‘Man of Steel and Velvet’

Unknown-32‘Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe, ‘Lewis wrote.  ‘In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the most excellent way.  Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.’    Rep Lewis wrote this shortly before his death and requested that it be posted by the New York Times after his death.


‘Lewis was one of the ‘Big Six’ leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington and he fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States.  In 1965, Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  In an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday State troopers and police then attacked the marchers, including Lewis.’    Wikipedia


‘In an interview with CNN during the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis recounted what he and the original Freedom Riders endured.  In Birmingham, the riders were beaten with baseball bats, chains, lead pipes, and stones.  They were arrested by police who led them across the border into Tennessee and let them go. They reorganized and rode to Montgomery where they were met with more violence, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate.  ‘It was very violent.  I thought I was going to die.  I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious,’ said Lewis remembering the incident.’    Wikipedia


‘Representative Lewis was admired throughout Congress and the United States and the world!  There was a book written many years ago entitled, Man of Steel and Velvet, and Mr. Lewis exemplified that title.  ‘The poet Carl Sandburg wrote, ‘Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as a rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.’  

We live in a time of racial strife that I have not witnessed…and I grew up in the 1960s   Never has there been a more herculean need for many to take up the cause of racial understanding the equal treatment of all races in our beloved country.  


Let us do a thought experiment.  If you are white…imagine that you are a black man or woman or boy or girl.  Consider that you began your life’s journey loving white people.  You wanted to be like the white movie and television actors that you saw on  the screen, whereas if you grew up in my time that was about all that you saw on the large or small screen.  When you began to attend school…members of the dominate race in America began to call you the ‘N’ Word…  You soon received the ‘Talk’ from your parents on the restrictive personal performance you must adhere to if a police officer pulls you over.  Your parents had fear in their eyes as they were telling you how you must behave…  When you apply for a job…you understand the qualifications for the position and you know that you far exceed the written guidelines…but you do to get the job…one of the bosses white friends receives it…who has little to no qualifications…  You seek to rent an apartment and the landlord tells you that there are no vacancies…while an hour after you have left a white person is welcomed with open arms…because there a lot of vacancies!

In Michigan the Statehouse was filled with white men wearing Nazi swastikas and carrying semiautomatic weapons.  Some of them called for the death of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or her beheading…  United States Attorney General, William Barr, when responding to a question at a Congressional hearing this week, said that he did not know about the incident.  This was after he had explained that he had to keep order in Portland, Oregon and at the recent incident in Lafayette Park in Washington DC where upon the firing of pepper spray and subsequent injury of many protestors…president Trump had a photo op, holding a Bible, in front of St. Johns Church…

We must engage in Representative John Lewis life long battle of non-violence…and sit down together at a long table…and break bread and fellowship..and learn of our shared humanity…  We must become men and women of steel and velvet!

Let us get into some ‘Good Trouble!’


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