Claudette Colvin

She was the original Rosa Parks.

Claudette_Colvin

Dubbed the original Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was arrested in 1955 at the age of 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded segregated bus.  The incident began when the bus she and her friends were on filled up and there was a white passenger standing in the aisle between them.  The driver wanted all of them to move to the back and stand so that the white passenger could sit.

“He wanted me to give up my seat for a white person and I would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman. Three of the students had got up reluctantly and I remained sitting next to the window.” She informed the driver that she had paid her fare and that it was her constitutional right to remain right where she was.  Of course, the driver didn’t see it that way.  He continued driving and when he reached a juncture where a police squad car was waiting, he stopped.  Two officers boarded the bus and asked Claudette why she refused to give up her seat.  She was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus all the while shouting that her constitutional right was being violated.   She was initially charged with disturbing the peace, violating the segregation laws, and assault.  There was no assault, of course.

Instead of being taken to taken to a juvenile detention centre, she was taken to an adult jail and spent three hours in a small cell with nothing inside of it except a broken sink and a cot without a mattress.  Her mother and pastor bailed her out.  Her mother, well aware of Claudette’ disappointment with the system and all the injustice they were receiving, said to her, “Well, Claudette, you finally did it.” 

After she was released from prison, her family feared that their home would be attacked, so armed with a shotgun, her father kept a vigil just in case the Klu Klux Klan showed up, while members of the community were lookouts.  Claudette was first person arrested for challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation policies and her story made a few local papers but nine months later Rosa Parks did the same thing and her story could worldwide coverage.

Claudette knew Rosa Parks very well. “I became very active in her youth group and we use to meet every Sunday afternoon at the Luther church.  Ms Parks was quiet and very gentle and very soft-spoken, but she would always say we should fight for our freedom.”

Claudette was one of the plantiffs in the court case of Browder v. Gayle during which she described her arrest.  “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.

On June 5, 1956, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a ruling declaring the state of Alabama and Montgomery’s laws mandating public bus segregation as unconstitutional. State and local officials appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the District Court decision on November 13, 1956. One month later, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider, and on December 20, 1956, the court ordered Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation permanently.

Following her life of activism, Claudette gave birth to a son who was light-skinned, leading many to believe that his father was White.  She left New York in 1958 because finding and keeping work was difficult because of her participation in the Browder v Gayle case which overturned the bus segregation.  After her actions on the bus, she was was branded a troublemaker by many in her community.  She had to drop out of college and struggled in the local environment.

She and her son, Raymond lived with her sister in New York.  She got a job as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan and worked there for 35 years.  In 2004, she retired.  She had a second son who secured an education and became an accountant in Atlanta, where he married and had his own family.  His older brother, Raymond died in 1993 in New York from a heart attack at the age of 37.  Claudette never married.

In 2017, the Montgomery Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin.  March 2 was named Claudette Colvin day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mayor Todd Strange who presented the proclamation said of Colvin, “She was an early foot soldier in our civil rights, and we did not want this opportunity to go by without declaring March 2 as Claudette Colvin Day to thank her for her leadership in the modern day civil rights movement.”  Claudette could not attend the proclamation due to health concerns.

Councilman Larkin’s sister was on the bus in 1955 when Colvin was arrested. A few years ago, Larkin arranged for a streetcar to be named after Colvin.  According to her sister, Gloria Laster, “Had it not been for Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith there may not have been a Thurgood Marshall, a Martin Luther King or a Rosa Parks.”

Notes to Women celebrates this unsung heroine who didn’t get the recognition she deserved for being instrumental in the fight against the Montgomery bus segregation by refusing to get up from her seat which she believed was a violation of her constitutional right.

“I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”

“I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.”

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail.”

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; BBC News

Chantrea’s Crusade

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“Thanks for doing this interview, Chantrea. It can’t be easy for you.” They were sitting by the lake just steps from the organization where the Cambodian woman worked as a social worker.

Chantrea smiled slightly. She had sad eyes and although she was in her late thirties, she looked much older which wasn’t surprising, considering the kind of life she once had. “I don’t want to do what’s easy for me,” she said. “I will do whatever is necessary to help the children.”

“What’s your story?”

“I was eleven when my father put me in an orphanage because they promised him that I would receive a good education and opportunities for the future. Instead, I was beaten, raped, starved and forced to work on the orphanage director’s rice paddies and farms without pay.

“And now you’ve dedicated your life to fighting such institutions.”

“Yes. I’m fighting to prevent the separation of vulnerable children from their families and orphanages that attract funding, volunteers and donations from well-meaning tourists.”

“What’s your biggest goal?”

“Shutting down these orphanages.”

 

175 Words

This story is inspired by true stories of children who are taken from their families and homes and placed in orphanages “where they may be exploited, even abused, malnourished, forced to work, and sometimes trafficked to other orphanages and forms of exploitation in order to repeat the cycle and elicit further funding.”

Written as part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  If you would like to read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Sources:  Freedom United; Cambodian Children’s Trust

The Plight

She sat on the plane, heartbroken

the faces of the girls she photographed

etched on her mind.  Child brides.  Girls

married off as young as eight.  She knew

child marriage existed in India but now

it was there in front of her face.

 

A photojournalist living in Nepal, she traveled

back and forth between there and New Delhi,

using her camera to tell about the plight of young

girls forced into marriage due to poverty

and lack of education. Mothers, former child

brides themselves saw their daughters doomed

to the same fate because of lack of viable

options.

 

Girls too young to get married or to

have kids were forced to become women

before their time. How she wished she

could do more.  She sighed, looking out

at the overcast sky.  For now she would

continue to turn her lens on the communities

where this practice continued to flourish.

 

149 words

This was written in response to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.   For more information, click HERE.

Source:  National Geographic

The Best Feeling

When they met she was in a fashion show,

dressed in a spotted fur Coat and a crown

of flower jewelry around her head.  She

was doing it as a favor to a friend in the

fashion business in support of a girl’s

right to education in Africa.

 

He was there sitting in front and when

she strutted down the runway, he took

notice.  Their eyes met and held for

several minutes before she turned

and walked off.  After the show, her

friend introduced them.  It turned out

that he was Rémy Vasseur, the name

behind Vasseur wineries.  He was a

household name in Provence where

his vineyard was situated.  He owned

a chateau there as well as in Nice.

 

He was a very attractive and charming

man in his early fifties.  Widowed with

a twenty-something daughter, he had

not shown any interest in dating until

now.  Without wasting any time, he

invited Marcelle to lunch.  Flattered

and completely enamored of him,

she readily accepted.  He took her

to an expensive but cozy restaurant

and over a gourmet lunch, they got

to know each other.

 

She enjoyed his company so much

that when he asked to see her

again, she agreed.  So, lunch that

day led to more lunches and dinners.

Then, they took impromptu trips to

Rome, Barcelona, Athens, Montenegro and

Turks and Caicos.  They stayed in

separate rooms and so far, he hadn’t

kissed her or made any advances.

 

Things were moving at a

comfortable rather than a rapid

pace which suited her.  They went for

walks after dinner, sightseeing and

dancing.  By the time he took her to

his chateau in Provence, she was in

love with him.

 

What she loved about him was that he

didn’t flaunt his wealth.  It was just a

part of him and he carried it with such

humility, always mindful of those who

were not as fortunate as he and loved

to give to charities.  He was deeply

religious too and always credited God

for his wealth and good fortune.

 

It was when they were sitting on the

stone bench in front of the fountain

that he proposed to her.  Her eyes

almost popped out of her head when

he got down on his knee in front of

her and opened a little black box.

He took out the most exquisite

ring she had ever seen.

 

His eyes met hers in a steady gaze as

he said, “Marcelle, I never thought that

I would fall in love again until I met you.

When I first saw you I felt as if time and

my heart stood still.  I had to meet you

and when I did, I had to get to know you.

These past months that we have been

together have been the happiest for me

but they’re not enough.  I want to spend

the rest of my life with you.  Will you

marry me?”

 

“Yes,” she cried and watched through

her tears as he put the ring on her finger.

 

He stood up and pulled her to her feet.

“I love you,” he whispered as he put his

arms around her waist and drew her

closer to him so that their bodies were

touching.

 

She smiled up at him, his face blurry.

“I love you too,” she murmured and

watched in anticipation as he bent

his head, her heart thudding.  They

were about to kiss for the first time.

As their lips touched, she thought,

The best feeling in the world is kissing

someone for the first time when you’ve

really wanted to kiss them for a long time.

Source:  Pinterest

World Water Day

Photo:  Hope Spring Water

Imagine this is your daughter fetching water in the container on top of her head.  It’s heavy and who knows how long she had to travel to find it.  This is the reality of girls in Africa and Asia.

Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is:  Nature for Water exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

According to the World Water Day Organization, “damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods.  Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.”

Preserving nature will keep our water clean and that will benefit us.  Polluted environment leads to polluted water which leads to poor health or death.  Water is something that many of us take for granted which is a shame in some countries, many people face a water crisis.  For them, clean water would be their talisman because it would protect them from diseases which could lead to death.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – unlocking education, work opportunities, and improved health for women, children and families across the world.

Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. We can change this.

Check out this video.

I cringe when I see how people waste water.  One of my relatives lets the kitchen pipe run while she is busy doing other things.  Once when we were visiting her and my husband saw her doing that, he turned off the tap.  All that wasted water going down the sink and there are families who don’t have any running water for bathing, washing or cooking.  Tap water is better than no water and it can always be boiled.

 

The water crisis is a women’s crisis.  And here’s why:

Photo:  Getty Images

Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. Lack of water and sanitation lock women in a cycle of poverty.

Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. Involving women can make water projects 6 to 7 more times effective. When women have access to safe water, they can pursue skills outside of their traditional roles and experience greater autonomy and independence.

Women and girls spend up to six hours collecting water.  They travel long distances to find it and then have to retrace their steps back home, carrying heavy containers.

It is a health crisis because many don’t have access to safe, clean water and as a result, many die from water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases.  Having access to safe water will reduce child and maternal mortality rates, improved health, reduced physical injuries from constantly carrying heavy loads of water and reduce the risk of rape, assault and danger and increased safety for women and girls face when they have no choice but to go to remote and dangerous places to relieve themselves.

The water crisis is an education crisis because it is the responsibility of the children to collect water for their families.  It reduces their time in class and being able to play. And 1/3 of schools lack access to basic water and sanitation.  Can you imagine this happening in your child’s school?

It is an economic crisis.  Without access to safe water, families are unable to pursue education and work opportunities that would break the cycle of poverty.  The loss of money due to lack of basic water and sanitation is staggering.  It is simply amazing how much of a difference access to clean water would make in the lives of so many people.

We are encouraged to take action because everyone should be entitled to safe water.

ADRA Canada is changing lives by providing people with new ways to access, conserve, purify and use water. With your partnership ADRA is able to provide families with life-giving water. You can help provide water to those without.

Watch this video and think about how you would like to help ADRA Canada to give the gift of water.

Sources:  ADRA Canada; World Water Day; Water.org

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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Courtesy:  Indian Country Today

It was just few days ago when I learned that March was designated as Women’s History Month.  Well, today, an identical thing happened to me which prompted me to put this post together in a hurry.  I found out just a few minutes ago that today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  I also discovered that my ignorance of the day is not surprising given that it is a little known observance day.  NNHAAD is a day geared toward drawing attention to and building support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations.  Here are some facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), women account for 29% of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses. 
  • For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NH/PI) populations given a diagnosis, 78% were men, 21% were women, and 1% were children (under 13 years of age) in 2005.
  • From 2007 to 2010, new HIV infections among AI/NA populations increased by 8.7% (CDC).

While these percentages may seem low, one must remember to take into account the size of these populations compared to more populous races and ethnicities in the U.S. For example, according to the CDC, in 2005 American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis, following blacks and Hispanics. To put this into numbers, the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008 per 100,000 persons were:

  • 73.7 Black/African American
  • 25.0 Hispanic/Latinos
  • 22.85 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 
  • 11.9 American Indian and Alaska Native 
  • 8.2 Whites
  • 7.2 Asians

Given that many of these populations live in rural areas, access to health care services can be difficult. Not to mention other roadblocks to obtaining needed services such as language and cultural barriers. Native communities have some of the shortest survival times after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS of all race and ethnicity groups in the U.S.

The report also showed that Native communities are not accessing the much needed care and attention after being diagnosed with HIV.  I also learned that about 26% are living with HIV and don’t even know it.  So, this means that since they don’t know that they have it, they wouldn’t seek medical help.  On the other hand, those who know that they have it, take steps to protect their health and take action to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Thankfully, there are public services like the IHS (Indian Health Service), an agency whose mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.  Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.  The IHS operates within Department of Health and Human Services.

The IHS National HIV/AIDS Program is committed to partnering with communities to create lasting change in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We provide programs to assist individuals, families, communities, and health care providers to:

  • Understand how HIV is spread, and share knowledge about HIV with others
  • Get tested for HIV
  • Put policies and procedures in place to offer a HIV testing as a routine part of all health care
  • Improve access to care, treatment, and prevention services needed by people living with HIV and AIDS

IHS providers throughout the country are offering screening more often, collaborating with communities to increase education, and offering care or referrals where direct care is not available. We can all help to reduce the stigma within our culture and among health care providers regarding HIV/AIDS.

I was shocked to learn that March 20, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of this annual awareness day.  I wonder how many people out there who even know that it exists.  Awareness, education and access are key.  And I applaud the many dedicated organizations that are currently working hard within the Indigenous communities to break down barriers and to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.   

The theme for 2016 was:  “Hear Indigenous Voices: Uniting the Bold Voices of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.” Last year’s was:  theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.” On this day, we recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  The theme this year is “Unity in CommUNITY: Stand Strong for HIV Prevention.

It is my hope and prayer that long after this year’s National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day passes, that more people will find ways to stand strong for the Native communities.  We have heard the Indigenous voices, stood with them as we recognized that they are impacted by HIV/AIDS and now we must stand strong for prevention.  We have heard the voices, now it is time to be united in the fight to change the tide in this epidemic which discriminates against no one.  The HIV/AIDs is not one group’s or community’s fight but everyone’s fight.

Sources:  Humanitas Global Development; Indian Country Today; Indian Health Service

Women’ s History Month

I learned today that March is Women’s History Month and it is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.  Before Women’s History Month, there was Women’s History Week, the birth child of the school district of Sonoma, California which participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day).  From 1978 to 1979, the idea to secure a National Women’s History Week lay incubated until February 1980 when it was born, thanks to President Jimmy Carter who issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the law which was passed making March Women’s History Month in the United States.  This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”  What a great theme.  Like warriors facing bitter battles with ferocious armies, women face societies, communities, institutions and governments that would deny them their rights.  Nevertheless, like phoenix rising from the ashes, women all around world are rising up, joining together and fighting for what they believe in.  Their voices are raised in unison, refusing to be silenced, in spite of the draw backs they face.  Silence is not golden.  Using one’s voice to be heard is golden.

Throughout history, women have had dreams, hopes, plans and visions which they had to fight hard to realize.  No amount of discouragement, obstacles, nay-saying, discrimination or opposition could quell those dreams, hopes, plans, visions which had taken shape.  Women clung to their faith that one day they would be able to vote, own businesses, own homes, land, get an education, work in jobs and play in sports that were predominantly male oriented.  They had to have the courage and the faith to step out, speak up and conquer a world that had long denied them and still does in some cultures, equality, recognition for their accomplishments and basic human rights.

However, despite the strides women have made in their fight for human rights, they still face mountains like human trafficking, modern slavery which target young girls, child marriage, FGM, access to safe water, realizing their self worth and potential in societies which favor boys over girls, pay equity, access to safe water and quality education.  Just this month, the organization, Freedom United is calling for action for the following campaigns:

Show solidarity and tell Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Malokhat.

Malokhat is being targeted because of her determination to expose human rights violations and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FOR GIRLS

The fight to end modern slavery today in order to help girls like Phoebe, forced into the commercial sex trade at just 15 years old.  Women and girls make up 71% of all modern slavery victims. 

These girls should be in school getting quality education so that they would have a bright future.  Sex should not something that they engage in until they are adults and married.  Sex came from God was never meant to be exploited or forced on anyone.  It was meant to be a physical and emotional expression of a husband’s and wife’s love for each other.

Help End Forced Marriage in Lebanon

Momentum is growing to repeal laws that enable convicted rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment. As well as the horrors endured by victims, this law means many women and girls where these laws exist are then forced into marriage against their will

Marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman not a man and a child.  And any law which allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape justice, should be done away with.  It is a disgrace to human decency and dignity and it violates the victim’s rights.  Marriage is a holy institution and is meant to be entered into with the consent of both the man and the woman.

Call on Niger’s President to outlaw child marriage.

Three-quarters of girls in Niger are married before they are adults. Child marriage often amounts to slavery, for example, when girls have not given their free and full consent, are subjected to control, exploited and unable to leave, so outlawing it is an important step towards protecting Niger children.

Imagine you have a young daughter and that a Nigerian girl her age is being married off to an older man.  At the age of twenty, Fati Yahaya has been married twice, divorced once, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her first child.  I didn’t have a child until I was 41 years old!  It’s so hard to fathom a young girl going through two marriages, one divorce and suffering excessive blessing following the birth of her first child.  I don’t know how many children she had afterwards or if she suffered any more hemorrhages.  And I can’t imagine giving my consent to have my daughter marry at the age of consent which is 15 or even younger when she should be in school.  I can’t imagine subjecting her to a life of “abuse and unrealized potential”.

End sexual exploitation of children in Kenya

The last place you should expect to find a child is in a brothel; yet for 17-year-old Phoebe from Kenya, this is her life.

Phoebe comes from a poor family. When she dropped out of school, she went in search of a better life – instead she has been forced to have group sex with tourists for no money.

Reports indicate that more than 50,000 children are involved in different forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  It is most common along the Kenyan Coast where the majority of tourism activities take place – in fact sex offenders travel to Kenya for this very reason: to prey on these vulnerable victims.

It’s sad that Phoebe had to dropped out of school and instead of finding a better life, she found herself plunged into a world of sexual exploitation.  A brothel is no place for anyone, especially children.  Sex offenders who travel to prey on young girls should be prosecuted and the brothels should be put out of business.  Basically, the Kenyan government needs to do something.  They need to protect the vulnerable.

Help end domestic slavery

Women and girls leave their homes every day to find jobs as domestic workers in the cities of your country.

But when they show up for their first day of work, some find out they’ve been deceived. Locked inside the homes of strangers — no contact with their families, and often beaten and sexually abused — they are caught in the nightmare of modern slavery.

What a nightmare it must be for women and children to go to what they believe is a job which will help their families only to be faced with brutality and sexual abuse.  They are cut off from their families and forced into a modern slavery.  People are not property and slavery should not have any place in our society.  There need to be tougher rules for domestic workers and anyone caught exploiting their rights should be imprisoned.  It’s time to get tough on those who exploit others.

Women’s History month is not only a celebration of the difference women have made in their communities but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go and that raising awareness is key.  When I shared these stories with my husband, he commented that there is a whole different world out there that we are not aware of.  And he’s right.  If it weren’t for organizations like Freedom United, Equality Now and many others we would have no idea of the realities that many women and girls are facing.

Sources:  Wikipedia; AJC.com; Freedom United