The Congressman is today an American hero, yet once upon a time he was, according to Ms. Sherrilyn Ifill, the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund whose commentary last night preceded that of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a rebel rouser who was rather unpredictable.
“Many of us today are impatient with young people and maybe resist the activism of young people, but so, too did people resist the activism of John Lewis, and look at what he did for this country,” Ms. Ifill, who reminded the audience that Mr. Lewis was age 21 when he sat-in at lunch counters, 22 on the Freedom Rides and 23 when he orated at the 1963 March on Washington, said.
The celebrity Mr. Lewis presently enjoys wasn’t an expectation of his. The goal, he said, was never to win awards or achieve fortune and fame but rather to make the world a better place.
“We were just ordinary people with an extraordinary vision,” the Congressman remarked after receiving his Liberty Medal.
He later added: “We truly believed by refusing to comply with what was wrong, we could get our nation to do what was right.”
Early on, Mr. Lewis’ life was, especially compared to his current circumstances, truly ordinary for a black boy like him in the segregated South. He was born to sharecroppers, attended church religiously – he acquired a nickname: ‘The Preacher’ – and had little money.
The Congressman – who today represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District – has one of those improbable biographies that is uniquely American, Ms. Ifill said, who added that Mr. Lewis “shows the joy of a life commited to justice.”
Despite holding an elected office, Congressman Lewis is very much still an activists. Most recently he joined his colleagues in a sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on gun control. And he’s also an author and educator; to his credit exist now a graphic novel trilogy entitled ‘March,’ that’s written like a comic book, which seeks to explain the Civil Rights Movement to young people.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Mr. Ed Rendell, who said the Congressman’s dedication and courage is an inspiration to us all and should be known to kids, last night announced that his nonprofit organization will donate 368 copies of the book to every 5th grade classroom in the Philadelphia School District. Additionally, Mr. Rendell will purchase 54 copies for all the library branches in the City.
From the days portrayed in the book, Mr. Lewis argues that we have come a long way; though, we, the people, “still have a great distance to go to fulfill the promise of a true democracy.”
“We don’t yet have true equality for all men and women, black and white, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been thanks to men like Congressman John Lewis,” stated Mayor Kenney.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photos courtesy of the author.