How lucky were we to have John Lewis in this world, showing up for disadvantaged people everywhere, making “good trouble” in the streets and in Congress for the duration of his life.
He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial… Mr. Lewis was arrested 40 times from 1960 to 1966. He was repeatedly beaten senseless by Southern policemen and freelance hoodlums… In 2016, after a massacre at an Orlando, Fla. nightclub left 49 people dead, he led a sit-in on the House floor to protest federal inaction on gun control.NYT, 2020
I am in awe of leaders like Lewis, like the founders of BLM, as well as leaders like Obama and AOC. They all face such intense scrutiny, death threats even, yet they continually show up to do the work that must be done. Something shines in them that is greater than the world’s vitriol, greater than the setbacks they will and must endure, something within them that is bigger and brighter and more everlasting.
Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”John Lewis, Across that Bridge, 2012
I have no doubt Mr. Lewis’s legacy will grow even stronger as the years pass. May we, each of us, carry his torch, in whatever way we can. May we, each of us, show up and continue the work of our lifetimes.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.John Lewis, 2018
*Image from the 2020 documentary Good Trouble