Congressman John Lewis worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington and was almost killed while marching for voting rights. Last month, the Civil Rights icon stopped by MTV for a special interview with Sway, to talk about his graphic novel, “March,” along with the power of music and how young people can become activists.
When asked what he was most optimistic about with the Millennial generation, Congressman Lewis said, “I am very hopeful and very optimistic with this unbelievable, smart and gifted generation. When I was growing up, we never heard of the Internet. And music, I tell you, if it hasn’t been for music in the Civil Rights Movement, the Movement would have been like a bird without wings.”
Many times the nonviolent protesters in the Civil Rights Movement would be arrested, and sometimes after they got out of jail they would want to listen to some music at a club. “The songs helped us, motivated us, they inspired us to get out there.” While marching, they would make up tunes. “So music played a major role within the Movement.”
And what’s his advice for a young person who wants to be an activist? “Study the history of the Movement, read everything, watch the videos, listen to the music of the Movement and be inspired to get out there and push and pull. We studied. We prepared ourselves. … If I could grow up very, very poor in rural Alabama, picking cotton, gathering peanuts, pulling corn and then get elected to Congress after being involved in the Civil Rights Movement, you, too, can do something. And I think we all have that obligation, to reach back and try to help somebody.”
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