When I was in high school, I found myself suddenly homeless, on my own, and living out of a car. Finishing high school was the furthest thing on my mind. One day in class, my history teacher handed me, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis. The book would forever change my outlook on life. I instantly knew that I wanted to go into the field of history to share the lessons of those who made possible the opportunities I enjoy today.
Fast forward to the present. On an ordinary March day, I prepared to do the extraordinary. On that day I would interview my hero, Congressman John Lewis, on behalf of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Congressman Lewis inspired me to get my degree in History and African American studies and sitting across from the man who did so much for so many is almost too much for me to handle.
As I walked into his office, I was in awe of his staff. They are the most, hospitable, diverse and caring group I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in Congress. As I prepared to pinch myself, out walked Lewis finishing up with a school group. He posed for a photo with the children, paused for a moment and then asked me if he could get me some peach tea. Congressman Lewis, get me tea? This time, I actually did pinch myself.
As we began to set up for the interview I finally took a seat across from Lewis. I inhaled a deep breath and admired the walls of his office which are filled with images from the Civil Rights Movement, each one telling its own story. In that breath, I calmed my nerves and reminded myself that this is the moment I’ve dreamed about, and I’ve come too far to allow my nerves to stand in my way.
Over the course of the next hour, I was blessed to hear Lewis share with me his hopes for the future. He told me stories from America’s history and the work that still needs to be done.
These are the 5 crucial lessons John Lewis taught me:
5. When you see something wrong, you have the power to do something about it. We cannot afford to be silent.
4. We have a moral obligation to tell the stories of the past. If we fail to tell the stories, future generations will miss the lessons of history.
3. #StayWoke. There are forces trying to divide us and diminish our progress. We must move forward as a society.
2. It’s up to us to continue the work towards building a beloved community where we respect the dignity and worth of every human being.
1. Our foremothers and forefathers may have come to America in different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.
As my interview came to a close, I leaned in and told Lewis how his memoir and the "Spirit of History" played a major part in my life and thanked him for all he's done.
Just when the day couldn’t get any better, he signed my book. ☺️
Behind-the-scenes from the day via my Snapchat Story.