For Rosa Parks’ birthday, Detroit Pistons provide free bus rides, bus driver jackets

The Pistons have a slate of festive Black History Month initiatives planned this month

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The Detroit Pistons have teamed with the estate of civil rights icon Rosa Parks as part of the organization’s Black History Month celebration aimed at serving the community. 

The Pistons have partnered with Priority Health and The Knight Foundation to provide free bus fares to Detroiters on Friday and Monday, the Detroit Free Press reports.

A display of Rosa Parks’ infamous 1955 arrest photo in Montgomery, Alabama is shown during a memorial service for the civil rights icon in 2005. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Staffers at the Rosa Parks Transit Center were gifted 500 jackets from the Pistons that bus drivers from the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) will wear on Feb. 4, Parks’ birthday. They will also receive free tickets to a Pistons home game, per Pistons.com.

Additionally, local artist Desiree Kelly created Rosa Parks-inspired artwork that will adorn two DDOT buses and four bus shelters across the city. 

“Mrs. Parks’ heroism and activism helped initiate a civil rights movement that changed U.S. history and continues to this day,” said Pistons chief business officer Mike Zavodsky.

“We are honored to kick off the beginning of this year’s Black History Month in collaboration with the Rosa Parks Estate. As we celebrate her life and place in our nation’s history, recent events demonstrate that significant work remains to advance equality and social justice for all. Our organization will continue finding ways to enhance economic opportunity, enrich youth education and support voting rights.” 

The team is also launching a line of Rosa Parks-themed merchandise, with part of the proceeds supporting Parks’ estate. They did not respond at publish time to an inquiry about a breakdown of the proceeds confirming what percentage goes to the estate, and who receives the rest.

Bus drivers are gifted with special Rosa Parks jackets courtesy of the Detroit Pistons and the Rosa Parks Estate. (Pistons.com)

When Parks relocated to Detroit in 1957 she worked as an administrative aide in Congressman John Conyers Jr.’s office from 1965 to 1988. In 1987, she and her husband founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which served the city’s most vulnerable kids.   

Elaine Steele, the co-founder of the institute and a lifelong friend of Park’s, called the Pistons collaboration a “celebration of Rosa Parks’ legacy.”

“Mrs. Parks would be pleased with the Pistons’ celebration of her legacy and, more importantly, with its outreach to the community,” said Steele.  “As Mrs. Parks said, her mistreatment on the bus did not begin with her arrest in 1955 — she ‘did a lot of walking in Montgomery’. Today, the public buses in the city of Detroit provide a critical artery for transport in the region and are ridden, driven and administrated by folks who will never be forced to the back of the bus again.”

“Detroit is honored to be a part of Mrs. Parks’ legacy,” says C. Mikel Oglesby, Detroit’s executive director of transit. “DDOT was one of the transit agencies to honor her after her death with black ribbons on the front seats of our buses. And when the new transit center opened downtown in 2009, it was a no-brainer to name it after her.” 

“DDOT could not function without our dedicated operators,” he adds. “We’re thrilled to work with the Pistons to help recognize the hard work of our operators on Mrs. Parks’ birthday and every day.” 

The Pistons reportedly have a slate of festive Black History Month initiatives planned, including “HBCU Night” at Little Caesars Arena on Feb. 26.

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