At the beginning of this new decade as a country we aimed to start anew and create our own roaring renaissance.
Now more than half-way through the year, we have seen that to create something new, we must destroy what is old and in the way. In 1960 — on the year eve before the Freedom Riders would set out to make history — John Lewis knew this same truth.
Lewis was and is more than just a social justice legend, he is a relic. A relic of history that does two things; places a benchmark to the eye-shot history and how it effects the present but also a symbol of what we could make of ourselves in a time that runs parallel to the height of the popular Civil Rights Movement.
The work of Black Americans for their own liberation is constantly footnoted in history and pushed to the fringes of the American consciousness. This is done in effort to sell a post-racial society myth to continue to not hold accountable the moral of freedom to the country of the United States.
What relics like John Lewis does is show the product of what the sins of a country does to a person and how they manifest themselves in that plight. Showing that these transgressions against Black Americans are not figments of a past that begs to be forgotten. And can not be forgotten when those same transgressions are being perpetrated today albeit covertly and under different names.
The greatness of Lewis is in his difference to a man he is most associated with is Dr. Martin Luther King. Most of Dr King’s early life was filled with ministry both in his family and education. Not until the Rosa Parks bus event — which first happened with Claudette Colvin — did his activism career start to ascend. At this point King was 26.
Lewis — who also went to school for religious studies — became dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement while he was a student where he was 21 during the Freedom Rides and started following the movement at 15 at the time of the Bus Boycotts. Lewis is a representation of student activism and activism of the youth more broadly. His career is the completion of potential what we are all doing right now in our time of activism.
Everyone will not dedicate over 60 years to a cause and even less will keep the same intensity.
But for the sake of the legacy — not of John Lewis’ alone — but the entirety of the tradition of activism that came before us we must not stopped where these people finally get to rest. Because as people who strive for change, we do not do it to see the fruit of that labor in our lifetime, but for the generations after us to benefit.