I was saddened by the recent passing of Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis was an important figure because he dedicated his life to fighting for justice and equality at a time when this was not a reality for African Americans. Congressman Lewis began his work as a civil rights activist when he was a college student. He was one of the original freedom riders, who organized sit-ins and led the March 7, 1965 civil rights march that was supposed to go from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, the state’s Capitol.
In his fight for justice he was jailed over 30 times and beaten unjustly, however he remained a champion for equal rights and the fight for justice. Congressman Lewis is remembered as one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement. He worked hand in hand with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other notable civil rights leaders.
So today, I want to talk about passing the torch. The concept of passing the torch, takes place when someone passes on their job duties, or responsibilities, to someone else. The hope is that the next person will carry on that work with the same passion, dedication and determination. The symbol of the torch is important because the torch is fire, that burns brightly and increases vision for what is ahead.
So today, we must reflect on how we can continue as individuals to use our platforms, to carry the torch and make sure we create a world that is equal and just for everyone. We must never take for granted the opportunities that we enjoy, that were created by the sacrifices of the great men and women of previous generations. We must remind ourselves that we honor them by continuing to advocate for change.
As a professor, motivational speaker, author, and leader, my job in helping Congressman Lewis’s dream stay alive, is to continue to empower and educate others. In order to do this, I must continue to have the difficult conversations, speak out on injustices, and help the underserved and disenfranchised see that they have advocates that will fight for them and give them hope.
We are all blessed by those who fought for equality, and we must not let their work be in vain. Who has passed the torch to you? How can you lead? How can you help someone find their purpose? How can you help to create a world that embraces everyone? Let us not allow the torch that was lit by Congressman Lewis to fade or burn out. But let us proudly carry that torch and pass it on to future generations.
As I close, I would like to share a quote by Congressman John Lewis, that I believe is important. He states that: “Freedom is not a state, it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”
As we reflect and celebrate the life of Congressman John Lewis, let us commit ourselves to a life of service, and a willingness to keep the torch of justice and equality burning.
Dr. Regina Banks-Hall