city bus to ride home from school. She sat in the section where, if a white person was standing, the blacks would have to get up and move to the back. When a white woman got on the bus and was standing, the bus driver, ordered Colvin and two other black passengers to get up and change seats. When Colvin refused, she was removed from the bus and arrested by two police officers. This incident occurred nine months before the more famous Rosa Parks boarded a bus in the same area.
Colvin later stated her refusal stemmed from a school paper she had written that day. It was about the prohibition against blacks’ trying on clothing in department stores. They were prohibited from using the dressing rooms. During her trial, Colvin said, “I kept saying, ‘He has no civil right… this is my constitutional right… you have no right to do this.’ And I just kept blabbing things out, and I never stopped. That was worse than stealing, you know, talking back to a white person.”
Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, along with that of Parks, and it declared bus segregation unconstitutional in December 1956.
To me, the courage of that fifteen year-old girl is simply amazing. For her to speak out in such a way at that time in history is truly inspirational. Rosa Parks was chosen by Dr. King and his constituents to be the face of the bus boycott movement in Alabama, but he watched the story of Claudette Colvin with keen interest.
Your voice may not lead to sweeping social change, but then again, it may. I’m pretty sure Claudette didn’t foresee the effect her protest, and that of others, would have across an entire nation when she spoke out on that bus, but we can be thankful and admire what she did.