Pioneering Rep. John Lewis honored in Cleveland
United States House of Representative colleagues Marcia Fudge and John Lewis embrace before Lewis accepts the 2017 Louis Stokes Community Visionary Award at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on Sept. 15th
United States House of Representative John Lewis (D- Georgia), the last living legacy of the Dr. Martin Luther King civil rights leadership team, was honored by a long time friend and a special colleague when accepting the Louis Stokes Community Visionary Award at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on Sept. 15th.
“My brother Otis Moss, when they say they are prepared to give their life to this calling that have put themselves in position to make it very clear that those are not words it’s a way of life, “ explained long time friend Carole F. Hoover, Chief Executive Officer of Hoover-Milstein.
Hoover presented Lewis with a since discontinued statute of Dr. King, a precious and personal gift.
“I want you to have this because it comes with my love and respect, because it comes out of my cabinet. I gave it up for you,” Hoover said to laughter and applause.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, a colleague of Lewis in the House of Representatives and a loyal friend to the Stokes family followed Hoover by presenting the 2017 Louis Stokes Community Visionary Award.
Fudge attended school with two of Louis Stokes children and became the fist African American and woman to serve as mayor of Warrensville Heights before ascending to Washington D.C.
The Congresswoman who has since following in the legendary footsteps of Stephanie Jones Tubbs and Louis Stokes used an article printed by Roll Call magazine to eloquently described Lewis:
“A genuine American hero, a moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chambers. He is often called one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced. John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he calls a beloved community. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principals has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress.”
“He was born the son of sharecroppers outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama. As a young boy he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott and the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who he heard on a radio broadcast. In those pivotal moments John made a decision to become a part of the civil rights movement and ever since then he has remained as the vanguard of progressive social movement and the human rights struggle in the United States.”
“As a student at Fisk University, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961 he volunteered to participate in the freedom ride to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the south. John risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats that were reserved for white patrons. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the south.”
Fudge added that, “I want you to remember that law and order is not always just.”
She went on to chronicle how Lewis led voter rights marches in Selma, Alabama, peacefully fighting for the most precious privilege that African Americans have today, which is that of voting rights.
“There is no one more brave, no one more appealing, no one more committed than John. A lot o people say they will risk their life for what they believe in. John has done it.”
“It is my privilege to serve with John who is a giant,” Fudge Concluded
“Congressman Lewis joins a distinguished group of past recipients such as Reverend Jesse Jackson, Barbara R. Snyder, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, Angela Glover Blackwell, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, Governor George Voinovich, Steven Minter and Mayor Michael White,” says Executive Director Denise VanLeer, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FDRC).
He has been called “the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” by Roll Call magazine.
In receiving the prestigious honor, Lewis praised the late Louis Stokes for doing everything right to make sure that life was better for all of us.
Lewis reflected upon the time when his father purchased land for $300 and proudly stated that his family still owns the land today.
“I didn’t like what I saw as a child growing up. Louis Stokes didn’t like what he saw when he came to congress. He did everything possible to make healthcare available for all of our cities. He believed that healthcare was a right for everybody and it should not be judged by your zip code or your wallet or pocketbook. When I grew up in rural Alabama we didn’t have health insurance, we had burial insurance. People were not preparing to live, they were preparing to die.” Lewis told the attentive audience.
He recalled how his grandparents would say they wanted to be put away well.
“When you look at the landscape of America today in this city, in Washington D. C. and all around our country what Louis Stokes did to make things better, we live them today.”
“I am deeply honored here in Cleveland to accept this award named for my friend Lou Stokes. Lou Stokes was a true public servant dedicated to our country and to the well being of all of our people. He never gave up and he never gave in. He kept the faith and he kept his eyes on the prize. I salute each and everyone of you for being here today in support of your efforts to make Cleveland safe and our nation a better place,” Lewis said.
“We’ve come a distance and we’ve made a lot of progress, but there are forces in America today that are trying to take us back to another time and another place,” he continued.
“We’ve come too far and made too much progress to go back, we only going forward.
When I was growing up and I would visit my family, visit Tuskegee, I saw those signs that said white men/colored men, white women/colored women and I would ask my mother and my grandparents why? They would said that’s the way it is, don’t get in the way, don’t get in trouble, but the action of Rosa Parks and the words of dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me to find a way to get in the way.”
“I got in trouble, but I call it today I got in good trouble. Necessary trouble at a time today when all of us should get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble. Too many of our young people and our children are being left behind. We need to see to it that all of our people get healthcare. All of our people need good healthcare.”
Lewis spoke of when he wrote Dr. King a letter when he was just 17 years old.
“I didn’t tell my mother, I didn’t tell my father, any my sisters or brothers or my teachers. I wanted tell him about when I applied to Troy State College. I submitted by application, submitted my transcripts and I never heard a word from the school.
So, I wrote Dr. King this letter. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote me back and sent me a round trip Greyhound bus ticket and invited me to come to Montgomery to meet with him.”
And now one could say the rest is history and Rep. John Lewis is still advocating for the same policies and principles that he believed in before and after me met Dr. King.
Lewis has been a member of Congress, representing Georgia’s 5th District since 1986.