“As a little boy, I wanted to be a minister. I wanted to preach the gospel,” says Congressman John Robert Lewis, “so from time to time, I would gather all of our chickens together in the chicken yard… I would start preaching. When I looked back, some of those chickens would bow their heads; some of those chickens would shake their heads… If it hadn’t been for the Lord Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be standing here; I thought I was going to die on that bridge [on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama]… God kept me here to help out a little more….”
And now Congressman Lewis is walking towards the heavenly wind. My God has called him home!
Indeed, this Alabama son of sharecroppers born on February 21, 1940 has “helped out.” Anchored in the Christian ethos of activist evangelism in the public square, Lewis was a man who served as a minister for social justice. He was Bloody Sunday…
“It was Bloody Sunday. March 7, 1965…. about 3:00 pm. It was 600 of us walking in an orderly, peaceful, non violent fashion… We got to the edge of the bridge. We saw a line of Alabama State troopers… A man identified himself and said I am Major John Cloud of the Alabama State Troopers; this is an unlawful march. You will not be able to continue. The young man walking beside me from Dr. King’s organization by the name of Hosea Williams, said major give us a moment to pray, and the major said, ‘troopers advance.’ They came toward us, beating us with night sticks… I was the first one to be hit… my legs went under me; I thought I saw death… I thought I was going to die.”
Congressman Lewis served nobly as a public servant. He was one of the longest serving members of the United States Congress; he represented the 5th Congressional District of Georgia. In addition, he mentored students from across the globe.
Congressman John Robert Lewis, author of the autobiography Walking with the Wind, served humanity with purpose for the same reason he returned to Selma, Alabama for symbolic marches from Selma to Montgomery.
“[I] come to Selma to be renewed;… [I] come to be reminded that we must do the work that justice and equality calls us to do.”
Congressman Lewis’ deep soul kindness was sanctioned by a movement that called upon him to be the boy-child of the civil rights movement who grew to be one of its greatest models of peaceful civil disobedience.
I understand why the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “boy from Troy” into his family of activists. I hear Congressman Lewis calling each one of us into a “beloved community.” I hear him telling the family of Americans called Black American to continue the work of the fore-parents. Congressman John Lewis is resting now. He has finished his work in the vineyard. I imagine he is walking into the heavenly gates. My God has called him home.
Sleep well Congressman John Lewis, sleep well.
Dr. Ramona L. Hyman is a writer, speaker, and professor “whose words are powerful memories for us to walk in the 21st century,” says Sonia Sanchez. Presently, Hyman serves as Chair and Professor of the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Oakwood University. Dr. Hyman is a graduate of Temple University (BA), Andrews University (MA), and earned her PhD from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. She is the author of I Am Black America. Of her literary work, African American critic Dr. Joyce Joyce says, “Hyman challenges audiences to explore a poetic imagination grounded in a feel for the southern landscape, African-American literary and political history, Black spirituality, and a creative fusion of Black folk speech with a Euro-American poetic vernacular. Dr. Ramona L. Hyman emerges as a strong Black intellectual poetic voice.”
Image: President Barack Obama hugs Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., after his introduction during the event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., March 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) / Public Domain.
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