This past Friday, when 80-year-old Georgia Congressman John Lewis died from pancreatic cancer, our country lost a pillar of the civil rights movement. He grew up in the South, the son of a sharecropper, and when he was a refused admittance into a college in Alabama, he wrote to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr for assistance. Lewis then ended up moving to Memphis to attend Fisk University and joined the civil rights movement.
Lewis was arrested more than 40 times protesting segregation. He was involved in lunch counter sit-ins; freedom rides on interstate buses; and he was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
“We’re tired of being beaten by policeman. We’re tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again,” the 23-year-old Lewis said in a speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “We want our freedom and we want it now!”
Here are just a few of John Lewis’s other messages that are worth taking to heart.
We are one people with one family. We all live in the same house… and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.
And this one exemplifies his unwavering optimism despite all of the horrors he experienced in his past.
I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious. But I never became bitter or hostile, never gave up. I believe that somehow and some way if it becomes necessary to use our bodies to help redeem the soul of a nation, then we must do it. Create a society at peace with itself, and lay down the burden of hate and division.
Long before the horrible images of George Floyd being murdered by police I was horrified by images of the protests in the south led by Martin Luther King Jr, often with John Lewis in the forefront. Those images stirred in me great anguish and also helplessness. To see the viciousness with which white law enforcement officers attacked and beat the protesters who are not doing anything violent made my gut ache and my heart break.
Through much of the early civil rights movement in the 60s Dr Martin Luther King Jr and other leaders, such as John Lewis, espoused the beliefs and ideals of Mahatma Ghandi. Nonviolence, freedom, equality, and religious freedom brought by the power of truth, compassion for others and non-violence.
In the 1963 speech in Washington, Lewis delivered a stirring call to action asking people to go back to the south and rid the south of racism, injustice, and inequality. Unfortunately, so many of those who took up that call and went to southern states to integrate schools and public places were savagely beaten and humiliated.
As I have stated here before in my blog, I participated in a small way in the civil rights movement. I joined some of my college classmates to protest housing discrimination in Detroit. We wrote letters to local and state government officials calling for an end to a practice known as redlining, which is the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices, as well as manipulating real estate to deny home ownership to black families.
in all areas.I started being aware of racial slurs by friends and sometimes, not always because I was a chicken, but sometimes I would be brave enough to call them out on it. In a small way it was an awakening of a lifelong wish that we could all be treated with respect, justice and equality.
For more about the history and legacy of John Lewis, read this story at NPR NEWS, and check out the iconic picture of Lewis in his white trench coat leading the 1965 march for voting rights. As the peaceful protesters tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, Sheriffs’ deputies and state troopers attacked the marcher in a violent assault, which became known as Bloody Sunday.
I’ve always loved the fact that standing beside Mr. Lewis is a white woman.
Some of us have dared to stand up.
That’s all for me for today folks. Please do share any thoughts you have about this topic. All comments welcome as long as they are civil, respectful, and polite. Stay safe and stay well.