Latrice Maggitt settled into a second-row seat as students at Galtier Community School in St. Paul prepared on Monday to re-enact a protest that proved pivotal to the civil rights movement: the Montgomery bus boycott.

Maggitt was one of about 35 parents there, and she had reason to be proud, if not a bit anxious. Her fourth-grade daughter Niyah would be portraying Rosa Parks and, as it turns out, the girl is shy.

"Nervous?" Maggitt said from a distance in an effort to reassure her. "Why?"

The afternoon event was among many held across the district as part of National African American Parent Involvement Day. Now in its 25th year, the national initiative gives parents and other family members an opportunity to live what Maggitt sees as her own credo: "If possible, always be present," she said.

The late Joseph Dulin, an alternative-school principal who founded the celebration, said parents are an educator's greatest ally.

Elsewhere in St. Paul Monday, an African dance ensemble performed at Highwood Hills Elementary on the East Side, parents at Cherokee Heights Elementary learned how to make Montessori lessons resonate at home, and Melvin Carter, the city's first black mayor and a district parent, spoke with students and parents at Murray and Ramsey middle schools.

"I'm excited to be here today because in this room you are all who is most important in this city," Carter told the group at Ramsey.

Kimberly Hollie, of Brooklyn Park, has a son in seventh grade at Ramsey. She said she finds the community there welcoming and hopes to find ways to become more involved.

Tinaisha AbdurRazzaq lives in St. Paul and has three children in the public schools. She said it was wonderful to see the mayor speak with young people. She volunteers often in the schools, she added.

African-American parents are present in the school community in many different ways, AbdurRazzaq said.

Galtier, in the Hamline-Midway area, has a student population that is about 34% black — its largest constituency. Parents of all races, however, turned out for the performance in the school's gymnasium.

They joined students in singing: "Deep in my heart / I do believe / We shall overcome someday."

Re-enactment of the bus boycott found students marching with signs, calling for equal rights, among other slogans.

First, though, came Niyah's big moment portraying Rosa Parks — and being threatened with arrest if she would not give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger.

"I will not move to the back of the bus," the girl said. "I suppose I must go to jail."

Said her mother, "I think she did good."

Katrina Pross (, a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune, contributed to this report.