"Do it scared.”
- Ruth Soukup
As we begin Women’s History Month, I am astounded when I reflect on the scores of unsung heroines who have changed our world. Women, who were all too often relegated to the fringes of the annals of American history until the latter part of the 20th century, have consistently been at the epicenter of change. Our World Changer of the Month for March, Claudette Colvin, is no exception. In 1955 at the age of 15, Colvin refused to give up her seat for a young white female passenger on a public bus. She effectively, in the words of her pastor, “brought the revolution to Montgomery.”
However, for decades, Ms. Colvin was relegated to the fringes of history by men at the helm of the civil rights movement who preferred to utilize the image of Rosa Parks for various reasons, including their determination that her class, marital status, skin color, hair texture and other characteristics made her a more desirable test case. Parks was the type of lady who complemented the image of the well-dressed alpha male icons that dominated the civil rights movement headlines at that time.
But Claudette Colvin, the first person in Alabama to refuse to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, was not a man; nor was she a middle class, professional, married woman. And by her own account, her decision to resist compliance with a racist law, was motivated by two civil rights icons who had walked the earth long before her, neither of whom were men; nor were they women from a preferred social stratum. Colvin later recalled in an interview that she felt the spirits of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman telling her to remain in her seat and compelling her to resist.
We can learn a great deal from Claudette Colvin, a young Black woman without resources or connections, but with the special ingredient that mattered most: courage.
In the words of author and speaker Ruth Soukup, “Courage doesn't mean we are never afraid, courage is simply daring to take action, despite our fear.” Ms. Colvin was scared to remain in her seat, but she did it anyway.
Is there something that you feel you need to do? Something that is scary and that will force you to traverse uncharted territory? Something that you’ve been putting off because you’ve convinced yourself that someone like you can’t achieve something like that? If so, please remember Claudette Colvin, the scared, 15-year-old girl from the wrong side of the tracks who started a revolution by doing it anyway.