John Lewis

John Lewis Meredith dedication

On a blazing hot October 1, 2006, I heard John Lewis speak at the dedication to the newly installed James Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi.  Before the ceremony began, Mr. Lewis was standing with Chancellor Khayat, Morgan Freeman, and others who were awaiting the unveiling.

John Lewis Meredith dedication-2

I do not recall his words on that occasion, but I do know it was a moment of inspiration to hear his voice that day, and to know that I was having the opportunity to see and hear a man who had made a difference in the lives of so many people, and a difference in the governance of this nation.  His loss is a loss for all of us who seek justice.  Many things will be said about him over the course of the next few days and he will be mourned by many of us, and remembered for his recent encouragement to continue to seek justice and fairness, and I had to smile when I heard “organize. ” John Lewis 1964

In 2010 as the Social Welfare Action Alliance was preparing to hold our annual conference in New Orleans, still in recovery 5 years later from the injustice laid open by Hurricane Katrina, we established a Civil Rights Track in the program.  My job was contacting the organizers and participants during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.  In conversations with one of the Civil Rights Veterans from Mississippi, he sent me the photograph above, of a young John Lewis when he was an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee working Freedom Summer 1964 in Mississippi.  In 1964, I was 14, just a year older than the young man of 13 who is looking up at John Lewis.  I try to imagine what these young men were thinking and feeling as they planned next action steps and I cannot.  They were facing a solemn and defining moment not only for themselves, but in behalf of other people.  Representative Lewis called it getting into “good” trouble.  Mandela’s Xhosa name, Rolihlahla, meant “he who pulled the branch of a tree” but the common interpretation was “troublemaker.” Shake the tree and remember John Lewis: organize.

Desiree BNA 4

Annual Diversity Conference, UM Social Work, 2020

 

This entry was posted in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Mississippi, Social and Economic Justice, University of Mississippi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to John Lewis

  1. Sheryl says:

    I’d seen the death notice of the major news sites, but this post personalizes the story of John Lewis so much better. You have some amazing historic photos.

    Like

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thank you, Sheryl, for those kind words. It was truly an experience to have talked with many of the men and women who carried out this work in the South. While I did not meet the leaders of the movement, like Representative Lewis, I met some of the “foot soldiers” and that has been an amazing experience also.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. peggyjoan42 says:

    Thanks for posting this about John Lewis. A very nice tribute to a man that worked to move mountains for racial equality and to uphold justice for all. I am sure there are thousands of people who will miss him for a very long time.

    Like

  3. janebye says:

    I am sad that he and so many from this era, like Rev CT Vivian, are passing on from this life. I hope we can move forward with their inspiration in our hearts. I’m glad you had the opportunity to see John Lewis, and “organize” is my favorite verb.

    Like

    • Suzassippi says:

      Amen, Sister. I have been fortunate in being here to have met a number of the Civil Rights Veterans and heard from them first hand. A number of them have been at the university where I could see them, and actually meet them. And yes, they are aging out…even more than I am!

      Liked by 1 person

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