Civil Rights icon, philanthropist, Democratic Representative, and Martin Luther King’s number one right hand man John Lewis died on Friday July 17, 2020 at the age of 80. On July 26, Rep. Lewis was carried against the very bridge he fought so hard for Blacks to walk across. His casket was draped with the American flag symbolizing the iconic leader’s fight for social injustices and a peaceful fight for change. In Selma, Ala., thousands of people witnessed the tremendous amount of change the civil rights icon bought to their city of Selma, Alabama.
As the body of Lewis went over the same bridge where he was beaten, many were saddened by the sacrifice Rep. Lewis had to face causing him severe head injuries and jail time administered by angry law enforcement officials and others who did not want to see Blacks cross over into Selma, Alabama. Today those same law enforcement agencies honored Lewis. The State Troopers of Alabama picked up and carried on their shoulders the iconic civil rights leader’s casket in honor, respect and memory of his landmark actions for peace and social change as they placed him in his carriage.
As our grandparents used to tell us: “I may be dead or gone, but change will eventually come.” Today we have lost so many of our civil rights iconic leaders. Most of our civil rights leaders have endured years of racism, severe beating, harassment and jail time. Many have lost their lives in their struggle so that Blacks will have rights and their lives will matter. Although everyone’s life should matter, no one has suffered so intensely in 2020 as people of color. The older generation of civil rights leaders are dying out. We have to begin to use their knowledge, peaceful stand, and mimic what Congressman John Lewis said in his dying days: “…fight for fairness even when it is good trouble for us.”
We thank John Lewis as well as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and so many other iconic civil rights leaders who have now passed on. The torch is in all of our hands. To all of our civil rights leaders, thank you for the ‘sit ins’ at restaurants for us. Thank you for drinking out of fountains of water that was not designed for us. You wanted change to come, so you took that first drink. Thank you for sitting at the front of the bus because you wanted everyone to feel like an American human being. Thank you, my civil rights leaders, for Black Wall street because you wanted everyone to have financial prosperity and not just some. Although they burned the Black Wall Street’s financial prosperity down, they did not burn our entrepreneurial spirit. Today, minorities have prosperous businesses all over the world because of our forefather’s civic Black Wall Street Landmarks. It is painful to think that so many of our civil rights leaders were stressed, beaten and mentally battered. The blessing of it all is that they were never broken. Social change happened because of them.
Being Black in America (thanks to civil rights leaders such as Rep. John Lewis) does not mean we want handouts. It simply means we only want a chance or an opportunity to feel equal. To all of our civil rights leaders who have come and left us to sit at the table of heavenly angels, thank you for sacrificing your life and families, so we can all have a better quality of life.
In reading the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rep. John Lewis, I can see in their photos the tiredness and their worry for the nation. They had our souls on their backs and they did not want to let us down. I can see in their eyes on photos and documentaries that at times the fight was becoming too overwhelming—but they continued on. However, our beloved Rep. Lewis was able to see his hard work and fight for rights pay off as America witnessed their first Black President, Barrack Obama. Although America may never possibly see another African American hold the highest office in the United States again, thank you John Lewis and so many other civil rights leaders for going down in the history books for making change not only in America but all over the world. Thank you, our beloved Rep. John Lewis for your undying love to make change a priority. Rep. Lewis, because of you and so many other civil rights leaders who are now sitting in heaven, you have started a collation to continue the fight for change and to showcase to the world that “all our lives matter.”
(The opinions and information provided in this report are not necessarily the opinions of the Nashville Pride, which cannot be sued for the opinions of the journalist.)