During a dedication ceremony in his honor at Freedom Park on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. John Lewis would not allow himself, or anyone, to be distracted by the momentous occasion.
“This is a beautiful day in Atlanta, but we must be mindful that there are forces in America trying to take us back to another time and another place,” Lewis said to applause. “We’ve come too far, we’ve made too much progress and we’re not going back. We are going forward.”
Lewis’ family members, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former mayors Shirley Franklin and Bill Campbell, were among the large crowd that gathered for the unveiling of John Lewis Freedom Parkway. After exiting a borrowed MARTA bus filled with city officials, the famed civil rights activist walked down a paved path, which had been recently painted with the states of the 1961 Freedom Riders route.
The Clark Atlanta University band playing on the sidelines quieted, and Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens explained why Freedom Parkway was chosen to bear Lewis’ name.
“For me, the obvious reason of course, is that John Lewis is synonymous with freedom. He’s our hero.” said Dickens, who created a task force in March 2017 to find ways to honor Lewis.
Lewis was among key activists and leaders in the civil rights movement, taking part in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington and the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, where he was beaten in the skull by a state trooper in Selma, Alabama.
A tribute wall to Lewis will also be erected at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in advance of the upcoming Super Bowl.
Mayor Bottoms presented Lewis with the Phoenix Award, which she called the highest honor that can bestowed upon anyone from the mayor’s office.
SOURCE: Becca J. G. Godwin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution