It totally makes sense that Rosa Parks’ birthday, February 4, has been designated the Day of Courage. Parks took a stand against racism by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger—which helped ignite the bus boycotts that followed. After becoming a leader to help end segregation, Parks soon made the natural transition to wanting to help others who needed to be freed from slavery: animals. She was a vegetarian for more than 40 years!
Many civil rights leaders, past and present, have realized that as long as one form of prejudice exists, no form of prejudice can be completely done away with—which is why civil rights and animal rights are so deeply connected:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him that it is right.”
Alice Walker: “If I’m eating food I know was a creature in a cage, it brings up memories of segregation and the stories from my ancestors, of being in captivity and denied their personalities, their true beings. Animals were not made for us, or our use. They have their own use, which is just being who they are.”
Cesar Chavez: “Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton: “So I say if KFC wants to take [African-Americans'] money, and use it to pay for sloppy practices that hurt animals, I say we send them a message that this is not going to happen. I’m calling on people to boycott KFC until they adopt animal welfare systems recommended by PETA.”
Russell Simmons: “The more I opened myself up to the idea of the full scope of exactly what non-violence translates to, the less interested I became in consuming the energy associated with the flesh of an animal that only knew suffering in his/her life and pain and terror in its death.”
Dexter Scott King: “If you’re violent to yourself by putting [harmful] things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that [violence] onto someone else.”
Rosa Parks didn’t just refuse to give up her seat on the bus—she refused to give up her humanity. She refused to accept that oppression is “just how things are.”
In honor of her, please encourage your friends and family to get rid of the last of their personal prejudices by sharing your favorite quote from above on Facebook or Twitter. It’s never too late to make the connection.