“If there were no airplanes, I would have walked across America to be here tonight to sing the praise song to John Lewis,” began Alfre Woodard, the night’s first speaker for the “Portraits of John Lewis: Celebrating the 75th Birthday” festivities at the Tabernacle in Atlanta Saturday.
“I wouldn’t have even caught a ride in a car if offered because I would have wanted every footfall to represent the concentrated steps John Lewis has taken on behalf of every American then and now and those to come,” she continued to thunderous applause. “His world compass always points true north.”
More than a month after his actual Feb. 21 birthday, a motley crew assembled to celebrate the typically modest Lewis. Celebrities Kim Fields, Tichina Arnold, Terri J. Vaughn, Dulé Hill, Dionne Warwick and A.J. Calloway joined politicians Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida to honor Lewis during an event that featured performances by the Indigo Girls, Demetria McKinney, Jennifer Holliday, Regina Belle and the Anointed Pace Sisters.
Videotaped messages from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton were played, as were pieces narrated by John Legend and onetime Georgia Democratic gubernatorial challenger and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, Jason Carter. The musical theater productionWhich Side Are You On?, inspired by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was performed by students from Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Spelman and was particularly well received.
In his message, President Obama referenced their recent trip to commemorate Selma, Ala., where Lewis, while a college student, was severely beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago during “Bloody Sunday.”
“It was one of the privileges of my life to share the stage with you that day,” Obama said. “This country changed because of you. This country is more just, more fair, more generous, more free because of you. It is my hope that generations come to know your story and [that of] the civil rights movement.”
Source: The Root | RONDA RACHA PENRICE