Rosa Parks Remembered; Legacy Lives On

WASHINGTON - Honoring what many call her "quiet strength," the nation mourned and celebrated the passing of Rosa Parks at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church inside the Capitol Rotunda on Monday.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the AME Church, where another leading civil rights figure, Frederick Douglass, had also been paid tribute to at his death. The open memorial service drew congressmen, leaders of civil rights organizations and the American public, grateful for the bold act Parks took to sit down so that the nation could stand.

"We praise God for the gift that she has been to us, to all of us," said Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson, chairman of the Religious, Educational, Charitable, & Development Projects, Inc., at the opening of the memorial service.

Among those who entered the church, a class of elementary school students from Oneness Family School, Chevy Chase, MD, came to witness the memorial service as well.

"I want them to realize they can change the world one person at a time," said Zoe Handerson, 39, teacher at Oneness, which honors the promotion of peace and diversity.

Praised for her small and nonviolent act of refusal to move for a white passenger in the Montgomery bus, Parks inspired a larger and louder movement that that spelled equality and a shift in American history.

Parks, who died at 92 years of age on Oct. 24, was the second African American and first woman ever to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda on Sunday and Monday. More than 30,000 people passed through the Rotunda to view the mother of the civil rights movement.

While the law defined segregation and drew lines between the colored people and the white Americans in 1955, "the Word of God said otherwise," said Gwen Ilfill, sr. correspondent of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, as she paid tribute to the late Parks.

Beyond her influence in America, however, U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) pointed out her impact worldwide.

"Rosa Parks is worldwide," he said in his tribute to Parks at AME. "It's not the [United States of America] or down south."

Dr. Dorothy Height, 94, president of the National Council of Negro Women and friend of Parks, honored the "true servant" and encouraged the youth that they can be the best and lead in the future just as Parks did.

"If you want to be somebody," she said, "you can be somebody."

The Rev. Grainger Browning, senior pastor of Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, said a loud prayer that drew out "Amen's" from the crowd. Pointing to the racism, poverty and injustice that still exist, he called the nation to "carry on her efforts" today.

"Rosa Parks is not dead," he said, "but her legacy still [lives] on."

Parks' body was returned to her home city, Detroit, where it was carried into the rotunda of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for viewing through early Wednesday.