You, Too, Can Make a Difference

"The First Lady of Civil Rights"

On my desk at work is a card with a quote from Rosa Parks: "To this day, I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom."

My family gave me the card as a source of encouragement for my first day on the new job. It worked. Whenever I feel discouraged, I look at her smiling face and she inspires me.

If she could be brave and stand up for her rights (ironically, by sitting down), then surely I can find the courage to overcome my own obstacles. My obsession with Rosa Parks, who would've been 98 on Friday, dates back to elementary school when I heard her story for the first time.

How could this small woman spark such a big movement? By refusing to give up her seat to a White man on December 1, 1955 in the segregated South, Rosa Parks kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which became an iconic moment in the Civil Rights Movement. It struck a nerve with me and I'll never forget how I felt that day–like I could also make a difference.

From that day on, I wrote about Rosa Parks for every Black History Month project, paper, etc. My mom prompted me to broaden my scope and write about other great Black leaders, but my heart was set on Rosa Parks. I aspired to be like her.

If I'm being totally honest, I can admit I'm not doing all I can to "make this world a better place." That's why, one month into the new year, I'm adding yet another resolution: to volunteer more. I think it's important for our young girls to have positive role models in their lives. This is not to say I'm perfect nor am I the world's greatest role model, but I want young girls, especially Black girls, to know they can do whatever they set their minds to–that there are more options in life than shaking their butts in a rap video.

I don't want them to feel ashamed of the color of their skin, like I once was. I want every girl to know she is smart, beautiful and capable of anything. I want them to be confident and I want to help. This Black History Month, I encourage you to find something you're passionate about and do your part to make this world a better, happier and more beautiful place.