Congressman John Lewis is fighting pancreatic cancer. The rest of us, Duvalier Malone writes, must do our part to lift up the beloved community. Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP.
Just days before we close out another decade in American history, civil-rights icon Congressman John Lewis announced on Sunday, Dec. 29, that he has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and will be undergoing treatment.
"I have been in some kind of fight--for freedom, equality, basic human rights--for nearly my entire life," Rep. Lewis said in a statement. "I have never faced a fight quite like this one I have now. So, I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross."
The strength and courage of our beloved Congressman John Lewis should give all Americans whether black or white, Democrat or Republican, a renewed strength to stand and fight for what is right in our community.
It appears that our memories of our great activists are fading. Many leaders like Congressman John Lewis led at the forefront of the movement for change. We are over five decades removed from civil-rights champions such as Medgar Evers of Mississippi, who gave his life for the cause of change. It has become increasingly difficult for us to clearly recall the trials of James Meredith when he led the fight for the integration of the University of Mississippi. It looks as if we have now become content and reliant upon others rather than using our circles of influence to bring about change in our community. Now more than ever we must stand with Congressman John Lewis first in prayer and love.
The days are behind us where lawmakers once led at the forefront of the movement for change. Instead, we have now become content and reliant upon others to do the work as we no longer see the plight of "our" responsibility.
Somehow, we have decided that it is now our responsibility to remain silent and only speak when it benefits us politically. This is why we must stand with Congressman Lewis in this hour and speak up and speak out regarding the injustices within our community. The American people must realize that it is our right and our duty to demand a seat at the political table of power.
It is our duty to call for our political leaders to create initiatives and programs aimed at improving our communities and creating jobs. They must pass common-sense gun legislation, health care for all Americans, immigration reform and student-loan relief. They must enable our children to receive a quality education.
We must show up at the polls and get people out to vote. We must support one another through fundraising, nonprofits, churches and local grassroots efforts that are initiating change within our community.
If you are a young leader, don't wait. At 21 years old, Congressman John Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted while in Rock Hill, S.C. He stated that we were determined to not let anything keep up from our goal. Congressman Lewis spoke at the March on Washington at age 23 was the youngest speaker that day and is the last remaining living speaker. Now is the time for the younger generation to stand with this civil rights icon, step up to the plate and get involved in moving America forward.
Sometimes the way forward means we must make hard decisions, but we can't run away from those decisions. We owe it to those who came before us, and we owe it to ourselves. I am reminded of an interview I did with Congressman John Lewis on the 50 Anniversary of the March on Washington when he said to me, "Son, your generation must speak up, speak out, find a way to get in the way and make some necessary noise for change. Son, get in good trouble and make a difference in your community."
So, I challenge us all to honor this great man by using our circles of influence and platform to make change within our community.
Congressman Lewis, you will beat this pancreatic cancer just like you have fought and beaten injustice within our community for over 60 years of civil-rights work in America.
Duvalier Malone is the author of "Those Who Give A Damn: A Manual for Making a Difference," a motivational speaker, community activist and CEO of Duvalier Malone Enterprises, a global consulting firm. He lives in Washington, D.C.
This essay does not necessarily reflect the views of the Jackson Free Press.