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National Black Justice Coalition Mourns Loss and Celebrates Legacy of Congressman and Civil Rights Pioneer John Lewis



NEW YORK — in response to news of Congressman John Lewis’ passing, David J. Johns, the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, released the following statement:

“I am crying. To me, Congressman John Lewis was a superhero, the epitome of a civil servant, a personal hero. We even share the same birthday. It’s one thing to know something is imminent, to accept that at some point each of us will be called home, if we’ve done our job as a good and faithful servant. Knowing this doesn’t make accepting this news any easier. 

“I was recently invited to reflect upon what it meant to know and learn from Congressman Lewis. Among the moments that stand out for me is when a group of young Black boys, students visiting Capitol Hill passed the Congressman on the steps of the Cannon House Office Building. The young men were mostly unaware of Congressman Lewis and all that he’s done to ensure that we can walk tall, with our heads held high, and make demands of the elected officials who have sworn to serve those of us who make up our beautifully diverse country. The adults in the group encouraged them to leverage the technology in their hands and to Google the Congressman’s contributions, but instead of continuing on his way, Congressman Lewis stopped, stood on the steps, and had a conversation with the young men—sharing information about his life and his work with Dr. King and Rosa Parks and taking the time to answer their questions. Congressman Lewis understood and celebrated young people, ‘the young kids’ as he called us. He recognized that we were the leaders of the 21st century and worked tirelessly to ensure we and everyone after us have every opportunity to thrive. This is how I will always remember Congressman Lewis — teaching and encouraging his peers and younger leaders, including myself, to continue the work of holding one another accountable for doing the work to create the beloved community where each of us are able to live and love, safely.

“Congressman Lewis’ life and legacy should compel each of us to do better, to want better, and to demand that those in positions of power battle injustice and ensure all Americans are treated fairly and with dignity. Congressman Lewis demonstrated the value of these investments as a student and organizer of the Freedom Rides to battle desegregation in 1961, as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday and representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in Washington, D.C. for longer than many of us have been alive. It’s also worth noting that he was one of first elected officials of any prominence to express support for same-sex marriage. 

“Congressman Lewis has talked about witnessing unbelievable change during his lifetime.  We can ensure that his legacy endures by ensuring the unmet hopes and needs of so many people are fulfilled by, in his words, ‘being bold, being brave, being courageous.’  This is our work, and we’re in a better position because of the life’s work of my birthday buddy Congressman John Robert Lewis.”

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.