I wanted to take this opportunity on the day we lay John Lewis to rest to say thank you, Mr. Lewis, Thank You for your life dedicated to causing GOOD TROUBLE to see that America lives up to the words upon which it was created, that all men are created equal.
In 1961 at the tender age of twenty-one, he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. Mobs of racists beat Mr. Lewis, but that did not deter John Lewis. He would not let others’ hatred and violence stop him from fighting against the evils of segregation.
A little over a year before I was born, on March 7, 1965, a twenty-five-year-old John Lewis led the Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a bridge named after a confederate general and KKK grand wizard, on a day that would come to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the brutal attack foisted upon Mr. Lewis and the other marchers. The actions of Mr. Lewis and those protestors led President Johnson to promise to send a voting rights bill to Congress that week. He was issuing an immediate statement “deploring the brutality with which a number of Negro citizens of Alabama were treated” On March 15, the president convened a joint session of Congress, outlined his new voting rights bill, and demanded that they pass it. In a historic presentation carried nationally on live television, making use of the most extensive media network, Johnson praised African-American activists’ courage. He called Selma “a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom” on a par with the Battle of Appomattox in the American Civil War. Johnson added that his entire Great Society program, not only the voting rights bill, was part of the Civil Rights Movement. He adopted language associated with Dr. King, declaring that “it is not just Negroes, but it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. The bill was passed that summer and signed by Johnson as the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. This is widely considered a watershed moment in the Civil Rights movement.
In 1988, the year after he was sworn into Congress, Lewis introduced a bill to create a national African American museum in Washington. The bill failed, and for 15 years, he continued to introduce it with each new Congress. Still, each time it was blocked in the Senate until finally, in 2003, President George W. Bush signed the bill to establish the museum. The National Museum of African American History and Culture held its opening ceremony on September 25, 2016.
Today as an African American, every time I freely walk-in the voting booth without the fear of being turned away because of my skin color, I owe it to the actions of Mr. Lewis.
Every time as an African American, I travel to the south without using a separate bathroom or being turned away from a restaurant because of the skin color. I owe it to the actions of John Lewis.
Every time I travel with a white friend in the south as an African American, we can ride next to each other I owe it to John Lewis.
To the day he was taken from us to his eternal life with the Lord, Mr. Lewis remained faithful to the cause, his mission, to give a voice to those who had no voice, to fight for racial equality, to cause as much GOOD TROUBLE that was needed to ensure America never forgets that all men are created equal.
Thank You, Mr. Lewis