As Black History Month comes to an end and we witnessed the first statue of an African-American woman unveiled at the U.S. Capitol this week, I wanted to share with you Toyota’s own relationship with one of the most iconic women in history—Rosa Parks.
Ms. Parks would often visit the Los Angeles area and stay approximately 30-45 days. During this time, she needed transportation to get around Southern California. She never asked for Toyota to assist her—the initial request for a vehicle loan came from former U.S. Congresswoman Diane Watson who approached us and let us know that Ms. Parks had a difficult time getting around town. We did not hesitate to help. Despite the fact that she did not drive and would have someone else drive the vehicle, she still expressed interest in the mechanics of the car and some of its features.
Toyota was so touched by Ms. Parks and honored to have been of assistance to a national treasure and civil rights icon that the company decided to honor her legacy by contributing to Ms. Parks’ own charity, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
Throughout my career with Toyota, I have had the good fortune to travel abroad and to meet prominent politicians; but one of the most memorable events of my life was when I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Ms. Parks. After several years of delivering vehicles to her and hosting her for short visits to Toyota, I was asked to join her along with Ms. Elaine Steel, co-founder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute. We saw the movie Rosewood, which is a very sad tale of racially motivated conflict in Florida in 1923, and later enjoyed lunch together. The afternoon was, and still is, so unforgettable for me!
This is a memory I certainly will not forget. Ms. Parks was such a wonderful, courageous individual… She was also very humble about her place in U.S. history. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to spend time with her, and that today I can share that experience with you.
How have you been inspired by our nation’s civil rights icons?