John Lewis, the civil rights leader and long-time congressman who died in 2020, left a legacy in the creation of a foundation to carry on his push for young people to stay civically engaged — what he called “good trouble.”
In Washington, D.C. this week, Alfre Woodard and Common were among the figures who helped officially launch the effort, at a gala in the Schuyler ballroom at the Hamilton Hotel. It included a performance by Common, as well as a preview of a series of conversations called the Good Trouble talk. This one featured Common and Charlayne Hunter-Gault. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) also spoke.
The event raised money for the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation, named for Lewis and his wife, who died in 2012. The organization got its tax exempt status in 2019, but after his illness and then the Covid pandemic, officially launched in February, said its CEO, Linda Earley Chastang.
Chastang said that they plan to hold Good Trouble talks several times a year in other parts of the country.
“It will be whomever people want to hear from or need to hear from in those various communities,” she said. The foundation, she said, has been working with schools and universities to develop curricula “that is aligned with the priorities of the congressman — non-violence, protest, peace. … That’s exactly what he would want us to do.”
She added, “He learned what he calls ‘the way of peace,’ ‘ the way of love,’ in the basement of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee with his friends Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette and others, under the tutelage of Rev. Jim Lawson.” The workshops were the origins of the Nashville Student Movement, which challenged segregation in the city through non-violent protest.
“We’d like to do just what he did, what he benefited from, how he learned the way of peace and the way of love. We want to do that with schools and communities around the country,” she said.
In an interview with MSNBC this week, Woodward said, “Because it is the Lewises, the mission is guided with moral clarity and truth and integrity. She added that the foundation is focused on political participation and voting rights for the next generation.
“I was born a Black female child in Oklahoma,” she said. “You have no recourse other than to be involved. I am not saying you have to go out and organize and march in the streets, which is a really good exercise as brother John Lewis told us, but it is imperative because you don’t exist if you don’t show up.”