Video recalls King's involvement in bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.
BUCHANAN, Jan 21, 2013 (South Bend Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a little-known minister in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus.
It was a period, according to the video "Mighty Times," in which blacks in the south not only were required to occupy just the back seats of city buses but they weren't allowed to visit parks or zoos, try on clothes in stores or sit down at certain soda fountains.
Those who watched the video today at a Martin Luther King Day observance at Christian Life Center Church in Buchanan likely were enlightened by the video of Parks' bus-seat incident that gave rise to the civil rights movement. One little-known tidbit was that Parks actually was riding in the "colored section" of the bus, not in one of the first 10 seats reserved for whites, when the white section filled up and a white man was left standing without a seat.
Four blacks obeyed driver James Blake's order to move but Parks refused, leading to her arrest on a disturbing the peace charge, a five-minute trial in which she was convicted, a bus boycott by the city's black population that lasted 381 days and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that segregation of public buses was unconstitutional. The 27-year-old King was front and center at the protests that accompanied the boycott and paid the price for it when his house was bombed, fortunately while he was away at a rally.
How united were the blacks during the boycott Some walked 10 miles a day to work and back, and a rally in which King spoke attracted a crowd of 5,000 instead of the 500 that had been anticipated.
As King pointed out so well at the time, Parks' refusal to give up her seat revealed her "cup of endurance had runneth over."
Al Whitfield, a 1961 Benton Harbor High School graduate and retired high school teacher who said he met with King when Whitfield was a student at Michigan State University, referred to him as "a great catalyst" for the civil rights movement. King's ongoing mantra, as Whitfield called it, was that anyone can serve as a leader. One of the best examples was Parks, a seamstress.
But even those who aren't leaders can further King's message by adopting Christianity, Whitfield said.
"If someone calls you a Christian, that's one of the greatest rewards you can receive in life," he said.
As for the next step toward realizing King's promised land, Arthur Culpepper, an Alabama native who serves as director of health services for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, said King made it clear in his book "The Measure of Man" that his purpose was to "live God's will." That means helping others, something every Christian should aspire to, he said.
"Some folks are being a bit selfish ... (but) there's not $1 that keeps you out of the graveyard, not a $1 that keeps you from getting sick ... " he said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford:
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