By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
A special tribute to the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia was held during a zoom webinar on July 24. Lewis, civil rights leader who fought for equal justice for all advocated nonviolence during his lifetime, was 80 years old when he died July 17. Lewis’ efforts made him influential to all generations
To honor Lewis for his works, Black Women for Biden’s honored Lewis during A Call to Action: Get Into Good Trouble! The Power of the Young Adult Vote, a GenZ/Millennials zoom webinar July 24. The online event was held to encourage young adults to get out and vote, especially for the upcoming presidential election.
The webinar featured Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas; Tria Stallings, Regional Field Director from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party; Danyell Smith and Patricia Duncan, national co-chairs of Black Women for Biden; Dr. E. Faye WIlliams, senior advisor for Black Women for Biden and Wake Up & Stay Woke WPFW radio host; Melanie Campbell, chair of Sisters Lead Sisters Vote; Ruquan Brown, high school football player from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington D.C.; and singer/songwriter Art Aure. Event organizers Shayla Dell, Nahla Owens and Dillon J. Mims also spoke.
Dell, one of the hosts of the webinar, quoted Lewis and what he said about the vote.
“Just over a year ago, Lewis said, ‘The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is a powerful nonviolent tool we have in a Democracy.’”
She went on to stress the importance of one’s vote.
“We must cherish and acknowledge the very thing that John Lewis so accurately described as precious, sacred and powerful,” she said. “Our right to vote. Millennials along with the new addition of GenZ voters will be the largest voting demographic of the upcoming 2020 elections. This puts us young adults in the position to choose the projections of our own future’s in regards to this nation for the first time of our lifetime. With this great advantage also comes great responsibility. With the voting demographics stacked in favor of the young adults, we are the majority and we are the voice of the people. Young, old, Black, White male, female and everything in between.”
Mims thanked Lewis for his efforts in helping all people from all races having the right to vote in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.
Mims introduced Williams who reflected on what Lewis meant to the civil rights movement.
“We did lose Congressman John Lewis, but we also lost minister C.T. Vivian, and also lost Charles Evers of Mississippi, all of whom were civil rights leaders,” Williams said. “We lost them in an amount of less than a week so let us not forget what all of them did for the civil rights movement. They were people of conviction, of humility. Now today, we enjoy many of the benefits that they suffered for. Sometimes when we think about what we go through today it was nothing compared with what they went through. They were beaten, they were bloodied and some of them were even killed and so if we hear about people of millennials or anyone feeling that they don’t have the right to vote, just remember and remind them that our ancestors died to give us this right to vote. So we must be sure that all of our people are voting. So, let’s put our lives on the line like they did while we are getting people registered to vote and getting out to vote.”
Williams said that Lewis, Vivian, and Evers were young when they started what they were doing.
“Yet, they put their lives on the lines for us,” Williams said. “So, remind your friends and colleagues, even though they are young, they have a responsibility because there are people who have died to give them that responsibility. We can win this election for the good of our people. If only we can go out there and do everything that we can do to make sure that everyone is not only registered but they will be able to vote. Voting is our voice so if we hear someone saying I don’t see anyone reason to vote it means they don’t care about what happens in their future.”
Johnson said Lewis was much more than a colleague but more of a friend to her.
“Everyone called John a friend and of course he was a friend to everyone,” Johnson said. “He was my dear friend and he went to jail many times and I went one time with him and that was very traumatic for me. Without him, I am not sure I would have made it through that time. We could not see each other when we were jailed but we could hear each other. I kept saying to him, ‘John, when is this going to be over,’ and he kept assuring me that everything was going to be OK. He started singing and we started singing civil rights songs together. After we sang so long they decided it was time to let us go. So we paid our fines, posted bond and left. John was a friend to our nation. He was a friend to our people, to everyone that he met, even those that were enemies to the Civil Rights Movement. He was able to convert so many by being so kind. He never gave up. I say to the young people, he was very young. He was so young when he started that the Rev. King said, ‘Go home, you are too young for this.’ And Lewis refused to go, he stayed right there. Lewis’ efforts will live on. We got the Voting Rights Act in 1965, but we are working now to restore it.
“I say to young people, you have the power and go for it. You have better opportunities than most of us. And we are here to cheer you on. Make sure you and your friends go vote in November. That is the greatest power we have. We need to make a change in our leadership. John Lewis left us equipped to go forth. He left our young people with the greatest example of being so young himself when he started. Take that lead and lead us down.
“We are depending on you for our future.”
Owens stated that Lewis was the youngest speaker of the 1963 March on Washington.
“He proved that youth and young adults are important in the civil rights movement,” Owens said.
Afterward, singer and songwriter Art Aure played her song, Keep On and then spoke.
“A few months ago, I went to vote, and I was in line for three hours,” Aure said. “There are a lot more people wanting to be involved and wanting to use their voices for change for speaking out against any inequality and injustice. That’s what we all want to get out of this storm that we are in right now. There is so much going on and with my song ‘Keep On’ it exemplifies and it is a message that you can listen to anytime you are going through anything, especially now. I am sure if Congressman John Lewis heard this song he would absolutely love it. Tough times don’t last long, you have to keep on and you have to keep on going. Right now we are in a storm. I think it is important that we all utilize our platforms to use it for healing.”
Owens agreed with Aure and said if we are not using our votes and voices, then what are we doing?
“The presidential election of 2020 will go down as the most significant election in our lifetimes,” Owens said.
The goal of Black Women for Biden is to help get former Vice President Joe Biden elected in the 2020 elections.
“To the young people, you are not just our future, you are our now,” Smith said. “You guys now have to take on the footsteps of Lewis and Vivian. You learned from us the more seasoned people and now the young people we want you to get in and talk about what your issues and concerns are. We want you to take your seat at the table. This is your time to speak out just like John Lewis did back in the days. This is an important time and it is about our constitutional rights. This is about our democracy. We need to win the war right now. Voting is a right, it is a privilege and is not a luxury.”
Duncan said she was excited about the webinar because it is getting young voters involved.
Brown, who is a gun violence prevention advocate and founder of Love1, a company dedicated to the end of gun violence and a recipient of a full scholarship to Harvard to play football, was another member of the young adult panel for the webinar.
“I think it is important that we are going to choose leaders who represent our communities accurately,” Brown said.
Campbell said she was raised by civil rights leaders and giants.
“I am just excited to see all these young people on this call,” Campbell said. “Young people as well as Black women are the reason that Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House. Young people are the reason why the Black Lives Matter is reemerging. Take that vote and take it to the finish line so we can get our country back on track. We built it and we need to take it back because when we take it back, we take it back for everybody. We have a lot to learn and teach each other.”
Next, the webinar focused on questions about voting. The first question was for Brown and the question asked for him was ‘How do you advocate for youth participation in this upcoming election?’
“I think that it is as simple as galvanizing 10 or 15 of our friends and pulling them to vote and using our platform and voice to get out the vote,” Brown said. “It could also be posting videos on instagram emphasizing the importance of voting. I emphasize to a bunch of my peers that we have a bunch of issues that we are facing and if we don’t continue to get out and vote, we will continue to face them.”
Another question focused on what ways the older generation can involve themselves in involving youth participation in the upcoming elections.
“I think the best way we can encourage young people to be with them when they ask for our help is to back away when they don’t need our help but to applaud them when they are doing the things that we have talked about that they should do,” Williams said.
Johnson offered her thoughts on how the older generation can help the younger generation.
“It is not magical,” Johnson said. “It is your responsibility to occupy yourself on this earth. If you stay involved and vote and share that experience of voting and helping others you are going to get what you want in life. You first have to be a good citizen and fill the responsibility to vote. Think of John Lewis and all the other leaders who put their lives on the line because they knew the importance of casting that vote. I know when you are young you don’t think of your vote of being that important. That is the only right that makes us equal to everyone else. It is the greatest power we have. When you cast that vote you know that you have done what you can to make life better for you and others. It is one of the rights you didn’t have to fight for but you have the right to preserve it. And you have to fight to reserve it. Don’t lose it.”