April 29th, 2010 10:40 EST
Dollie Parks, A Hero of The Civl Rights Movement
"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." - Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, but the Civil Rights Movement continued. Dollie Parks, one of the unsung heroes of the Movement, would recruit her twelve year-old niece, Janie Johnson, for an unusual task: to serve as the fitness trainer for Dollie and her friends. "Marching is hard work, child," Janie would recall years later. "We need someone young and strong, like you, to help us older ladies to get ready."
This is one of many memories that Janie has of her aunt, who turned 108 on August 23, 2008. It is possible that she is the oldest living person who had personal interaction with Dr. King.
Janie, a retired Counselor from the University of Texas at Dallas, remembers that Dollie, who worked in the nursery of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said the following about Dr. King: "I remember young Martin when he was two years old. He was very smart as a toddler. When he heard the organ playing in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, he would run out of the nursery and be there in a split second. He did not like to miss church." Janie also recalls Dollie saying that she knew that Martin would be special one day. "He was special, even when he was small."
Dollie lived in close proximity to the King family. She still resides in the house in which she can see the King family home from her back window. So close was Dollie with Dr. King, that she was part of a group of single women, whom Dr. King advised not to participate in the seminal event of the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. "Dr. King told Dollie and her single friends not to participate in the boycott, because they were single women and because they could provide just as much assistance to the Movement from the inside," says Janie.
Dollie decided to accept Dr. King`s advice. At the time, Dollie worked at Rich`s Department Store, in downtown Atlanta. She would work at Rich`s for a total of forty-four years, both as salad maker and as a baker. When Dr. King decided to boycott Rich`s Department Store, a bastion of Atlanta segregation, Dollie provided Dr. King with a daily report of activities.
During one such report, Dollie informed Dr. King that she overheard a conversation in which the owners told each other, "We`re going to let the Blacks have their own cafeteria. We`re going to let the men`s bathroom be their cafeteria." After informing Dr. King of this as well as other developments, Dr. King possessed valuable information, which he and other civil rights workers utilized to boycott successfully Rich`s Department Store.
"Dollie was a silent, unsung hero. She participated in every march that Dr. King organized. She provided Dr. King with valuable information, from the inside. She had a strong sense of justice. I think that is what motivated her to wage her silent, yet determined fight against injustice."
When asked what helped Dollie to form such a strong sense of justice, Janie provides a powerful, poignant answer. "I think that Dollie was angry, angry at white people. From the time she was a child, right up to the time she was an adult, Dollie would watch her father, Aaron Wilson, cut her family members down from the trees, on which the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups had lynched them." Janie continued: "I think that she was scarred from this experience. Yet, she didn`t let her pain imprison her with hate. Instead, she transformed her pain into protest."
Dollie did not just fill her life with protest. Always a hard worker and a fiercely independent person, Dollie began working at age two, picking cotton on a plot of land leased to her father by a white landowner. When Dollie witnessed her father having to give the majority of the crops grown on the land to the landowner, Dollie decided that she would not rest until she moved her father and mother out of Coweta County, Georgia.
This began a working career that would last seventy-three years. Dollie worked until she could move, with her sister to Atlanta. She worked until she could move her parents, Aaron and Lettie, to their own house in Atlanta. She worked until she could provide quiet assistance to the personification of social justice, Dr. King.
As Janie prepares to celebrate Dollie`s 108th birthday with a host of family and friends, she is filled with pride and love. "Dollie has been my rock. She has been a powerful source of counsel to me, even until today."
Michael D. Teague is the CEO of Peak Performance Publishing, LLC, a publishing company, and Peak Performance Communications, LLC, a speaking and event management company. Michael started these companies he founded to assist people to live a better quality of life. Also, he is the founder and Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship International Church, located in Piscataway, New Jersey. Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit and drive to excel, Michael published independently Rise and Walk! Seven Steps to Purposeful Living.www.michaeldteague.com
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