“ There is an old African proverb. ‘ When you pray, move your feet.“. As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build, not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house – the American house, the American family.” —. Congressman John Lewis
“ There is an old African proverb. ‘ When you pray, move your feet.“. As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build, not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house – the American house, the American family.”
—. Congressman John Lewis
The above passage is the last paragraph in John Lewis‘s book., Walking with the Wind . In 2001, I escorted 100 students to Washington D.C. and the Deep South to include Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. About 25 of the students were from Liberty High School. The goal was to meet people that were foot soldiers with Martin Luther King, Jr. to establish voting rights and other equities that we take for granted. In our journey, we were privileged to meet John Lewis, the man who had become the icon of “Bloody Sunday”. On March 7, 1965, Lewis, and 565 other peaceful demonstrators, marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. At that time, even though almost 50% of the population in this area was made up of African-Americans, only 2% voted. Many barriers kept them from registering and voting. When they reached the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by State troopers who billy clubbed and beat the peaceful protesters. Lewis himself almost lost his life that night. This month, we lost a major foot soldier in the battle for voting rights and equity. Congressman Lewis lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Not more than a couple of months after this trip, 9/11 changed our world. But our world was already changing in hometown Brentwood. A town known for its farming community, was now growing beautiful homes that for the rest of the Bay Area were considered much more reasonable in price compared to Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, and other surrounding cities. The east Contra Costa County cities were becoming more diversified. But this diversity was not an easy growth. I reached out to a man named Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles. He was the reason that Martin Luther King Jr was in Tennessee that fateful day to support the working poor. When I reached out to Reverend Billy for advice on why this change was so difficult, he said, “ Christina, this is not a race issue. This is a Class issue. People are moving to a small town that have developed survival skills of large cities. The behaviors that work in a large city, don’t necessarily work in a small town”. With the support of all the school districts, the cities of Oakley and Brentwood,the Brentwood Rotary, and the Press Newspaper, we were able to fly Reverend Billy to our small towns to educate, and train all of us as we worked through the growth pains of East Contra Costa County. Diversity groups were established and conversation happened.
I reflect on this trip, not only for the passing of a man who knew how to “move all our feet”, but for the importance of conversation to create positive change. 2020 is halfway through. Our local towns again are working hard to support each other, whether it is through the recognition of diversity or the struggles of small business, but also the need for active listening and powerful conversation. What camera shots of pictures, memorabilia, memories, and positive actions would you put into a time capsule for our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to discover in 50 years? Of course, a face mask would be included, maybe cut outs of fans that should’ve been at baseball games, along with snapshots of zoom calls, You might even throw in a roll of toilet paper. such a luxurious commodity in 2020. With a little over 5 months to go, who do you want to be to change 2020 for the better? Snap that image and put it in your time capsule. Make this year a year of positive change as Congressman John Lewis did in 1965. Move your feet.