WATCH_ Atlanta celebrates ‘John Lewis Endlessly’ at Morehouse School

The U.S. Postal Service launched its John Lewis stamp at Morehouse School Friday afternoon with gospel singers and heartfelt tributes.

The 2-hour ceremony, which coincided with the on-sale date of a “eternally” stamp bearing the face of the civil rights icon, was extra of a ‘celebration of life’ church service than a advertising and marketing occasion.

It has been three years since Georgia stated goodbye to Lewis, its beloved U.S. congressman who served the fifth district from 1987 till he died at 80 on July 17, 2020 after battling pancreatic most cancers.

Though Lewis’ 2020 funeral service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church was streamed world wide and featured former U.S. Presidents Invoice Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as audio system (together with a letter from Jimmy Carter), the native public was not capable of correctly have fun Lewis throughout a summer season dominated by COVID-19 protocols, protests and an election fraught with disinformation.

That is why Friday’s USPS stamp dedication felt like a long-awaited reunion. A banner of the stamp hung subsequent to a bronze bust of Gandhi within the foyer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Worldwide Chapel as senators, mayors, Lewis’ former staffers, household and neighbors graced the stage.

A parade of reminiscences, thanks and gratitude

Hosted by actress Alfre Woodard, the occasion featured the Ebenezer Baptist Church choir and remembrances by USPS Board of Governors member Ronald Stroman, Morehouse dean Lawrence Edward Carter, Sr. and VP Henry Goodgame, Jr., former Atlanta mayors Invoice Campbell and Shirley Franklin, Linda Earley Chastang, interim president and CEO of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Basis and others who lauded Lewis’ look on the 1963 March on Washington, his management within the Scholar Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and his braveness and resolve on Bloody Sunday as he led marches over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

Sherry Frank, a former director on the American Jewish Committee and initiator of the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition, spoke about Lewis’ help for the Jewish neighborhood as each an Atlanta metropolis councilman and a member of Congress, in addition to her household’s deep friendship with Lewis, his spouse Lillian and their son John Miles Lewis, who spoke later in this system. Frank learn a message from Hillary Clinton, who was unable to attend.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy, a civil rights activist and daughter of segregationist Alabama Governors George and Luleen Wallace who grew up a number of miles from Lewis’ hometown of Troy, recalled strolling the Pettus bridge with Lewis in 2009. “One act of kindness could make all of the distinction in an individual’s life,” she stated. “For him to take my hand and stroll with me throughout that bridge confirmed me that forgiveness, reconciliation and unconditional love can heal the human coronary heart and restore the soul…John gave me the braveness to step away from my previous and discover my very own voice.”

Bettie Mae Fikes, who impressed civil rights marchers as a teenaged singer on the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama within the Sixties, sang a rousing freeform medley of freedom songs together with “Ain’t Gonna Let No person Flip Me ‘Spherical.”

Each of Georgia’s U.S. Sens Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock participated within the unveiling of the stamp, and at one level Woodard joked that Reverend Warnock shouldn’t make an altar name as a result of she lives in California and would really feel compelled to affix the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church the place is a pastor. Woodard requested the senators to face. The pair of them waved to the viewers from the entrance row with a backdrop of their mentor Lewis behind them—symbolizing how a lot has occurred in America because the civil rights chief’s demise.

A rising legacy

Compelling remarks by an emotional Michael Collins, longtime Chief of Workers for Lewis’ congressional workplace in Washington, D.C. and present chair of the Lewis basis, centered across the that means of the John Lewis ‘eternally’ stamp. Collins talked about the letter an 18-year-old Lewis wrote to Dr. King and the reply he acquired. Their bond first created by mail—despatched with stamps—led to a motion that modified the world.

John Miles Lewis additionally talked about the significance of this recognition for his late father, who was an avid stamp collector. In an period of electronic mail and impersonal communication, letter writing is a misplaced artwork, Lewis stated. Taking the time to write down to somebody mattered. “It meant one thing,” he stated. “This implies one thing,” he added, pointing to the large-than-life stamp on stage.

Then gospel hitmaker Dottie Peoples carried out one in every of Lewis’ favourite numbers, “He is An On-Time God” because the choir and viewers joined in on the uplifting refrain.

When Warnock gave the benediction on the finish of the ceremony, it mirrored Lewis’ funeral thirty-six months in the past. However this time there was a lightness within the air. The pandemic, elections and re-elections, January 6, 2021, the persevering with difficulties within the struggle for voting rights for all Individuals—none of it appeared insurmountable now.

For the followers of John Lewis, there isn’t any bridge too far.

“When he crossed that bridge he had no purpose to consider he may win,” Warnock prayed. “However by some stroke of future mingled with human resilience, he crossed the bridge and have become a bridge. And we’re the blessed inheritors of that grand imaginative and prescient. And so now, could future generations say the identify of the boy from Troy, who as a younger man thought he would possibly spend his life preaching sermons, however as an alternative he turned a sermon. Could we hear it, could we reside it … And now as we go away this place, at the same time as we stroll out, put working in our toes in order that we’d make actual the guarantees of democracy.”