John Lewis: In His Words and Of Him

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Instead of what I had planned for this week, I decided to compile the many things that I’ve heard about and from John Lewis and share them with you.

One of the reasons for this was the realization that while I adored and admired John Lewis for a very long time, I was unaware of his esteemed place in history. I knew about the Edmund Pettus Bridge and I knew he was a “civil rights icon”, but I did not comprehend the vast expanse of what that actually means.

A few weeks ago, I began to read The Children by David Halberstam. I’ve had it in my library for some time and just hadn’t gotten to it, but it begins at the beginning with the young people in Nashville, Tennessee, with John Lewis and others.

I read it and had only gotten so far when Congressman Lewis passed away. I’ve said before that he was one of those people, those heroes, those strong voices that I thought would never leave the earth. He may be gone, but his voice will live on.

In retrospect, growing up in New York I would have thought we’d have a better understanding of the Civil War, its causes and its outcomes, but I’m saddened to realize that I learned more about Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis than I did about John Lewis, Jim Lawson, and Diane Nash. At fifty-three, I am rectifying that.

John Lewis is an American hero. Hero and iconic are words that don’t live up to the lived life of John Lewis. He embodied peace and love, and as I type out these words I hear his voice in my head, and I hope to hear his voice for the rest of my life.

What follows are the words of some from his celebration of life service as well as three videos that I would encourage you to watch, although watching the entire service would be a valuable use of your time.

May John Lewis rest but may we not rest until we reach his beloved community with equality, liberty, and justice for all.

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When Doves Cry

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Prince died earlier this afternoon. I took a peek at my Facebook while my daughter was getting her hair styled as a special treat. My friend on FB who I trust with these kinds of things mentioned Prince. I denied. Big time. No, that’s not true, I thought. I hit my browser and there was a TMZ link and then CNN. With CNN and ABC7 it was confirmed for me and I told the people around me.

To say we were in shock and more denial would be an understatement.

I remembered Prince being ill last week and making an emergency landing to go to the hospital, but he was fine. He was fine.

And then I remembered 1984. I graduated from high school. I got my driver’s license. I was a freshman in college. It was a pivotal year.

That was the year my friends and I went to see Purple Rain. A music movie was a big deal and Prince was new to me. In retrospect the movie wasn’t as great as I remembered it as a teen, but it was something unique and different, words that would come to define Prince as he became indefinable. He was inspirational. He was creative. His difference was permission to us to free ourselves and be ourselves.

I played that cassette of Purple Rain every time I got into my car. I think I wore out the tape. The only musician I played more than Prince was Duran Duran.

At the end of 1999, we were embroiled in the panic of Y2K. I had friends who had to work in case something happened overnight when the year changed. We had bottled water, and pigs in blankets. We had a two year old and we spent the New Year with my parents just in case the bridges would be out, at least the toll ones. Nothing unexpected happened. Probably because we were prepared. We played Prince’s Party Like it’s 1999 over and over. It was on television and the radio, and it was the perfect anthem to our evening.

When he changed his name to a symbol, it was a bit odd, but it was Prince and that was okay. He redefined what it meant to be innovative, a musician, an entertainer, and how to do things his way.

I saw his picture recently online. I think it was his passport photo. He had a huge afro. I had never seen him with an afro. In my times, he had his hair slicked and combed or coiffed to perfection. I remember thinking that he was going for a new look. I hadn’t realized that this was an old look for him, but I did notice that it suited him. He wore everything well.

Instead of links to obituaries and causes of death (which are still unknown at this time), I’ve decided to share with you four videos that speak to me of Prince.

The first two are two of my favorite songs. They are not performed by Prince, but he wrote them. He wrote many songs for many performers and kept himself in the background, letting them do their thing.

Nobody Compares 2 You – Sinead O’Connor:

Manic Monday – The Bangles:

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl Halftime Show in the pouring rain. It was as if he orchestrated it himself.

His mystifying and spectacular guitar solo in tribute to George Harrison in the performance for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While My Guitar Gently Weeps:

I’ve seen three tags today and I share them with you as an epigraph:

Rest in Peace.
Rest in Power.
Rest in Purple.

Rest and be blessed, Prince. You are home, and you will surely be missed for time to come.