Sculpture of Rosa Parks inside bus at the National Civil Rights Museum and the site of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Muni declines to reserve a seat for Rosa Parks

During Black History Month one city official asked Muni to install seats on its buses to honor Rosa Parks, the pioneering civil rights leader who in 1955 famously refused to budge from her bus seat in the face of racist segregation policies.

Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the southeast of San Francisco and made the request at the behest of one of his constituents, said it would be a powerful way to honor Parks on The City’s transit system.

Tuesday, Muni gave its answer: No.

Instead of honoring Parks with modified Muni bus seats, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will honor her during women’s history month, March, with an advertising and social media campaign called #RidewithRosa.

Not only will the campaign honor Parks’ life, but also honor three trailblazing San Francisco women who pushed for equal rights on Muni and public transit companies that predated Muni in the 1800s.

An SFMTA spokesperson confirmed the agency’s idea does not include a seat on buses to honor Parks.

“We feel that a campaign to honor Rosa Parks’ contributions is more visible, powerful and educational than designating a single seat on our vehicles,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

The idea is a good one but ultimately fell short for Walton, he told the San Francisco Examiner.

“This is a great start,” he wrote in a statement, but “we still have a community of folks that feel Mrs. Parks’ legacy should be honored with a permanent seat on Muni and we will continue to push for that.”

The campaign will focus on women pioneers from San Francisco’s transit history, including poet Maya Angelou, a former San Francisco cable car grip; Charlotte Brown, who fought against segregation on The City’s horse-drawn streetcars; and Mary Ellen Pleasant, who in the 1860s took her fight for the right to ride San Francisco streetcars to the California Supreme Court.

Regarding Walton’s idea to honor Parks, SFMTA Director of Communications Candace Sue told the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday, “we appreciated this idea, and thought it was a great time to come forward with some ideas and recommendations for your consideration.”

Walton, however, felt this put San Francisco behind the nation.

“I wouldn’t be a supervisor in SF without the courage of Mrs. Parks and many leaders of the civil rights movement,” he said. “Let’s not let other less liberal and less equity focused cities make us look like we don’t honor black history property.”

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