CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS VISITS CHICAGO WITH TAMMY DUCKWORTH
by Kai EL’ Zabar
Congressman John Lewis, born outside Troy, Alabama, Pike County to sharecroppers grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools. There as a young child he heard and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., on radio broadcasts and was moved touched and inspired by his leadership and the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During that time being of an impressionable age he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1960, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. As a student at Fisk University, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life ultimately facing death on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons. The Congressman was severely beaten by angry racist mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.
As chairman of SNCC, in 1963 he was named one of the “Big Six” leaders charged with organizing the March on Washington, along with Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. At the March Dr. King delivered his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis also spoke at the March and is its last remaining living speaker. At 23 he was the youngest speaker that day.
One of the most memorable moments in Congressman Lewis’ life of service was in 1965. Then chairman of SNCC, John Lewis was a driving force in one of the most influential moments of the Civil Rights Movement. John Lewis with and other SNCC and SCLC activists, led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. On their way to Montgomery, the marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal bloody confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. News broadcasts and photographs revealing the horrid cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Since making the choice to participate in the Civil Rights Movement he has remained at the vanguard of progress for human rights, social political change in America.
Consequently John Lewis became one of the most courageous individuals to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement and continues to dedicate his life to public service protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls, “The Beloved Community” in America. He assumed office January 3 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. His district includes the northern three-quarters of Atlanta. He has served as a Chief Deputy Whip since 1991 and Senior Chief Deputy Whip since 2003.
He has demonstrated that courage as a member of the United States Congress as recent as June 22, 2016, when he led House Democrats in a Sit-In Over Gun Control. About that, upon visiting the Chicago Defender the Congressman told us, about that moment, “I led the sit in quite frankly because I’m tired of our babies dying by gun violence and so I appealed to those elected by the American people, both Republican and Democratic to do the right thing. There were many notables that joined us, Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kaine, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Dick Durbin, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Rep Joe Courtney, Representative Robin Kelly, Rep John Warmouth and others. Tammy Duckworth was there.”
“That’s why I’m here. I think it’s imperative that we vote more courageous people like Tammy Duckworth, (currently Democratic Senatorial Candidate running against Rep. Mark Kirk) who recognize the values and what’s right and good for the American people. We need fearless representation by people unafraid of opposition. And I can tell you Tammy’s smart, and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes is good for the people. ”
Duckworth said, “I listened to the people, republican and democratic and they want gun reform. I was honored to join Congressman Lewis in the fight for what the American people want. The same people who have said that they will vote Trump—Paul Ryan and McCain, no matter the offenses Trump’s made to women, war heroes, Muslims, the disabled and more, dismissed the sit-in effort as a “publicity stunt.”
On the matter of Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about women, the impact it has had on the elections, Rep Tammy Duckworth said, “I think that it has unleashed the thinking that has always been there but kept under wraps.”
According to Congresswoman Duckworth Trump’s unfiltered barrage of disrespectful verbiage towards all people with whom he has issues has given permission to others’ held captive to the rules of etiquette, protocol, decorum and correctness to let it all out.
Duckworth spoke candidly on her observation of the Republicans, “Not all Republicans reflect Trumpism because there are some whom have stepped across the bipartisan lines and worked with us to accomplish certain things. But it is very obvious that white men (to whom Trump speaks directly) are the leadership of the Republican Party. When you look at the committees they lead, you see white males as committee chairman of the 114th Congress. Women are the exception. That does not represent America.”
When Democrats controlled the Senate, women led a record nine committees, including male bastions like the Appropriations Committee, which dispenses billions in federal dollars, and Intelligence, which oversees the government’s secret national security apparatus. Republican takeover of the Senate has also cost women powerful committee leadership posts and presented new challenges to their wielding of power. Now there are only two female committee chairwomen: Ms. Murkowski and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.”
Congressman John Lewis weighed in, “I think that the Republicans fear the changing America and fill threatened by it. America has more people of color than it has white, woman have joined the work force in larger numbers than ever before and the Republicans fear the future of what that might look like.”
Donald Trump is quoted as saying, “Putting your wife to work is a dangerous thing.” And it appears that many Republican men agree.
Tammy Duckworth addressed the importance of women, “Women are too important in our American culture. Many women are heads of household and most women are working mothers. American elected officials should represent that as well as the different races, ethnicities, and religion. Working together is the only way we can better learn to understand each other and recognize what we share in common and work.”
Congresswoman Duckworth said that women have contributed too much and are no longer accepting the disrespect that has come with being a woman in the past, noting that it has been a part of the culture leaving women who were out numbered feeling forced to accept the disrespect. However with more women in the workforce to support each other there is a new sense of empowerment. Men can no longer simply get away with saying in appropriate things to women at the workplace and it be accepted as the norm.
Women like Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson charged in a lawsuit that she was fired because she refused Roger Ailes sexual advances and Andrea Tantaros, another former female Fox News host, says in a lawsuit filed in August that she was sexually harassed by former network chief Roger Ailes and other top executives. are sending the message that no longer will women tolerate being berated, belittled or sexually harassed and keep quiet. Although he denied the charges,
Duckworth mentioned that last Thursday during the debate her opponent Republican Senator and Mark Kirk made an inappropriate and comment after she described her family’s history of military service. This he did after all the flack Trump has gotten from his Access Hollywood video, which was released, capturing him making lewd remarks about his sexual assault upon various women. She said, “He apologized by Twitter Friday and I accepted his apology but it should never had been said.”
Duckworth is correct, it should not have been said. His remark about Congresswoman Duckworth’s heritage cost him an endorsement. The Human Rights Campaign pulled its support from Kirk and is now backing Duckworth in the senate race marking the first time they’ve ever revoked an endorsement.
After Duckworth described her family’s military history . . . she expressed that her family has served since the beginning of America and said that she is a “daughter of the American Revolution” and noted she had “bled for this nation.”
Kirk said, “ I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
The president of the HRG, Chad Griffin, released an open letter that said . . . “Leadership is about more than the legislation one sponsors and the votes one casts. On Thursday night, Sen. Kirk’s comments about his opponent’s heritage were deeply offensive and racist. His attempt to use Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s race as a means to undermine her family’s American heritage and patriotism is beyond reproach,” Griffin wrote, adding that Kirk’s tweeted apology “failed to adequately address the real harm and magnitude of his words.”
Congressman John Lewis says, “This current division caused by an undercurrent of fear in America is the worse I’ve seen. We were moving forward but this divisive thrust we’re seeing is why we have to vote more officials into office that represent what more of America looks like and thinks like. People who understand ridicule, discrimination and the struggle. Tammy’s our woman for the job. She will fight hard to represent us, our best interest and in the interest of all people.”
He continued, “Look Hillary Clinton as President is going to need all the assistance we can give her. We saw how the republicans stopped President Obama’s selection for the Supreme Court Justice from moving forward. Now they’re saying that they will stop any choice of Hillary’s for Supreme Court justice. We can’t let them win. A party whose members support a man who disrespects and insults women, the disabled, war heroes, veterans, Gold Star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Hispanics, Blacks, the media and the democratic voting process is a problem. So you see how important it is to turn around the representation in the House and the Senate? We have to make sure Hillary has congressional support to spearhead her legislature and to approve her recommendations for Supreme Court.”