What do you think of when you hear the words, “change agent”?
For me, I think back to my chemistry teacher in junior high school, who demonstrated to us a “chemical reaction.”
The teacher would take one liquid from a test tube and pour it into a beaker filled with another liquid.
You know what happens next.
The liquid mixture in the beaker would react—it would transform into another color or bubble up to produce a gas. Remember that?
Well, the liquid from the test tube is the “agent” that acts upon the liquid in the beaker to produce a chemical reaction, a “change”.
So what is a change agent?
Taking from this chemistry lesson, people who are change agents, then, take action on a condition to produce a transformative reaction.
I know that there are many people who are angry, frustrated, and disappointed in the current state of our nation.
So, for those who want to engage in making a change, the question is:
“How can we be the change agents who take action on the conditions in our country to produce a transformative reaction?”
Well, let us consider Rosa Parks, a change agent who contributed to the transformation of her community and our nation by taking these three actions.
Change is a process over time, not a singular event in time.
The legendary civil rights activist’s singular act of defiance on December 1, 1955 was heroic and significant, but it was a singular event in time.
It reflected the actions of many civil rights activists before her as well as her own education and activism around civil rights, and it ignited the people of Montgomery who were ready to take on this fight.
Build your capacity for change.
For Mrs. Parks, her act was born out of her experiences as a child watching the Ku Klux Klan marching down the street in front of her house as her grandfather guarded the front door holding a shotgun and her experiences as the secretary of the NAACP in Montgomery.
According to an article in 2005 by E.R. Shipp, Mrs. Parks remarked:
“My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest,” she said. “I did a lot of walking in Montgomery.”
Mrs. Parks became active with the NAACP in 1943, twelve years before her refusal to move her seat, where she investigated the gang-rape of Recy Taylor, a black woman from Alabama and she worked on the murders of activists George W. Lee and Lamar Smith in Montgomery.
She reportedly was deeply saddened and angered by the acquittal of the two men who murdered Emmett Till. In the summer of 1955, she attended an education center for activism in workers’ rights and racial equality.
So, by the time Mrs. Parks sat on the bus in Montgomery on December 1, 1955, she was fully prepared to act.
Join others who want to work for change.
Mrs. Parks action animated the NAACP, the Women’s Political Council, and the black churches in Montgomery to boycott the buses the very next day.
Due to its success, they decided to create a new organization, the Montgomery Improvement Association, to lead the boycott. They chose as their first president, a relative newcomer to Montgomery and young and unknown minister from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, well, the rest is history.
What’s the takeaway here, you ask?
Well, you may not be the change agent who performs a heroic act like Mrs. Parks. but you can be the change agent who works with a community of people who want change and who seize upon the opportunities to engage others in change.
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