This Black History Month, the Detroit Pistons are partnering with the Rosa Parks Estate to honor the late civil rights activist and her connection to the city. Parks, who moved to Detroit in 1957, co-founded her nonprofit, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, in the city with her longtime friend Elaine Steele.
“Mrs. Parks’ heroism and activism helped initiate a civil rights movement that changed U.S. history and continues to this day,” says Mike Zavodsky, the Pistons chief business officer, in a press release. “…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.”
In collaboration with Priority Health and The Knight Foundation, the organizations are offering free bus fare to Detroiters this Friday and next Monday to celebrate Park’s Feb. 4 birthday. To kick off the initiative, the team gifted 500 jackets, featuring “Rosa Parks” in cursive on the back, to bus drivers and staff at the Detroit Department of Transportation this morning. The jackets, which will be worn by city bus drivers on Feb. 4, are part of a commemorative Rosa Parks merchandise line.
Customers can shop the full collection, which also includes T-shirts and hoodies, starting Feb. 4 on pistons313shop.com. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
Each city bus driver will also receive tickets to an upcoming Pistons game, and a group of drivers will be honored at the team’s Feb. 4 game at Little Caesars Arena. Additionally, two buses and four bus shelters are being wrapped with artwork inspired by Parks by Detroit artist Desiree Kelly.
“Mrs. Parks would be pleased with the Pistons’ celebration of her legacy and, more importantly, with its outreach to the community,” says Steele in a press release. “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.”
The Pistons have more Black History Month initiatives in the works, including the team’s 17th Annual Black History Month Scholarship Event, which awards Detroit high school seniors $50,000 in scholarships; an HBCU Night at the Pistons’ home game on Feb. 26; and a team visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28.
For more from the Detroit Pistons, visit nba.com/pistons.