Last Friday (July 17th), we lost two American heroes and trailblazers: Minister C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis. Both Lewis and Vivian worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and were leaders in their own right as well.
These Civil Rights giants put their lives on the line for equal rights. Their service was their life and their life was their service.
Their advocacy never really ended. In a brief conversation I had with Minster Vivian in 2017 it seemed like he was not truly satisfied. The same can be said for Congressman Lewis. They acknowledge the progress but had no intention of settling in and finding comfort.
Yes, both fought for voting rights of Black people and now we have that, but there are still elements of their activism and advocacy that remain slightly altered, not truly changed. That is why they continued to lift their voices.
For example, in voting, although everyone now has the opportunity, the privilege to vote without being harassed or challenged to a written test, there is still modern-day voter suppression. Those hour-long lines on voting day, out-of-date voting machines, and the lack of voting machines in highly populated areas, are just a few examples of modern-day voter suppression.
Minister Vivian and Congressman Lewis taught us so much. I am filled with gratitude as I write this because their courageousness brought about change. They encouraged people to see that right is right. Period. It did not matter about party affiliation or politics. Right was right, even if it meant breaking current laws to prove it.
The lives of Minister Vivian and Congressman John Lewis deserve continual celebration. Their commitment to better for not only Black people but everyone is something I am striving towards. Their love for all was well-evident in the way they lived, spoke, and advocated; it’s inspiring to say the least.
As I think of the achievements and life of Lewis and Vivian, I am reminded of many of their peers who were snatched from this world because of their advocacy, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. Civil Rights leaders deserve to grow old.
I will never understand how advocating for human rights provokes a type of violence that caused C.T. Vivian to be punched in the face in Alabama, for John Lewis to be beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, for Martin Luther King, Jr. to be assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel, and for Medgar Evers to be assassinated on the doorsteps of his home.
Our Civil Rights leaders, of the 1960s and today, deserve to grow old. John Lewis lived 80 years. C. T. Vivian lived 95 years.
Even in old age, they were passionate about civil and human rights. Their willingness and passion to purse better and push those around them to do the same is something we must continue.
The baton has been passed to you and me… Although monumental, their spirit of greatness must be continued. So, let’s go get in some “good trouble”.