Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Black history Month - Rosa Parks and Nkosi Johnson

Knowledge isn't the main thing, but deeds. (Sierra Leone)

1913 - Rosa Parks was born

Rosa Parks was a seamstress. With her husband, she was a member of the local chapter of the NAACP in Montgomery Alabama. She worked hard on a number of cases, but had not had many successes in challenging the authorities over segregation.

Then along came a case that needed the right person to be the standard-bearer. In 1955, A fifteen-year-old named Claudette Colvin had defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a bus. The local NAACP leader had been looking for a test case and promised to help Colvin. However, as months passed, his group had second thoughts. Colvin was too poor, too Black, too working class (father a gardener and mother a maid), too sassy, and by then too pregnant to be the standard-bearer. So Rosa Parks accepted the responsibility of being the test case.

Parks boarded the same bus Colvin had take nine months earlier, and had an incident on the bus that led to a bus boycott that lasted 382 days. As a result of her action, Montgomery outlawed racial segregation on public transportation. Parks has remained one of the important faces of the Black struggle for civil rights in America.

She died at age 92, and was the only woman and the second Black American to lie in state at the Capitol. That privilege is usually reserved for Presidents of the US.

1989 – Nkosi Johnson was born.

By the time Nkosi Johnson died at age 12, he had helped change public perceptions of HIV/AIDS.

Nkosi was HIV positive from birth, He never knew his father, and his mother was so debilitated by the disease that she was unable to care for him. She died when Nkosi was eight years old, and he was adopted. He first came to public attention when a primary school in Johannesburg refused to accept him as a student. The school later found it had broken a South African law forbidding discrimination on grounds of medical status, and the decision was reversed.

Medication and treatment helped Nkosi to be fairly active. He was the keynote speaker at the 13th International AIDS conference where he encouraged people with HIV/AIDS to be open about the disease and seek equal treatment.

With his adopted mother, he founded a refuge for HIV positive mothers and children.

Also on this day in:

1794 – France abolished slavery in France and in all its colonies

1961- Jail Movement began in Rock Hill, S.C. when students refused to pay fines & requested jail sentences.

1976: Rapper Cam'ron born Cameron Giles in Harlem, New York.

No comments:


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at