Community Change Mourns the Death of Congressman John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader, Former Board Member and Friend

by Tarah Walsh | July 18, 2020 2:48 pm

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2020

Contact: Jasmine Nazarett, jnazarett@communitychange.org, 954-471-9080

Community Change Mourns the Death of Congressman John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader, Former Board Member and Friend

Today we mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis, a life-long champion of the long struggle for civil rights, racial justice and democracy, whose legacy and courage will continue to inspire millions of people in the struggle for justice. We also remember Rev. C. T. Vivian, a close friend of Congressman Lewis and a trusted advisor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Congressman Lewis was the son of sharecroppers, an original Freedom Rider, co-founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating (SNCC), Atlanta City Council Member, Member of Congress representing the 5th District of Georgia, celebrated author of multiple books, and life-long organizer. Rev. C. T. Vivian was also an original Freedom Rider, National Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and lifelong champion of justice.  

Both men received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011 and 2013, respectively. 

Dorian Warren, president of Community Change and Lorella Praeli, president of Community Change Action issued the following statement: 

“Congressman Lewis was a hero to millions of people around the world. He spent his life working tirelessly to build ‘the beloved community’ in America, fighting for freedom and human rights at any cost, including being beaten near death. Beyond the arrests, marches, speeches and sit ins, Congressman Lewis was a long-time friend, and former Board Member of Community Change. He was resolute in his commitment to do what was right and to use every opportunity he had to encourage people to take action and demand change; to vote and be heard. Since 1986, he served as the ‘Conscience of Congress’, its moral compass and North Star of freedom, democracy and justice.  

In 2018, Community Change honored Congressman Lewis at our 50th Anniversary celebration with the Champion of Public Service Award for his commitment to building an equitable America for all. He reminded us that ‘to vote is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we must use it…we need to vote like we never have before.’ Today, those words still ring true but with a greater duty to carry on the work he started as a young man.

We also mourn the passing of Congressman Lewis’s close friend and comrade in struggle, Rev. C. T. Vivian, who died just hours earlier and was the consummate ‘behind-the-scenes’ organizer. It is fitting that Congressman Lewis and Rev. Vivian could be honored for their decades of organizing, leadership and sacrifices before their deaths. 

We honor the lives of both of these organizers who resisted white supremacy and unfreedom in America. They organized and strategized with thousands of ordinary people directly affected by injustice to take nonviolent collective action–challenging the unjust rules and institutions of our racial caste system; were arrested, shed blood and risked their lives too many times to count. They helped usher in our country’s Second Reconstruction in the 1960s and continued to organize and develop new generations of leaders to carry the torch of freedom and justice. 

We will continue to make trouble–the good kind–in his honor, to advance human and civil rights for all. Thank you for the lessons, for your work and for how far you got us. Rest in Peace, Rest in Power, Congressman Lewis.”

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Community Change and its sister organization Community Change Action are national organizations that build the power of low-income people, especially people of color, to fight for a society where everyone can thrive.

 

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