Five Powerful Ways to Honor Congressman John Lewis’ Memory
How we can ALL “stand up, speak up, and speak out” to continue his legacy.
Heroes walk among us and America recently lost one of it’s greatest Freedom Riders.
John Robert Lewis, the third of ten children born to sharecroppers Willie Mae and Eddie Lewis on February 21, 1940, was called home to rest on July 17, 2020.
In the eighty years that represents the dash between those dates, this giant in our midst accomplished a millennium's worth of work, including the right for me a Black woman to express myself freely on this medium (pun intended).
I would need an infinite amount of space and time to list each of Congressman Lewis’ achievements. His entire life was filled with protests and marches for justice, including the March on Selma (Bloody Sunday) that he helped organize with another young and courageous civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He served as chairman of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), an organization credited with conducting drugstore counter sit-ins and for their tireless fight to eliminate voter suppression. He fearlessly dedicated himself to the struggle for justice and equality and was selected to be one of the keynote speakers at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963 when he was just 23-years-old.
Congressman Lewis’ life was one of selfless service and dedication to building what he called “The Beloved Community” in America. He lived and fought for the rights of all people to have an even playing field during their journeys and to enjoy the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness as promised in the Constitution.
He was so powerful and poignant, his own speech was used in the United States Capitol Rotunda for the eulogy during his homegoing service.
No matter where you stand on race relations or the desire for unity in this country, Congressman Lewis’ life deserves a pause, a beat, an acknowledgment, and a tip of the hat. It is not often that a human being comes along and places the humanity of all people before his own life.
He deserves to be respected.
I do not agree with the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who did not see the value in acknowledging Congressman’s Lewis’ passing by paying his respects while he laid in state. I believe he is owed an eternal debt of gratitude for giving his life to the liberation of others.
Here are five ways that we can all pay tribute to Mr. Lewis and to continue his legacy:
- Take An Active Stance to Eradicate Racism: Congressman Lewis remained dedicated to securing equality for all Black people. There can only be one Mr. Lewis, but WE have the same power within us to make a difference in our own ways. We can start right where we are and begin to make small changes in our lives to address injustices around us. Not everyone was meant to march and protest, but something as simple as recognizing prejudices from people in our own lives and having thoughtful conversations to bring about change is a good start and a wonderful way to honor our fallen hero.
- See People From All Walks of Life as HUMAN BEINGS:
“I fought too long and too hard to end discrimination based on race and color, to not stand up against discrimination against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” — Congressman John Lewis
From being an advocate for the LGBTQ community to partnering as a sponsor for the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act and the Early Treatment for HIV Act, Mr. Lewis was actively involved in ensuring that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, were treated with the kindness, decency, fairness, and equality they rightfully deserve.
Think about your own feelings about the LGBTQ community. Are you a compassionate and active ally? Do you feel a kinship to others who may not share your own views of what love should look like? Could you do better in becoming more inclusive and engaging with people outside of your immediate circle? Honestly taking self-inventory without defensiveness is the first start to positive change in this world.
3. Commit Selfless and Anonymous Acts of Kindness: There were many causes that Congressman Lewis was committed to during his life that were not publicized and his kindness to others has been reflected in the thoughts of those he left behind. Affectionately known as the “Conscience Of Congress” because of his dedication to justice for all human beings, he brought a unique skill of helping people look inward to do their own internal work before pointing the finger at others.
Making a conscious effort to give back to our communities, showing compassion for all people regardless of their ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, or gender keeps the spirit of humanity that defined Congressman Lewis alive and well for future generations.
4. VOTE: The stories of Congressman Lewis’ defiant and determined fight to eliminate voter suppression are beyond remarkable. Risking life and limb, he fearlessly pressed on through arrests, beatings, sit-ins and marches to safeguard the Black community’s simple human right to vote. We honor him by showing up and speaking up with the power of casting our ballots in EVERY election. Each vote keeps his spirit alive and renews faith for the future.
5. Get Into “Good Trouble”: Standing up for justice, speaking up about racial and gender inequality, and speaking out about prejudice against the LGBTQ community are all perfect ways to channel Congress Lewis’ spirit and getting into some “good trouble.” Defending the rights of all Americans may not always be well received by a portion of the population who refuses to honor the Constitution in it’s entirety, but it is a necessary process to achieve a more perfect union.
Congressman Lewis’ younger brother Samuel Lewis said it best:
“Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way. … But we all know that John got in trouble, got in the way — but it was good trouble. John was different from the rest of the family, and he would have thoughts that all of the troubles he got himself into would change the world. I am so honored that John was my brother.”
I am honored to have shared the earth with you, Mr. Lewis. Though we never met, I pledge to honor your memory and to get into as much “good trouble” as I can for the rest of my days. I have no doubt that the Lord smiled on you and offered you these three precious words when you arrived:
JOB WELL DONE.