On July 17, 2020, our lives and the lives of many in the world were altered drastically as two champions for justice, warriors for equal rights, and bastions of conscience in America made their ascent to ancestorhood. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) joins with the world in mourning the physical absence from our presence of Reverend Cordy Tindell Vivian and Congressman John Robert Lewis.
As both titans for a better America and a better world, their life’s work, which they actively continued until just days before their transition included: advocating for students to have equal access regardless of their citizenship status or race in the United States; fierce and persistent demand of the consistent renewal of the Voting Rights Act; and a willingness to stand with today’s young freedom warriors. While some heavily criticized present day protesters, both Rev. Vivian and Congressman Lewis saw something else, something more.
Their time in the “trenches” provided Rev. Vivian and Congressman Lewis with a deep sense of compassion and an informed awareness of the tides of change. Rev. Vivian advised the world that “People do not choose rebellion, it is forced upon them. Revolution is always an act of self- defense.” And Congressman Lewis, in stressing the need for today’s revolutionaries to organize and strategize, crouched his directive by extending himself to them in saying “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long.”
Rev. Vivian and Congressman Lewis each understood that we “are made by the struggles [we] choose.” ASALH continues their struggle for social justice and equality. We will continue to present the kind of leadership that gives “good trouble” understanding as Rev. Vivian advised, “Leadership is found in the action to defeat that which would defeat you.”
We salute the lives and deeds of Rev. Vivian and Congressman Lewis as examples of exemplary leadership for justice on behalf of our communities, country, and world as we affirm our unrelenting commitment to continue to do the same.
ASALH Committee for Social Responsibility