‘A reminder of how she changed America.’ UK students reflect on bus seat reserved for Rosa Parks


A front seat is reserved for Rosa Parks on a campus- bound Red Mile Lextran Bus in Lexington, Kentucky, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in honor of Parks’ birthday.Photo by Sarah Ladd | Staff

Natalie Parks

Students boarding a Lextran bus in February may have noticed a new addition—a seat reserved for Rosa Parks.

The reserved seats started on Parks’ birthday, Feb. 4, to honor her actions and “remind people of the rich history of our country and our industry,” said Carrie Butler, Lextran’s general manager.

Transit agencies across the country have done similar projects, Butler said, and “working with the library was a way to bring things full circle.”

The Lexington Public Library and Lextran partnered on the signs accompanying the seats. The signs have a blurb about Parks and a QR code that links to media the library has to offer on the subject. The two organizations have partnered together in the past, as they both recognize the influence they have in the Lexington community.

“We recognize that we have a platform and we want people to see themselves in our programming,” said Jill Malusky, the public library’s marketing specialist.

Butler said Lextran has seen positive reactions to the initiative.

“We were not even sure if anyone would notice or pay too much attention, so to get this positive feedback for both Lextran and the library means so much,” Butler said.

Malusky said that after five days of the signs being up, the library had seen an increase in check-outs on the subject. The Lexington community at large is responding to the initiative, and so are UK students. While some buses are missing the signs, most campus bus riders know about and support the project.

“I would see pictures of it a lot on my friends’ Snapchat stories,” said sophomore Abule Ababi-Fitzgerald, who rides the bus everyday.

Maya Kirkpatrick, a junior and daily bus rider, appreciated how the seats reflect history.

“I think it gives everyone a little flashback to how big of a deal it was for an African-American to sit in the front of the bus,” Kirkpatrick said. “…I like that it takes something away from all of us that used to be taken away only from black people.”

Christina Maxey, a sophomore and frequent bus rider, echoed a similar sentiment.

“It reminds everyone that things were different not that long ago,” Maxey said.

Other students described the initiative as “respectul”, “inspiring” and “thoughtful”, and agreed

that for the most part, the reserved seat stays reserved, as long as there is a sign.

“I have seen people go up to the seat and then be like ‘oh,’” Kirkpatrick said.

Parks’ protest was a simple act; the reserved seats are a simple tribute. UK students said they both speak volumes, and the Lextran and LPL partnership is helping to spread the message.

“It’s a reminder of how she changed America,” Ababi-Fitzgerald said.

The sign commemorating Rosa Parks often sits in the front few rows of most Lextran buses. The buses often pass on or near UK’s campus with routes that shuttle students between north and south campus or to off-campus housing locations.

UK students can ride Lextran buses for free so long as they have their student ID with them.