The day is March 7, 1965.
A caravan of over 600 people are marching for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama.
This group is led by a then, 25-year-old civil rights icon. We know him as John Lewis.
As the group brings their march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they are met with a familiar site: state troopers dressed in riot gear. Ready for battle.
After refusing orders to disperse, the troopers begin using force to attack these innocent patrons, John Lewis included.
Lewis was struck by a trooper in the skull, and then again when he tried to rise from the ground.
This day has gone down in history as “Bloody Sunday,” but it was made famous as being the catalyst that pushed forward the Voting Rights Act signed into action by President Johnson.
The date today is July 18, 2020, another day that will be remembered amongst those around the country. This is the day we lost an activist and icon. This is the day we say goodbye to John Lewis.
When I awoke this morning to the news of Lewis’s passing, I am ashamed to admit I didn’t know much, if anything, about this man. This beacon of hope and light. This activist who spent his entire political career fighting for justice and civil rights among the disadvantaged.
I have now spent all morning scouring the internet for all I can find about his legacy and achievements.
My heart is both full and aching this morning after realizing that I do not pay enough attention to those around me who are heroes. Heroes who go unsung amongst the masses and still fight the good fight every single day. Heroes who use their power for good, and only good, and never to pull themselves selfishly into the limelight.
John Lewis, 55 years later, watched the video of George Floyd’s murder and shed tears. Can you imagine fighting for freedom your entire life only to see it still being stripped from others decades later?
“People now understand what the struggle was all about. It’s another step down a very, very long road toward freedom, justice for all humankind.” These words were spoken by John Lewis upon watching the video of George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020
George Floyd’s murderers are still awaiting sentencing. Breonna Taylor’s murderers are still walking the streets as free men. There is a petition circulating for Elijah McClain, because after over a year, his murderers are still not being held accountable for taking the life of a young man who decided to go out for a drink at the local convenience store.
How many lives will be lost, how much bloodshed, how many knees on necks, and unlawful entries leading to murder will it take before we wake up? Before society realizes that all lives will never matter until Black lives matter?
I am a white female. I was born with privilege. I will die with privilege.
I didn’t choose privilege, and I probably have much less than most, but just the color of my skin puts me on this imaginary pedestal. One where I never worry about going out at night, driving my car, or sleeping in my vehicle in a Wendy’s, because, for whatever reason, it was safer than driving home.
It is my duty to use my privilege to help propel the voices of my black brothers and sisters and help dismantle systemic racism in this country I call home.
Do I do enough? Absolutely not. I am human. I am full of faults. Sometimes I am selfish, and sometimes I am avoidant of the negative things around me.
Will the stories of John Lewis, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X continue to move me beyond measure? Yes.
Will I try harder every single day to make sure my voice is used to amplify the voices of those we choose to not hear? Yes.
Will I be perfect in this all the time? Will I waver in my convictions? Nothing is perfect, but my convictions will never waiver to the best of my ability.
I vow to never let this story fade. I vow to never let my social media feed be free of reminders that murderers walk free in the clothing of protectors. And lastly, I vow to never stand idly by watching what is happening as if it isn’t reality.
My voice is yours—my privilege is too.
RIP to the man, the legend, the activist, and the “Conscience of Congress,” John Lewis.
“In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration’s civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. There’s not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality.” ~ John Lewis at The March on Washington in 1963