Courage & Conviction
"THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES"
How history got the Rosa Parks story wrong
by Jeanne Theoharis
The Washington Post
The name Rosa Parks is synonymous with courage and defiance in the face of injustice. However, Parks is often painted as a “quiet” civil rights hero—a seamstress with a meek disposition who was on her way home from work and just too tired to get up and move to the back of the bus. This characterization does a grave injustice to the freedom fighter and activist. In fact, writes author and Parks scholar Jeanne Theoharis, Ms. Parks was a “lifelong activist who had been challenging white supremacy for decades before she became the famous catalyst for the Montgomery bus boycott.” To Parks, speaking out against racism and oppression was “fundamental.” She recognized from an early age that denying the right of black people to do so “was key to the functioning of white power.” Parks spent her entire life speaking up and fighting back, determined to rebel against systemic racism, sexual aggression against black women in particular, and prison rights for female inmates. Thus, on December 1st, 1955, it was after years of activism that Parks “[reached] her breaking point on the bus that December evening: ‘I had been pushed around all my life and felt at this moment that I couldn’t take it any more.’” Parks’ message until the day she died was that “The Struggle Continues…The Struggle Continues.” How is the struggle present in your life today?
"A HIGHER MISSION"
The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan
by Roghul Khairzad
The most important thing to know about Roghul Khairzad is that she is a survivor. She is also a mother, a sister, a senator, and a human rights activist from Afghanistan. Due to her role as a human rights champion in Afghanistan and her political involvement in a country largely ruled by the Taliban, Khairzad has endured multiple attacks on her life. These attacks include a brutal assassination attempt in August 2013 in which she was shot nine times by the Taliban. One of her daughters was killed in the attack and another paralyzed; Khairzad also lost her brother. This past January, she was again attacked when gunmen opened fire on her car, leaving her in a two-week coma and her son, having witnessed the attack, suffering immense emotional trauma.
Rather than giving up, Khairzad reinvested in her work. She writes: “As soon as I came out of hospital after the first attack I went straight back to work…I wanted to show them I can continue working. And I wanted to motivate other women to carry on their work too.” Today, although she has had to leave Afghanistan and continues to fear for her life and her family’s, Khairzad continues to spread her message and educate the world about her country’s horrendous treatment of Afghan women, saying, “I’m not giving up politics. I will continue fighting, I will continue to stand for the rights of Afghan people. If you have a higher mission in life, it can be important enough to keep you going.”
"I ADVOCATE FOR A FAIR SYSTEM"
A Matter of Conviction
by Jeff Balke
In 1992, when he was just 26 years-old, Anthony Graves was wrongfully convicted of brutally murdering a family in Burleson County, Texas. For this crime, he was incarcerated for 18 years—12 of which he spent on death row. He faced lethal injection twice before his 2010 exoneration for a crime he didn’t commit. “’For 6,640 days, I was always innocent. I never lost hope because that never changed,’” he tells writer Jeff Balke in this recent article on the case and his life.
After being exonerated with the help of the Texas Innocence Network and awarded $1.4 million dollars by the state of Texas, Graves realized that it “’[didn’t make sense] to go out on an island and drink from an umbrella. That’s not taking my life back.’” Instead, Graves has committed his life to seeking justice for others, “first as an investigator for Texas Defender Services, assisting attorneys with capital murder cases, and then on his own as a consultant, communications specialist and advocate for a better criminal justice system.” He also brought to task the District Attorney that handled his case so poorly in 1992.
Graves serves not only as a lesson on perseverance—and the gaping holes in the American legal system—but also as an inspiration to those fighting against racial inequality and for criminal justice reform. “’I had to go through what I had to go through…so I could better teach what people need to be taught about our criminal justice system.’”
Have a listen to Macklemore and Leon Bridges new song “Kevin,” described by NPR music as “a funk-flavored tirade against the ravages of addiction, with a particularly scathing indictment against over-prescription of medication.”
The song is a timely artistic narrative of an epidemic affecting some of the most marginalized in the United States and beyond.