It is with deep sadness that we join each of you in mourning the loss of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, who were both two giants in the American civil rights movement. Lewis served as the US representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district for more than three decades, worked alongside Rev. Martin Luther King., Jr and was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington. Known as the moral conscience of Congress, he was not afraid of getting into "good trouble" to stand up against injustice. He played a critical role in organizing the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and in particular the first march on March 7, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," during which white state troopers viciously attacked protestors. The marches were part of a movement that helped to secure the passage of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965
, a transformative piece of federal legislation that protects against racial discrimination in voting. As we approach the November election and HAND prepares to launch its own
voter registration drive
, it is not lost on us that Rep. Lewis
fought his entire life
for voting rights, so that all individuals (including Black and Latinx voters who are disproportionately impacted by voter suppression efforts) could participate in this cornerstone of our democracy.
Like Lewis, C.T. Vivian was also a major player in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. King, and joining the Freedom Riders - civil rights activists who rode through southern states to ensure bus terminals and other public facilities were not segregated. Vivian had a religious upbringing, and he and other ministers founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), which helped organize sit-ins and civil rights marches. Vivian also created a college readiness program to help care for children who were kicked out of school for protesting racism.The US Department of Education later used his program as a guide to create Upward Bound, a program designed to improve high school and college graduation rates for students in underserved communities. In the late 1970s, Vivian founded an anti-racism organization that focused on monitoring the Ku Klux Klan.President Barack Obama awarded both Lewis and Vivian the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
HAND extends its condolences to the family and friends of both Rep. Lewis and Rev. Vivian. As we do the hard work of centering our own work on racial equity and using our platform to seek justice, we are forever grateful for the sacrifice of both of these individuals.
"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."
- Rep. John Lewis