sunday marked two years since the deaths of two giants of the civil rights movement. On July 17, 2020, Rep. John Lewis and CT Vivian passed from respected elders to honored ancestors. Now, two years later, amid attacks on democracy and the rollback of rights that both men fought for, there is strength in remembering their words and work.
Leading political figures used the day to commemorate their lives and work and encourage people to follow in their footsteps. Former President Barack Obama tweeted that everyone should follow in Lewis and Vivian’s footsteps.
“John Lewis and Rev. CT Vivian have dedicated their lives to fighting for freedom and equality,” Obama tweeted. “They believed we could recreate this country until it delivered on its full promise, and now it’s up to all of us to follow in their footsteps.”
sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock shared a photo of him sitting with Lewis to honor and reflect on the life of his “hero, mentor and parishioner.” Even before taking office, Warnock was a persistent voice in the fight for voting rights and the protection of democracy.
“In his honor, we must continue to fight today and every day to ensure that every American has access to the ballot box, and until then we will #good problems in his name,” Warnock tweeted.
Lewis’ successor in Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, Representative Nikema Williams, had her own taste of good trouble in late 2018, when she was forcibly arrested by the Georgia Capitol Police while observing her voters during a protest demanding that every vote was counted. While some have tried to compare that question to every county vote, to the fraudulent claims that have arisen after 2020,
“Two years ago we lost a giant and a hero in Congressman John Lewis,” Williams tweeted. “I also lost a friend whose memory I cherish dearly, from his visionary leadership to little things that brought a twinkle to his eye. We honor his legacy by always responding to #GoodTrouble.”
In the past, many of his former colleagues across the aisle claimed they revered and respected him, but stopped supporting efforts to reinstate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Shortly after his death, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Lewis advocated, was named after him. .
After state lawmakers quickly moved to invalidate the measures passed in 2020 to make voting more accessible and roll back other protections and from access to abortion to how we can talk about race in education, it’s clearer than ever. become that we can not resist. In many ways, honoring the legacies of Lewis and Vivian is about protecting democracy and ensuring that people can continue to enjoy the rights and freedoms that have both been fought to provide for all.
Unfortunately, as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights noted, freedom to vote and democracy itself are not guaranteed. “It must be practiced and protected,” the organization tweeted. “With ongoing threats to voting rights across the country, it is up to all of us to continue his fight.”
In 2015 Vivian spoke with Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now”” about why it’s important to keep pushing and fighting for voting rights.
“There’s nothing we haven’t done for this nation,” Vivian told Goodman. “But we continued to know the scriptures. We continued to live by faith. We continued to understand that it is something deeper than politics that makes life worth living.”
Reflecting on the lives of both men is more than a call to the ballot box. Their lifelong commitment to voting rights and democracy encouraged others to take organized action year round, not just during election time.
The time is now for all of us to consider how we are ready and willing to appear in this moment. There are many organizations involved in the issues throughout the year and more. Find one that matches your personal politics and throw it away.
“Democracy is not a state,” Lewis once said. “It’s an act.”
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