Syracuse's Rosa
by Elisha Peck

Rose with her favorite sign.
Photo:Carol Baum


If you heard someone say, "She devoted her life to fighting for civil rights and against segregation," you might think of Rosa Parks, who died recently. But do you know local activist Rose Mannara? Her similarity to Rosa Parks goes beyond her name. Rose is also a dedicated civil rights activist.

Rose Mannara, an 81 year-old Syracuse native, was honored on October 24 by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for her work with the civil rights movement. Rose traveled to Montgomery, Alabama where her name was placed on the SPLC's Wall of Tolerance, a 20 by 40 foot black granite structure which "records the names of people who have pledged to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance… Those who place their names on the wall make a commitment to work in their daily lives for justice, equality and human rights - the ideals for which the martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement died" (www.splcenter.org).

"I am honored [for the award] and she [Rosa Parks] died the day after I came home," said Rose. Rose has worked for civil rights and peace for over 30 years and it is something that always came to her naturally: "It is very much my religion, and I believe that everybody is equal."

In the 1940s Rose volunteered at the Brady Faith Center on Syracuse's south side and started a library program. She worked with teenage girls, teaching them cooking and arts and crafts. Rose went to demonstrations in Selma, Alabama with Father Brady and then quickly found herself more involved with the civil rights movement. In the '60s Rose moved south to work with the NAACP and the St. Landry Parish of Louisiana. "The lunch counters were all segregated and I was trying to integrate them. I would make reservations at a restaurant and then when my friends came to eat they would turn us away."

One Fourth of July she got on a bus and sat down. A little while later a young black boy sat next to her and the bus driver made him get up and go to the back of the bus. She yelled at the bus driver, "Leave him alone - he can sit with me!" However, the frightened boy remained in the back. She admonished the boy to, "Fight for your rights, don't let him do that to you."

Rose stayed in the south for most of the '60s, returning home to Syracuse late in the decade. She continued her work locally with Father Brady. "Jobs were hard to find in Syracuse. Father Brady worked to help educate the young people and I taught classes there with him." Rose hopes that she will inspire a younger generation to work in their community and also to value education. "Everybody has rights and it's important to work to better their conditions in life. Get an education!" Rose is still working for justice in Syracuse. She is involved locally with the Syracuse Peace Council, Pax Christi and the NAACP. She enjoys doing the weekly peace outreach (see SPC in Action), attending mass and protesting national and local issues. In September, Rose traveled to Washington, DC on an overnight bus ride in order to protest the war in Iraq. She described her trip with enthusiasm and genuine passion for protesting: "We marched for about five hours, marching and marching, but I felt good!"

The Syracuse Peace Council thanks Rose Mannara for her dedication to this community and beyond. She has truly impacted the lives of many and has inspired even more to make change in their communities.

Other local activists were also honored or invited to be honored. John Brule, who is involved with the ACLU, Peace Action and SPC was honored on the Wall of Tolerance but was not able to attend the ceremony. Bill Cuddy, who is involved with Pax Christi and Jail Ministry, was also invited to attend the ceremony.

Elisha, a Le Moyne student interning with the PNL, had fun interviewing Rose.


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