Thank You, Representative John Lewis

My imagination yearns to be free to create art and stories in which the color of my imaginary characters’ skin is not important. I have many experiences to draw upon to tell those stories, thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Representative John Lewis, who both marched for the freedom of black people until the Civil Rights Act was enacted.

I want to share how Chris, a white fifth grader whose family was the size of the Brady Bunch, picked me to be her BFF in 5th grade, and our teacher agreed that we could move our blue desks by the window to face each other. We did not leave each other’s sides for the remaining of the year. It was 1969, and we were the dream. Thank you, Representative John Lewis.

I want to share about my experience in Germany, right after college, and how Regina, a German co-worker with blue eyes and blonde hair, decided that she wanted to be my BFF. So, for a year, we traveled together all over Europe by train, snuggling and gossiping like teenagers, while looking forward to our next adventure. Thank You, Representative John Lewis.

And I want to share a story about Freddy, the cutest, blonde kindergartner you ever want to meet, a class mate of my youngest son. When my sons were young they went to an affluent school on the west-side, and I taught across town in Watts at a school whose population was very poor. So, I used to do clothes, books, and computer drives at my son’s affluent school and take them back to the disadvantaged parents in Watts.

Once, while I had the car filled with items (The West-side parents were always generous.), I was pulled over by suspicious cops. I pulled into a grocery store parking lot, where Freddy and his Mom were shopping. The officers exited their vehicles with guns drawn and aimed at my head and my husband’s head while our boys sat in the back seat. If the officers had sneezed or tripped, our heads would have been blown off.

Freddy caught my gaze and stared at me a long time as his Mom came over to ask if I needed any help. By then, I had stopped screaming to the top of my lungs, and I had demanded that the watch commander be called. We survived the stop while Freddy looked on with curious eyes.

But the next morning, as I dropped off the boys, Freddy stood on the curb, waiting for us to arrive. I prayed that he would run off, but, of course, he remained. He waited while I slowly paralleled parked. As I got out the car and said my good-byes to my boys, I rehearsed how I would explain the police stop to Freddy. When I stepped up on the curb, I bent down so that we were eye-to-eye. Then I said, softly, “Freddy, I know that you saw us yesterday being stopped by the police.” I waited for his response. He smiled. He was excited, and I wondered why.

“Mrs. Kelly” Freddy said, “I didn’t realize your husband had a bald head.”

I laughed so hard, I almost fell over. The police stop and racial profiling didn’t matter to this innocent, sweet kindergartner. The color of our skin didn’t matter because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Representative John Lewis marched and fought so that we all would be judged by the content of our characters, not the color of our skin. Thank you, Representative John Lewis.

Representative John Lewis’ hard work, sweat, and blood are the reason that there are little white kindergartners who don’t see the color of a Black person’s skin. He is an American civil rights icon, and I was saddened by the disparaging tweets that the president-elect tweeted about him.

The United States of America is a great country, and we, the people, and Representative John Lewis deserve to know what really happened during our election before we fully accept the president-elect, although we all understand that he will be inaugurated on Friday. I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King would have demanded a full investigation, and I’m thankful that Representative John Lewis is doing the same. So many irregular things occurred during the election and the president-elect’s behavior has been most strange. I also stand with the 50 representatives who are boycotting the inauguration.

I also stand with Representative John Lewis and the other representatives that oppose the appointment of the president-elect’s Attorney General nomination. That grocery store stop that Freddy witnessed could have turned out differently, and I could have been shot. I understand that the new Attorney General must have a good record of defending Blacks and others who need protection when the police act wrongly and the justice system fails us. I trust Representative John Lewis’ testimony that the record of Senator Jeff Sessions shows that he will not protect civil rights, does not want prison reform, and will not protect people of color in matters that are important to us.

At the hearing, Representative John Lewis was squeezed between three black men, who came to testify that Jeff Sessions was a great man, and I felt heartbroken that an American hero would be treated with such disrespect. I felt heartbroken that he would be called last to testify.

I stand with Representative John Lewis as he continues to protect the rights of black people. Thank you, Representative John Lewis, for all that you’ve done.

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