RIP Civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis: A reflection from Maggie’s husband, Elton
Maggie John’s husband, Elton’s “chance” encounter with American civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis.
RIP beloved John Lewis 1940 – 2020
Elton’s reflections on the loss of John Lewis – rest in power Mr. Lewis 🙏🏾
In 2009 Obama signed a commemorative photograph at his 2009 inauguration for John Lewis, the newly sworn-in president wrote: “Because of you, John.”
On a business trip a few years ago, I was on my way back home, I was tired and sloppy looking almost limping towards the gate to find a seat to await my delayed flight. As I made my way, a familiar looking face and stature caught my attention, a rush of energy found me, my limp disappeared, and the biggest grin appeared on my face. I was about to come face to face with Mr. Lewis. The right honourable John Lewis is someone I have long admired, a hero, a civil rights icon, one of the original Freedom Riders. I made my way over to him in hopes of just getting a picture and maybe shaking the hand of one of the last living speakers at the March on Washington. I waited a few minutes for the crowd around him to dissipate slightly, then I reached my hands towards his and with my face still carrying that happy grin, I said “hello Mr. Lewis”. He reached out and shook my hand and asked, “where are you heading?”
What followed was a moment I would forever cherish, a conversation with a true icon of humanity and suddenly I was hoping that my flight would be delayed longer. I’ve learnt so much about this man in the history books; the role he played helping to organize the March on Washington at 23 years old; leading marchers across the Pettus Bridge and beaten for it at 25; leading voter education projects, and let me say again he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders still in his early 20s. Arrested countless times, beaten almost to death. All of this accomplished before his time in Congress where he continued the fight for humanity, especially for those that looked like me who are still underserved and underrepresented in too many areas in our society.
In my conversation with him, as he learned I am from Canada, he told me a story of the Canadians he knew that marched with him and how it encouraged him. As I tried to delve more into his life, he insisted on hearing more about mine. He asked me what it was like growing up in Canada; wanted to know about my family and what I do. As I shared about my life with this heroic figure in a very busy Atlanta hub, he listened intently, and the words of encouragement he left with me that day gave me a glimpse into this man’s heart. One that is selfless, filled with integrity and humility that propelled him then and up to his final endeavours before his passing.
I wondered why more people weren’t rushing to shake this man’s hand, didn’t they recognize him, are they that accustomed to seeing heroic figures like this one or maybe they didn’t want to bother him? There’s verifiable truth in stating that many of the black and brown people I saw in the airport that day benefited greatly from the actions of this civil rights icon, this Super Hero.
I am forever inspired by Mr. Lewis and his bravery to get into ‘good trouble’ as he would say, for sake of equality. I am forever inspired by Mr. Lewis’ other-centeredness in the way he lived. I am forever inspired by Mr. Lewis who dared to lead with courage and selflessness. I am forever inspired because of you, Mr. Lewis.
Maggie John's husband, Elton reflects on an incredible "chance" encounter with American civil rights leader, Congressman…