In memoriam

The news is out: [John R. Lewis, a civil rights leader who preached nonviolence while enduring beatings and jailings during seminal front-line confrontations of the 1960s and later spent more than three decades in Congress defending the crucial gains he had helped achieve for people of color, has died. He was 80.]

They didn’t slaughter him; they couldn’t. He survived the cops, the firefighters and the white mob’s hatred from racial slurs, lynching, beatings, jail, water cannons, to police horses and dogs.

John joins the list of the great Moses who did so much for the people. He will forever be in my heart, along George W. Ashburn, James Caney, Vernon Dahmer, Jonathan Daniels, Medgar Wiley Evers, Andrew Goodman, Fred Hampton, Hakim Jamal, Leon Jordan, Martin Luther King Jr, George W. Lee, Viola Liuzzo, Malcolm X, Print Matthews, Melvin X, Harriette Moore, Harry T. Moore, William Lewis Moore, Edwin T. Pratt, James Reeb, Michael Schwerner, Lamar Smith, Sammy Young, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Fred Hampton, Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Pete O’Neal, Robert Hillary King, Charlotte Hill O’Neal, Geronimo “Ji- Jaga” Pratt, Fredrika Newton, Elbert Howard aka Big Man, Ericka Huggins, Malik Rahim, Sundiata Acoli, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown), Herman Bell, Veronza Bowers, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore aka Eusi Zulu Heshima, Ruchell “Cinque” Magee, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom), Ed Poindexter, Pete O’Neal, Mutulu Shakur, Russell ‘Maroon’ Shoatz (aka Russell Shoats), Kamau Sidiki (aka Freddie Hilton), Seth Ben Ysaac Ben Ysrael (aka Robert ‘Seth’ Hayes), etc…

In Marion, Alabama, Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old deacon participating at a peaceful protest, was brutally beaten and shot by an Alabama state trooper on 18 February and later died.

On 7 March 1965, John Lewis was one of over 600 demonstrators who lined up two-by-two on the street in Selma and marched six blocks from Brown Chapel AME Church, the organizers’ de facto Selma headquarters, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, spanning the Alabama river. A photograph shows him two rows behind civil rights leader Hosea Williams and now-congressman John Lewis.
There were Alabama state troopers on the other side. Mauldin remembers a colonel telling marchers “This is an illegal gathering. Either go back to your churches or go home.” The group had bowed down to pray when the state troopers began to storm them with billy clubs.
Mauldin was near Lewis as he was brutally beaten by the trooper. “I’ll never forget the sound of his head being crushed. I’ll never forget that.”
Tear gas dispersed the crowd, and Mauldin ran to the river’s edge for a gulp of fresh air.
That day would become known as Bloody Sunday.

After two or three days, Alabama state police on horseback surrounded the group on a neighborhood street and charged at them.
“When you see a big beast rearing up in front of you with their hooves in the air getting to come down on you or near you, it’s terrifying,” Michel said. “It was just a moment your heart stops and you think, ‘I’m going to die’.”

Today, the protesters of BLM are responding to generations of police brutality and systemic racism, a desperation fueled by a pandemic and an economic crisis that have hit black Americans disproportionately. A mass movement has come together to say: we’ve had enough.
It’s not just Americans. All over the world, citizens are protesting the marginalization of communities of color. Still, virtually nothing has been done to address racial and economic inequality in decades. Words, yes; action, not so much. Those who have the power to effect meaningful change have failed to do so.

Let’s honor their legacy by teaching our true history to our children.

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