I returned from a film screening this evening to the news that Rosa Parks passed away tonight. Over the next few days many will speak with endearment and admiration of this simple seamstress who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man almost 50 years ago because she was tired after a hard day of work - and because she had had enough of the inequality she faced daily as an African-American living in the segregated South. Those people will talk about Parks in terms more eloquent that I ever could, whether it's because they knew her personally or because they remembered the time when Jim Crow ruled the land. I didn't know Rosa Parks, and I was born in a time when blacks had more opportunities, and have lived long enough to see my people (I usually hate that term, but it seems appropriate in this case) achieve even more. But I can say this:
Rosa Parks, along with Jackie Robinson, was The Origin, the spark that started the whole thing. The reason why Oprah Winfrey is the richest woman in America. The reason why Condi Rice is four heartbeats away from the presidency. The reason why Denzel Washington and Halle Berry had the chance to win Academy Awards. The reason why Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are international sports icons. The reason, frankly, why I'm still alive after a dread disease instead of dying a painful death in a segregated and inadequate hospital. And every American - black, white, or whatever - needs to take special care to read the obituaries to Parks today and play close attention to what a hero truly is.