On Friday, the world lost John Lewis, who spent his entire life fighting for civil rights, equal justice, Black suffrage, and the conscience of America. Here at The Prompt, we honor the life and legacy of this incredible man, not just with our words, but by encouraging you to REGISTER TO VOTE.
John Lewis was living history, a breathing monument for all to bear witness. He was a link to the past and an invitation to cross a bridge to a future bereft of white supremacy, dehumanization, and injustice to anyone. And while he may have left us physically, John Lewis will inexorably live forever, as the struggle indeed continues. And it will need to continue if we are to truly honor his life.
Meeting him will remain a highlight of my life. His humility was a blanket and a reminder, his smile was a beacon, and his tender voice—complete with undeniable power—along with the cadence of his speech were the embodiment of effortless mastery. He was a master of the principled struggle that Frederick Douglass reminds us is necessary to usurp iniquitous power structures. May he rest in power and may this generation of Black Liberators take the torch I know he willingly gives to us to maintain the prophetic Black fire. The old shall become new and the new shall become powerful.
Whether it’s a personal failing or one of the education system of the 80s and 90s, I first learned about Rep. John Lewis for his reputation as “the conscience of Congress.” His presence transcended the average Congressperson for reasons that could neither be seen nor touched, but felt with the heart. It wasn’t until later that I found out Lewis belonged in the same breath as Martin Luther King, Jr. And if MLK should go down as the greatest orator in history for his sweeping speeches and powerful voice, may John Lewis’s “Good Trouble” be the “I Have a Dream” for the TikTok generation.
In times of moral ambiguity, John Lewis’s voice rose above the clamor to lead people forward. He did not seem to view his life as only his own. Over and over, he made “good trouble,” risking the beat of his own heart, because he knew it could benefit millions upon millions of people, and in turn, the entire world. Although the world no longer has John Lewis and his commanding presence to turn to as a guide, it does not mean his message has gone quiet. If there is one thing I will take from his legacy, it’s that even when things seem hopeless, we can still keep raising our voices. We can still pull into the light what people would rather keep in the dark. We can still, when necessary, cause good trouble.
Can you imagine the courage it would take to get on that bus and ride through the Jim Crow South in 1961? Can you imagine the selflessness of giving up your freedom, your safety, and your body so that others might someday be granted equal protection under the law and the right to vote? Can you imagine serving 17 terms in Congress and coming out unscathed, un-jaded, and with your conscience intact? Can you imagine the fortitude it would take to be 80 years old, riddled with pancreatic cancer, and fighting the same battle for civil rights and racial justice that you took up when you were 21?
And after enduring all of that, can you imagine still being optimistic?
We will miss John Lewis’s voice and moral compass, but I believe he is still the very soul of the racial justice movement, happening as we speak. Unwavering, bright, and always righteous, John Lewis has solidified himself as one of the all-time greatest Americans.
Whenever American heroes are enumerated, the list is crowded with people like John Lewis, rabble rousers working against an unjust system. We never name the Villains, the counterpart to the Heroes. John Lewis was a hero. Who was the villain? The American government. Muhammad Ali was a hero. Who was the villain? The American government. Dolores Huerta is a hero. Who was the villain? The American government. Marsha P. Johnson was a hero. Who was the villain? The American government.
Someday, white Americans will fully comprehend our government as a continuum that reflects us. Then we will stop electing leaders and creating a government who necessitate the creation of heroes.