PROPHETS USE WORDS to encourage or condemn. The biblical prophet Micah’s command “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8), for example, has rung in the ears of many. Language is a powerful tool for social change. However, some prophets don’t use words at all: They use their bodies.
Social prophets today that use their bodies often stand arm-in-arm in front of police barricades or walk miles for justice. But some prophets have used their bodies in another arena: athletics. And many of these prophets are women.
How many know the story of track and field star Eroseanna (“Rose”) Robinson? Some recall in 2016 when football quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Few remember that in 1959, nearly 60 years before Kaepernick’s action, Rose Robinson refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem at the Pan American Games in Chicago because, to her, “the anthem and the flag represented war, injustice, and hypocrisy,” according to historian Amira Rose Davis. By refusing to stand, Robinson used her body to speak for justice.
But Robinson was a full-time activist on and off the field. Throughout the 1950s in Cleveland, she was a leader in the Congress of Racial Equality, an interracial group of students founded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation that paved the way for nonviolent actions in the U.S. civil rights movement.