Congressman, John Lewis was my hero. Out of all of the civil rights leaders I wanted to meet, he was at the top of the list. I had an opportunity to meet Congressman Lewis at a book signing for his #1 New York Times Bestseller, "March," in Chicago, but unfortunately, I could not make it. So, I regret not making an effort to meet him. I look at all the photos on my friends' social media that had the opportunity to meet and take a picture with John Lewis and feel both envious and a little jealous.
I loved it when John Lewis talked about writing a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King wrote Lewis back with a round trip ticket on Greyhound to Montgomery to meet.
When Lewis met Dr. King at the historic First Baptist Church, Dr. King said: "Are you the boy from Troy?" Lewis said, "Dr. King, I am John Robert Lewis." But Dr. King still called him the "Boy from Troy."
John Lewis' was the last survivor of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (Whitney Young (National Urban League), A. Phillip. Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), Martin Luther King Jr. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference ("SCLC")), James Farmer (Congress of Racial Equality ("CORE")) and Roy Wilkins (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in August 1963.
(Harry Harris, File/AP Photo)
One of John Lewis' legacy was Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. Along with Hosea Williams, Lewis led hundreds of marchers who were marching to the state capitol in Montgomery to protest the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson, who was shot by police in Marion, AL, during a peaceful protest.
When they arrived at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named after a Confederate General and Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, they were met with Alabama state troopers. Seeing the videos and photos of John Lewis getting hit with a nightstick and Amelia Boynton Robinson, the first African American woman in the state of Alabama to run for Congress, laying on the ground after being tear-gassed and beaten unconscious, and several marchers past and present, I think about how they risked their lives for me to have the freedoms to travel without a Green Book, to get an education and most importantly the right to vote!!!!!
This year, before the pandemic, I participated in the 55th Anniversary Selma to Montgomery Bicycle Ride. I rode 54 miles from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the Montgomery State Capitol. It was the most amazing experience that I was proud of and will always remember.
After the bike ride, I found out there was a Prayer of Healing for John Lewis at the APEX Museum in Atlanta. It was a beautiful event with some of John Lewis' friend's in attendance to pray for a speedy recovery.
According to a 2013 press release, Lewis was arrested 45 times, and he wore that with a badge of pride and dignity. There is the "John Lewis Good Trouble" wall at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport domestic terminal atrium.
I had a dream that I was on Capitol Hill walking around looking for John Lewis' office. When I reached his office, I knocked on his door a few times, no answer. I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I was sad that I traveled all the way from Chicago to meet him, and he was not there. As I left his office, I stopped to check my text messages. Suddenly, at the corner of my eye, a man was standing next to me. It was John Lewis. I looked at him, screamed, fell to my knees, and wept at his feet thanking him for putting his life on the line for me and getting into good trouble. It's because of him and what he sacrificed (blows to the head, being arrested, called Nigger, etc.) that I am able to travel the world.
John Lewis and minister and civil rights activist, C.T. Vivian, crossed over to the ancestors holding hands. I know their brothers and sisters: Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams, Roy Wilkins, Rosa Park, Amelia Boynton, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Farmer, Joseph Lowery, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and others welcome them with open arms.
I'm looking forward to the renaming of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to honor the memory of John Lewis. Lewis nearly lost his life on that historic bridge fighting against racism and injustice. To donate: https://johnlewisbridge.com/
Rest in Power John Lewis and C.T. Vivian.
“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
"Leadership is found in the action to defeat that which would defeat you… You are made by the struggles you choose." - C.T. Vivian