“Trails of troubles, roads of battles, paths of victory, we shall walk.” These are the words from Bob Dylan’s 1964 song, “Paths of Victory.” If there is anyone whose life reflects these lyrics, it is that of a black seamstress from Alabama who rose to become a national treasure. It is the life of Rosa Parks, and we honor her memory in the wake of her death
Former President Bill Clinton once said, “We must never ever … forget about the power of ordinary people to stand in the fire for the cause of human dignity.” Today, many civil rights leaders are ordinary people who have a vision for equality and unity. Civil Rights pioneers paved the way for thriving local and national, civil and social rights activists, such as “Cousin Jeff” Jeff Johnson and Dr. Cornell West.
Jeff Johnson is an acclaimed political expert and the new voice of urban consciousness. He is the host of a new quarterly forum, Cousin Jeff Chronicles, which airs on BET. It is designed to expose the social and civil issues plaguing minorities and get to the heart of serious issues. It enlightens not only urban America, but all of America.
Johnson raises social and political awareness in young adults by focusing on subjects relevant to their culture and their environment. Johnson is the former national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, the same organization that Parks was secretary of in 1955, and has been seen on MTV, C-SPAN and featured in the Washington Post, USA Today and the New York Times. Another significant trailblazer in the fight for equality is Dr. Cornell West.
This prominent American scholar is a professor of religion at Princeton University. This politically savvy educator has written several publications dedicated to social, political, religious and civil awareness. West is devoted to teaching ways to unite blacks and all citizens. West, along with Tavis Smiley, a NPR television and radio host, and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted a national “Pass the Mic” tour. They stopped at Temple’s Liacouras Center and spoke with students and local citizens on being aware that everyone is a critical agent in social and civil transformation.
Both Johnson and West can carry on Rosa Parks’ legacy through academia and urban culture. If our nation continues to produce leaders such as Johnson and West, we will continue to move forward in the fight for civil rights for everyone.
Jennifer Ogunsola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.