This month, our Atlanta community lost two heroes and legends of the civil rights movement, freedom fighters U.S. Representative John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. We are humbled by their commitment to justice, transformational change, and selfless work to uplift humanity.
As our nation grapples with existential threats to equality and justice, both new and old, Congressman Lewis’ encouragement to cause “good trouble” has never been more necessary.
At Tahirih, we are inspired by his recognition that the fight for immigrant rights was intrinsically bound to the civil rights movement. In 2013, Congressman Lewis was arrested during a rally to support comprehensive immigration support. Over the past two years, he consistently showed up for immigrant communities at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, when the travel ban went into effect, at protests outside of the Atlanta City Detention Center, as the U.S. government separated immigrant parents from their children, and with his legislative team, as they advocated for the rights of immigrants throughout Georgia and across the country.
Many of our Tahirih Atlanta team had the honor of meeting the late Congressman Lewis and witnessed glimpses of what a fine person he was. Shana Tabak, Tahirih Atlanta Executive Director, remembers Mr. Lewis riding in her neighborhood’s parade and getting out of his car to high-five preschoolers. Eileen Espinal, Tahirih Atlanta Social Services Manager, recalls meeting the Congressman at an event and crouching down to hug him only to be reminded that, while appreciated, she should “never crouch down for a man.” Finally, Lynn Pearson, Tahirih Atlanta Senior Staff Attorney, has fond memories of taking her children to meet Lewis and the impact of the experience. We as a team will miss him dearly.
To that same end, we take a moment to reflect on the life of Reverend C.T. Vivian. We draw strength from his bravery and resolve as a participant in the 1961 Freedom Rides, in the face of incredible brutality from white supremacists. Throughout his life, Rev. Vivian remained committed to speaking the truth, and embodying the ideals of non-violent, direct action to spur change. He never stopped marching. He never stopped leading.
Both Congressman John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian demonstrated extraordinary courage and leadership in defiant times and have exemplified immense love for our communities while seeking to dismantle injustice, hate, and inequitable systems. We thank them for teaching us to be optimistic and to create revolutionary change. We commit to walking the path that they have led us on. We are dedicated to fighting for a nation that respects and upholds the rights of all marginalized peoples. We will honor their legacy by showing up in the name of justice.
“To see all the young people — Black, white, Latino, Asian-American, Native-American — standing up, speaking up, being prepared to march, they’re going to help redeem the soul of America.”
–Rep. John Lewis
“The truth is, we have to work together to save ourselves.”
— Rev. C.T. Vivian
Your Tahirih Atlanta Team
Learn more about the legacy of John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian.
Rep. John Lewis’ book Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
Rep. Lewis’ 2017 speech at Atlanta’s Women’s March
Rep. Lewis’ 2018 statement condemning harsh immigration policies.
Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian’s book Black Power and the American Myth