Reflection: How Can We Pay Tribute to John Lewis?

By Lalo Alcaraz

How can we possibly pay tribute to a man who did as much as John Lewis did in his lifetime?

The man who was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington at the age of 23, the man who put his life on the line for voting rights in an incident later known as “Bloody Sunday,” and served 17 terms as a Congressman for Georgia.

His life was dedicated to activism — both practicing it himself, and encouraging others to get into “good trouble” as he liked to call it.

Of all the issues he cared about, voting rights was arguably one of the ones he held most dear. It’s one of the issues that I care most about, and this is probably why I felt so sad all weekend.

I recall vividly the day when my father asked me who I was planning to vote for in my first election (I had just turned 18) and I told him I wasn’t really “feeling” any of my choices and he lit into me with a lecture about the importance of voting. At no point during the lecture did he tell me who to vote for — it was simply about the right to vote and why it is so important to our democracy. I’ve never forgotten the lesson.

When John Lewis passed, my dad called me in tears. He was watching a tribute on TV and he was so upset. “Who’s going to take his place? We still don’t have what he was fighting for!”

When someone as impactful as John Lewis passes, this is the question we ask ourselves: How can we pay tribute?

One answer I’ve seen to that question is to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge for John Lewis. (Eagle-eyed readers will notice the cartoonist above has already made this a reality.) I have no issue with renaming the bridge, (after all, Pettus led the Confederate army and was a KKK grand dragon). But signing an online petition, especially any petition that does not explain how the signatures will be used, is a sorry substitute for the activism that John Lewis embodied.

You don’t have to be as famous as Lewis to be considered an activist. You are an activist if you believe in an issue and TAKE ACTION to make it a reality.

Besides, John Lewis wasn’t fighting for his name. No, he dedicated himself to voting rights, to civil rights, to racial justice. Don’t you think a better tribute to John Lewis is to feel an issue so deeply in your soul that you will spend your entire life fighting to see it come to fruition? I do.

For me, voting rights is an issue near and dear to me, so I will be pressuring my members of Congress to get the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was passed by the House, through the Senate. And if we are unable to get Mitch McConnell to move on it, we’ll try again with the 117th Congress which will hopefully have a Senate with a Democratic majority.

In the meantime, I will keep talking and writing about voting rights and engaging in impactful actions whenever I see the opportunity to do so.

I implore you to take a moment and think about what matters to you. When you read the news or look around you, what issue do you find yourself worried about? What injustice makes you mad? Then, take some action. You can start small, but start.

I will leave you with this:

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  1. Reflection: How Can We Pay Tribute to John Lewis? – Cafe Legacy

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