Special to CSMS Magazine
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” a proverb in the United States that means to be direct, speak up, and make sure your views are heard. Although I’m not an American-born, I can see the true essence of this proverb, which means to be expressive and to speak out. The reason why I choose this proverb is that I am from the Caribbean and speaking out or trying to make our views heard is not always seen as the right thing to do. However here in, you are encouraged to speak up, be direct, and make sure your opinions are expressed and heard in the clearest form. Everywhere you go in America, you are encouraged to speak out. If you don’t, then you are not likely to move ahead, especially in the work force.
The person and movie that I think depict the cultural struggles to make Black America strong is legendary Rosa Parks and her life story. During the fifties, Rosa Parks had to deal with a lot of misfortune due to being black; but because she was vocal and would not keep quiet, she remains a legend in the eyes of many Black Americans. This proverb “the squeaky wheels get the grease” is a very good example of her being famous.
During the time when racial segregation was in full force, Rosa Parks did not just speak up; she was the voice for many black women and men longing for equal freedom to make their views heard. Because of her strong will and persistence in riding the bus and refusing to give up her seat to a white male, it created an uproar when she was arrested. After her arrest, black citizens made it a part of their duty to boycott the public bus system because they were tired of being placed in the back of the bus and, in some cases, had to give up their seats to white passengers. Rosa Parks was the one who made it possible for black Americans to have some equality in a white male dominated society. Rosa Parks today is an icon and a legend for Black Americans. Without an icon like Rosa Parks, Black Americans would not have the same rights in relationship to our culture and everyday lives.
On September 9, 1996, President Bill Clinton presented Rosa Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the U.S. executive branch. In 1998, she became the first recipient of the International Freedom Conductor Award given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. There is also the Rosa Parks Library and Museum on the campus of Troy University in Montgomery that was dedicated to her on December 1, 2000. It is located on the corner where Parks boarded the infamous bus. The most popular items in the museum are the interactive bus arrest of Mrs. Parks and a sculpture of Parks sitting on a bus bench. After her death in 2005, her casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days, so the nation could pay its respects to the woman whose courage, strong will, and persistence of not to let racism demean her life had changed the lives of so many. She was the first woman and black woman in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.
Rosa Parks will always be a legend and also the woman that helped reform civil rights for black Americans. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
Note: Desreen Clarke is a student at Nova Southeastern University, near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She majors in Education.