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Rosa Parks Day commemorated

Published Dec 13, 2009 10:00 PM

An overflow crowd heard Larry Holmes, keynote speaker at Springfield Technical Community College’s 5th annual Rosa Parks Day observance on Dec. 1. The predominantly African-American audience of more than 230 included high school students and local elected officials, among them State Rep. Ben Swan and Ward 4 City Councilor-elect E. Henry Twiggs, co-founder of the Springfield Rosa Parks Day Organizing Committee.

All three area television stations interviewed Holmes and provided coverage of the event. Holmes was also interviewed by a local Webzine that focuses on issues in Springfield’s African-American community.

Larry Holmes speaks in Springfield, Mass.
Photo: Arlene Rodriguez

Dr. Arlene Rodriguez, the college’s first Latino/a dean, moderated the day’s proceedings, which were co-sponsored by the STCC Mobilization Against Poverty, Racism and War.

Springfield’s African-American Freedom Choir opened the program with a moving rendition of “Eyes on the Prize.” Dr. Ruth B. Loving, a member of the choir, met with Rosa Parks in Springfield during the late 1950s.

An aide to Springfield’s mayor, Dominic Sarno, read a proclamation declaring Dec. 1 “Rosa Parks Human Rights Day” in the city.

Professor Nicholas Camerota, the event’s principal organizer, reminded the crowd of the legendary civil rights leader’s radical history. The printed program, written by Camerota, pointed out that Rosa Parks became a Black Nationalist, who gave one of the eulogies at the funeral of Robert F. Williams, an advocate of armed Black self-defense.

During his talk, titled “The Real Rosa Parks,” Holmes explained the event’s purpose was not just to educate people about Rosa Parks, but to inspire them to take action. He drew parallels between conditions of the African-American community in the 1950s and now, and stressed the need for Black/Brown unity in today’s struggle against globalized capitalism and mass media that attempt to isolate and pit workers against each other.

Holmes’ speech was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd, which was largely comprised of youth. To close the event, the entire audience stood and, led by the Freedom Choir, sang several verses of “We Shall Overcome.”