Arnold Ventures joins the world in mourning the passing of civil rights hero and American legend John Lewis.
From his role as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to his position as a U.S. representative for the state of Georgia, Lewis stood as a towering figure within the civil rights movement and moral voice for the nation.
As a young man Lewis called our nation to live up to its highest ideals of justice and liberty, and to shatter the racism baked into America’s civic foundations. For this he was rewarded with attack dogs, cigarette burns, police batons, and a fractured skull. He was arrested 40 times from 1960 to 1966. Nelson Mandela once said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. Lewis knew America.
His work was necessary and just, and it is still not completed. We must continue to fight to enshrine voting rights and civil rights within our laws, and bring an end to police violence and mass incarceration.
Lewis put his body on the front lines to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He founded the Voter Education Project to register and turn out voters across the Jim Crow South. He led a sit-in on the floor of Congress to protest inaction on gun policy after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting.
Today, under the banner of Black Lives Matter, a new generation of civil rights activists continue to agitate for the good, necessary trouble that Lewis often spoke of.
It is our responsibility within the philanthropic community to lend our support and advocacy to this multigenerational mission against injustice. Good policy alone is necessary, but not sufficient. We must also work to remove the barriers that have long stood in the way of true transformation within our nation’s broken institutions of policing, criminal justice and representative government.
To quote Lewis: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime.”