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mobilizations and uprisings

From 1955 to Today, Recognition of Struggle is Key to Transit Equity

By Leo Blain - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 2021

What were you doing when you were 15? Homework, sports, parties, dances: these are standard fare for 15 year-olds. 

Claudette Colvin was no standard 15-year old, though. When she was 15, she sat down on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refused to give up her seat to a white person. She was arrested and wrongfully charged with assault and battery. Despite being just 15 at the time of her arrest, Colvin was booked into a cell in Montgomery’s adult jail. When Colvin’s pastor, Reverend H.H. Johnson bailed her out the evening of her arrest, he told her that she had “just brought the revolution to Montgomery.”

And, she did it on March 2, 1955: Nine months before Rosa Parks’ similar and much more famous action. 

Colvin brought a lawsuit along with three other women that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and led to the legal desegregation of the Montgomery bus system. When the Montgomery bus system was desegregated Colvin wasn’t invited on the first desegregated bus. Neither was Parks. In fact, none of the women who were among the first to be arrested in protest of the segregated bus system were invited. Five men took the first ride: Martin Luther King Jr., E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy, and Glenn Smiley, and Colvin’s lawyer, Fred Gray. [2]

Spurred by what she had learned in Black history classes at school, Colvin was the first person to be arrested for refusal to surrender in Montgomery. She was the first person in Montgomery to make a legal claim that transit segregation violated her constitutional rights. The contemporary civil rights movement starts with Claudette Colvin’s act of near-unconscionable bravery, yet she has been largely erased from the history books. 

After Colvin’s arrest, she was ostracized by many community members and struggled to find work after high school. She got pregnant soon after her arrest, and due to her pregnancy and the preference of civil rights leaders for Rosa Parks as the face of the boycott, Colvin was largely cast aside by the very movement she had sparked. Ultimately, her perception in Montgomery became untenable and she moved to the Bronx where she worked in relative obscurity as a nurse. 

In recent years, though, Ms. Colvin has found a champion in movement leaders such as Samuel Jordan, founder of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition. For Jordan, telling Colvin’s story is both long overdue and a critical piece of his work towards transit equity in Baltimore and nationwide. Baltimore has a pattern of public transit policy that is harmful to marginalized residents and has been used to manipulate Black youth. If Claudette Colvin’s story of taking a bold stand against transit inequity can get the attention it deserves, maybe the young people who are victims of transit inequity today can have their voices heard too. 

India Farmers’ Protest: Peasants around the world send messages of solidarity and support

By Staff - La Via Campesina, January 6, 2021

Braving harsh weather and an apathetic government, Indian farmers continue to camp at the national capital demanding that the Central Government roll back the three controversial legislation that was brought in late last year. The sixth round of negotiations, held on 04th January also failed to make any significant progress as the national government refuses to repeal the three laws.

As per the latest updates, another round of talks will take place on 20th January. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India has passed an order and has put on hold, until further orders, the implementation of the three laws. The Court has also named a committee to suggest — in two months — what changes, if any, were needed after it listens to all sides. The farmers organisations have raised doubts about the neutrality of this committee, and has vowed to not leave the national capital unless the three legislation have been repealed.

Speaking to a news channel earlier in January, Yudhvir Singh of Bhartiya Kisan Union reiterated the following

“The government thinks that protesting farmers will soon disperse because of the biting cold and rains in Delhi. They are wrong. We are farmers, and we often face these conditions in our fields. So the harsh weather will not deter us, and we will not leave until the three laws are repealed. And farmers everywhere are protesting – not just UP, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Farmers in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP etc are all camping at their state borders…We are nearly 500 organisations from around the country in this protest.” ~ Yudhvir Singh, BKU after the meeting on 04th January failed to make any progress.

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