- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Rosa Parks, the woman whose act of defiance sparked a national civil rights movement, was remembered yesterday as a peaceful promoter of justice during a standing-room-only service at the District’s Metropolitan AME Church in Northwest.

An overflow crowd of hundreds lined M Street across from the church to pay their respects and listen to the three-hour service, which was broadcast through speakers on the church lawn.

“I spent time in Alabama in the ‘60s, and the difference she made was great for me,” said Calvin Newsome, 64, a retired mechanic who lives in Northwest. “It gave us more backbone to say, ‘Look here, this has got to be done.’ We have to keep her memory forever, there’s a lot more to do.”

D.C. resident Pamela White brought her two daughters — Kendall, 5, and Storm, 4 — to pay tribute to the woman who paved the way for the civil rights movement.

“It’s important that they understand this history and how important Miss Parks is to what they’re going to be able to do when they grow up,” she said.

A group of students from Seaton Elementary School in Northwest took a brief field trip to line up on the church’s sidewalk, holding signs reading, “Thank You, Mother Rosa” and “Rosa Parks — She gave it all she had.”

“It means a lot to me to be down here because I never met Rosa Parks, and my mom told me a lot of stuff about her,” said Tony Davis, a fourth-grader at Seaton. “I think it was important she didn’t give up her seat on the bus so we could stop segregation.”

Mrs. Parks, 92, died Oct. 24 while napping in her home in Detroit. She is credited with starting the civil rights movement when she refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

Inside the church, the audience listened to 13 civil rights activists, politicians and friends pay tribute to Mrs. Parks, the crowd standing and cheering several times during the course of the service.

“The people here today are not here because Rosa Parks died,” said Adam Jefferson Richardson, African Methodist Episcopal second district bishop, “but because she lived graciously, effectively and purposefully.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, served as master of ceremonies.

“In great humility, Rosa Parks’ gift was not the message that I am doing this to free you,” said Mrs. Norton. “Her message was far more direct: Free yourself.”

High-ranking Washington political and government officials from both parties were in attendance, including Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican; Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Also in attendance were TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey and actress Cicely Tyson. Both celebrities spoke during the service.

The service came after a night in which an estimated 50,000 people passed through the Capitol Rotunda to pay their respects to the civil rights icon, whose body lay in repose under the dome — the first woman and the second black person so honored.

After yesterday’s ceremony, the casket was flown back to Detroit and transported to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. It will lie in repose there until tomorrow. A service will be held tomorrow at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, after which she will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.

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