Last Sunday I had intended to join Meeting for Worship via Zoom at our Quaker Meeting. Prior to connecting though I was watching Face the Nation on CBS. Just as I was about to “tune in” to our Quaker meeting, Face the Nation moderator, Margaret Brennan, announced the show would be moving to a special report on John Lewis’ final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I kept the television tuned to CBS.
For the next 75 minutes I watched as John Lewis made his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It began this past Sunday at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, just as it did on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. This time, though, John Lewis’ body rode in a casket on a caisson pulled by two horses. After brief remarks from a legislator and a minister and a song, his casket was loaded onto the caisson by a U.S. military honor guard – which seemed odd for Lewis, a man who stood for nonviolence. Then the caisson made its way the 10 blocks to the Edmond Pettus Bridge. As it crossed the bridge the driver stopped the caisson at several points, stood, and kept silence in honor of John Lewis and the meaning of his walk across the bridge in 1965.
On the other side of the bridge, the casket carrying John Lewis was met by members of the Alabama State Police, just as it was on March 7, 1965. This time, though, they stood at attention and saluted Mr. Lewis. In 1965 it was members of the Alabama State Police that beat him so badly that he suffered a concussion. His casket was transferred from the caisson and placed in a hearse. From there the Alabama State Police provided safe passage and an honor guard to Montgomery where Mr. Lewis is to lie in state before having the same honor at the U.S. Capitol yesterday and today.
On March 7, 1965 I was 10 years, soon to turn 11. I still remember seeing the news reports featuring film of the marchers being attacked. I did not fully understand what it was all about at that age. Still, as I watched the film, I got the kind of knot in my stomach and sick feeling that comes from seeing something you know instinctively is so horrible and so wrong. It’s the same knot and feeling I got as I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered.
I didn’t realize how much the film of Bloody Sunday impacted me until many years later when I was working in Montgomery, Alabama. I remember driving out of the Montgomery Regional Airport on to Selma Highway (U.S. Route 80). To visit the scene of Bloody Sunday, all I had to do was turn left toward Selma. I had the time, opportunity, and inclination to visit the site. In the end, though, I remembered that film, the horror it triggered in me, and the traumatic memories of my 10-year-old’s fear won out. It is something I still regret.
Let’s get in good trouble
Earlier this month, on July 3rd, John Lewis: Good Trouble, was released. It is a documentary of his life and his work. It focuses on a core philosophy of Mr. Lewis, the idea of getting into “good trouble,” the kind of trouble that brings about change for the greater good.
On July 23 The Brookings Institution published a piece by Rashawn Ray that reminds us of the last time John Lewis led a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1, 2020. At that time, Lewis said in a speech: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”
Ray’s article articulates five ways we can get in “good trouble.” This seems to be the time to cause a bit of “good trouble.” In fact, since 1965, I’m not sure there has been a better time. Here are Ray’s five lessons from John Lewis, with just a bit of commentary from me.
- Vote, always. In a pandemic or not, in primary or a general election, in local races or national races, whether you “love” the choices or not.
- You are never too young to make a difference. I‘m guessing John Lewis would also say that you are never too old to make a difference, too.
- Speak truth to power. Power doesn’t usually want to hear the truth, so don’t expect the powerful to come to you to hear your truth. Take it to them…again, and again, and again until they hear it.
- Become a racial equity broker. It isn’t enough to not be racist or even be anti-racists. Both of those things can be accomplished within oneself. To be a racial equity broker is to go beyond advocacy to take on the work of changing policies, practices, and protocols that inhibit racial equity.
- Never give up. Change at any level – personal, family, community, and societal – requires tenacity. Only the most tenacious will bring about change. They may not always live to see it, but it would not happen without them.
So, what do you say? Wanna get into some trouble…some “good trouble”? We’ve got time between now and November 3rd to find some and do it.
chickenman – Episode 84
Chickenman is finally contacted in his flight across the Atlantic but a debate ensues with Ms. Helfinger about who will pay for the collect charges.
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.