OAKLAND (KPIX) — The death of congressman John Lewis was a shock to many in the Bay Area and beyond. On Saturday, those who knew him — and knew of him — spoke about his legacy.
Often called the conscience of the House of Representatives, Lewis famously said “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something!”
It’s important to remember how young John Lewis was when he was beaten by police as he marched into Selma, Alabama one day in 1965. His close friend and colleague, congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland, said his legacy will be the challenge he laid down for today’s younger generation.
“These were children who led the fight, led by John Lewis, at a very young age for voting rights, for civil and human rights,” Lee told KPIX. “And so, he expects these young people to continue this fight.”
In some ways, that was happening in east Oakland Saturday morning. At the “Feed Your City Challenge,” healthy foods and protective equipment were being handed out to the community, courtesy of retired NBA player, Ricky Davis.
“I take those values that my ancestors and the people before me put in place and try to show them to the new community or the new generations,” Davis said.
Davis, his foundation partner Tony Draper and Grammy-award winning musician Raphael Saadiq organized the event to address the struggle Oaklanders have in getting healthy food in their community. It’s exactly the kind of “moral obligation to do something” that John Lewis spoke about.
“I really love looking at the pictures and seeing (Lewis) when he was older and when he was younger and seeing the journey that he took,” Raphael Saadiq said. “And that’s the journey that we all need to be on but we have to take that journey, we have to take it further.”
With the Black Lives Matter protests, it certainly feels like that journey is continuing and, once again, is being led by young people. There may be pushback but Carolyn Johnson, executive director of the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone, says the courage of John Lewis will be there as an example to follow.
“When he laid his body on the line for us, it reminds us that it’s really that important,” Johnson said. “So, yeah, you’ve got to be willing to do that. I’m not sure if this generation’s ready to do that but it might need to.”
Congresswoman Lee said that, much later in life, she was with John Lewis when the Alabama sheriff who beat him that day on the bridge apologized and presented him with a badge. She says it was a measure of Lewis’s character that he was willing to forgive the man.