DETROIT — Nearly 500 people, both dignitaries and ordinary citizens, packed the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Monday to honor civil rights legend Rosa Parks and witness the unveiling of a postage stamp in her honor.
“When she sat down, she made the whole country stand up for what is right,” said Congressman Gary Peters, D-Mich., one of several local and national officials who spoke at the unveiling.
City Council President JoAnn Watson presented a resolution declaring Monday Rosa Parks Day in Detroit.
“Mother Parks was a revolutionary,” said Watson, noting that her work as an activist continued well after she moved to Detroit in 1956.
Monday would have been Parks’ 100th birthday.
Elaine Steele, who co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, challenged those present to continue Parks’ fight for justice by joining and supporting the Detroit-based institute.
“Together we must carry forth the legacy,” Steele said.
Former Detroit Deputy Mayor Adam Shakoor said her spirit remains with the people.
“I believe she is still with us, encouraging us to be courageous, to love each other, to move forward, and to progress, not just the race, but the human race,” said Shakoor, who also had been an attorney for Parks.
Several of Parks’ family members were present for the unveiling.
“This stamp is a great part of history,” said her cousin, Loretta White. “It’s wonderful to be here to see it.”
After the official unveiling, people crowded the stage to take pictures of the stamp, and later lined up in the foyer to purchase the forever stamps.
A husband-wife couple purchased the stamps for different reasons.
“I am a stamp collector,” said artist Mark Mardirosian, 59, of Grosse Pointe Park, who purchased stamps and pre-stamped commemorative envelopes.
But his wife, attorney Elaine Mardirosian, 57, was there to honor Parks.
“I’m here to honor and acknowledge this wonderful woman,” she said.
During the ceremony, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he had been inspired by Parks.
Hartford Baptist Church pastor emeritus Charles Adams called Parks the midwife in the birth of the greatest civil rights leader since Jesus.
“If there had been no Rosa Parks, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.,” Adams said in an interview after the ceremony. “And her feet weren’t hurting; she said, ‘What hurts is to be mistreated.’”
Activities celebrating Parks will continue at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich., where a second unveiling of the stamp will take place.