Friday, December 01, 2006

Rosa Parks Day

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus. Parks was arrested, sparking a year-long boycott of the buses by blacks that rippled across the country to change attitudes and laws. Although I grew up hearing that she was tired and simply wanted to stay seated after a long day of work, in recent years I have come to learn that she made a conscious decision to protest by staying put. Learn more about this story from Nikki Giovanni’s picture book, Rosa (Holt, 2005) illustrated by Bryan Collier. Herself a poet, Giovanni has created a moving narrative tribute to Rosa Parks, as an individual and as a force for change in America. Collier’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations depict Parks as an inspiring force that radiates golden light. The book won both a Caldecott honor distinction and Coretta Scott King medal.

Then follow up with three poem tributes. First share, two poems about Rosa Parks, one by Carole Boston Weatherford in Remember the Bridge (Philomel, 2002), and another by J. Patrick Lewis,"The Many and the Few" in Lives; Poems About Famous Americans selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins (HarperCollins, 1999). Then, reach back for the classic poem by Countee Cullen, “Incident,” a vivid picture of racism that begins, “Once riding in old Baltimore.” Here, sadly, an eight-year-old child experiences bigotry on the bus firsthand. The Cullen poem can be found in many anthologies including a picture book collection compiled by Wade Hudson for younger readers, Pass It On: African American Poetry for Children, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Scholastic, 1993) or for older readers, I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry, selected by Catherine Clinton, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (Houghton Miffflin, 1998). Discuss the person, the story, and the poems with children. Who are the change agents of today?

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