Thousands of students near Montgomery, Ala., walked Thursday, not only to mark Rosa Park's historic act, but to look forward.
For 16-year-old Wynton Moore, remembering the past is as much about making a commitment to the future as it is about honoring the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.
"We need to keep reminding ourselves about our history," said Moore, one of thousands of city youth who participated in the Montgomery Children's Walk to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. "Rosa Parks and the whole Civil Rights Movement laid a foundation for us, and we need to keep building on it."
Thursday's walk, co-sponsored by the Center, took place 50 years to the day after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Thousands of students from Montgomery and surrounding towns walked from the site where Parks' famous act took place to the steps of the Alabama State Capitol to not only mark the event, but to look forward.
"We're continuing a legacy that began 50 years ago," said Dwight Martin, 17. "We as a people need to make forward progress. We need to continue to take steps to make ourselves better and make this a greater community. We're here to show that we care."
As they walked to the Capitol, students sang popular anthems from the Civil Rights Movement and held hands. They paused at a 1950s bus refurbished to look like the same one on which Rosa Parks was arrested. They paused again at the steps of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor.
Upon arriving at the Capitol steps, students heard from a number of speakers, including legendary civil rights activist Johnnie Carr, winner of the 2004 Rosa Parks Woman of Courage Award, who reminded the students of the walk's theme.
"Look back, but march forward," Carr told the students. "I want all the young people to look around and see the things you are now able to enjoy. I beg you, I admonish you, to look and to see what has happened in the past, and move forward and see what you can do for the future.
"I hope that we will come together because united we stand, and divided we fall."
Later, local civil rights activist and bus boycott participant Gwen Patton looked at the diverse group of students in front of her and told them, "This is what we were dreaming about in '55. Not just for black and white people from around the world, but for black and white people and people of all colors who are residents of Montgomery, Alabama" to come together.
The students also heard from two of their own, including 12-year-old Courtney Meadows, who encouraged his peers to continue their quest for knowledge of their past.
"I don't want you to listen and then go home and forget. I challenge you to learn more, said Meadows. "Today, we must make a commitment to stand up for our rights by saying 'No, I will not accept what is wrong.'"
Students who took part in Thursday's walk said that participating in the event was the first step toward making the commitment Meadows asked of them.
"We were not able to create change back then because we weren't around," said 17-year-old Ashley Robinson, "but now we have a chance. If we know our history, we can determine our future."
Montgomery lawyers Wayne Sabel and Maricia Woodham developed the idea of having children walk to honor the Montgomery Bus Boycott.