At first glance, it seems an unlikely setting for an endearing and lasting interracial friendship forged between a computer executive-turned-hotelier, H. H. Leonards, and Rosa Parks, mother of the Civil Rights movement—who’d sat down with dignity, refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Ala. bus. Their longtime friendship is conveyed in Leonards’ Rosa Parks Beyond the Bus: Life, Lessons, and Leadership (R. H. Boyd).
Back in 1985, Leonards opened The Mansion on O—a unique, eclectic inn in Washington, D.C. aiming to nurture diversity and the human spirit. At the request of an NAACP representative who’d heard she operated an in-house Heroes in Residence Program, she opened her door and her heart to Parks.
This businesswoman-turned-innkeeper and a Black activist from the Jim Crow South, although never on a first name basis—they addressed each other as Mrs. Parks and Lady H—formed a deep connection. Leonards’ book shares the wisdom she gained, as well as humorous and touching anecdotes, such as when Parks was driven past the Secret Service in her yellow school bus to the White House door to meet with Presidents Clinton and Bush I.
Recollections of conversations are concise but inspirational—occasionally overly so. Describing an assault that dislodged the then-ailing octogenarian’s pacemaker, Leonards gives the impression that Parks’ strong will and spirituality were enough to put the pacemaker back into place, straining credulity.
“Mrs. Parks challenged boundaries her entire life, and I believe she should be remembered for more than just one incident—even though it was pivotal,” Leonards says. “While always respectful, Mrs. Parks was a warrior against an unjust social order.”
The wisdom, spirituality, and love conveyed in this book have a welcome place not only during the holidays but in our troubled world today. The author shares Parks’ philosophy, borrowing the Judaic term Tikkun Olam: Repair the world with love. –Karen Feld (A member of the O Museum Board)
Read the original article at NYCityWoman.com