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The Washington Informer’s publisher, Denise Rolark Barnes, presents Congressman John Lewis with the news organization’s first Humanitarian Award at THEARC Theatre in Southeast, Thursday, April 19. / Photos by Khalid Naji-Allah

A Conversation with John Lewis Civil Rights Icon Regales Appreciative Audience

By Barrington M. Salmon WI Staff Writer For a man who was beaten, spat upon and jailed 40 times as a foot soldier of the Civil Rights movement, Congressman John Robert Lewis is surprisingly free of rancor and hate. During a 90-minute conversation with Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes last week, Lewis spoke eloquently and at length about the philosophy, discipline and principles of nonviolence and its importance in America’s daily discourse. “We need to teach people the way of peace, love and non-violence,” said Lewis in response to a student’s question about the Trayvon Martin case late in the program. “There must be a better way, a different way … we should live, love, [live with] a sense of community, peace, grace. We shouldn’t be afraid of each other and we should not hate. [Dr.] King said we should lay down the burden of hate and that if we don’t come together as brothers, we will die as fools.” Lewis, 72, was the honored guest at an event at the Town Hall Education Arts Recre-

ation Center (THEARC) in Southeast, titled, A Conversation with Civil Rights Icon the Honorable John Lewis. The evening’s sponsors were Industrial Bank, PEPCO, Washington Gas, Wells Fargo, Southwest Airlines, Mahogany Books and the Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education (FAME). Hosted by the Washington Informer, the event brought together several hundred people including guests, sponsors, students and others to an afterfive gathering in the THEARC Theatre. Guests were treated to a short documentary film about Lewis that detailed his early life

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as an Alabama farm boy; his desire to acquire an education, his admiration for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King; their association and their seminal work in the Civil Rights movement, Lewis’ activism and his role as a congressman. “I wanted to be a preacher but civil rights became my life, the movement became my church,” Lewis said. “I was less concerned with getting people to the streets paved with gold and more concerned with helping people on the streets of Nashville. Being in school, listening to my professors inspired and pushed me. We wanted to make the teach-

ing of people real. [These were people with] pains that hurt, pains that hurt people every day. We couldn’t allow people to be denied human rights. It was an affront to our dignity.” As he surveyed life for blacks in a segregated America, Lewis said he was incensed at the shabby treatment meted out to he and his family and other black Americans. “We couldn’t take a seat at a lunch counter and to see two water fountains, one for whites and the other for blacks. It scarred the minds and souls of people. We had to change that,” he explained. “I was told over and over by

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my parents and grandparents to stay out of trouble but this was good trouble, necessary trouble. The bombing of the church in Birmingham broke our hearts but we redoubled our efforts to vote.” But that activism came at a price. Lewis recalled being punched and kicked, having racists grind out cigarettes in his hair, being manhandled by police during demonstrations, attacked by police dogs, and suffering a concussion after being hit in the head with batons by state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 1965 March on Selma. Despite all this, Lewis said, he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again. Lewis discussed the ultimate price extracted from King, Robert and John F. Kennedy. He said he was campaigning for and traveling with Robert Kennedy who was running for the Democratic nomination to the White House in 1968. “RFK invited a group of us to come to his sister’s hotel room,” Lewis said. “He said ‘stay here. I’ll be back in 15 minutes.’ He went down to See LEWIS on Page 23

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Inspired by a Movement… At age 17, John Lewis was so inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that he wrote a letter to Rev. King asking to meet him. Dr. King responded and sent Lewis a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket to meet with him in Montgomery, Ala. The Washington Informer asked Richard Wright Public Charter School students to write a letter to someone who inspires them and tell them why they would want to meet them and join their cause. Below are excerpts of three compelling letters selected by The Washington Informer staff. David McFarland The Trevor Project

The Honorable Julian Bond The American University

Anthony Lake UNICEF House

Dear McFarland:

Dear Mr. Bond:

Dear Mr. Lake:

I am writing this letter to you because I am very passionate about ending the cycle of bullying. I selected your organization to write to because you focus on supporting gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning youth and ending the cycle of suicide among these youth by providing “life-saving” and “life-affirming’ resources. I think it is wonderful that your organization exists and that it has a 24/7 lifeline intervention that the youth can call if they feel like they need someone to talk to. I understand that the Trevor Project’s vision is to create a future where all youth can have the same dreams and possibilities as everyone else, no matter what sexual orientation, or gender identity that they choose to be. That is a future I want to experience. I want to be affiliated with your organization because in the past, I have been bullied. I have been pushed around, and tortured, and it got to that point where I felt like nothing. Your organization would have been great to know about back then. Another reason I’d like to be a part of your group is because one of my closet friends that I knew since 5th grade recently committed suicide. You see she was being bullied because she came out as a lesbian. When I first heard about the Trevor Project, I thought to myself, if only I had known about this earlier then I could’ve helped my friend, I could’ve done something. One way I think this can be stopped is to get parents more involved. It’s not right to bully, and I am writing this letter because this bullying thing has been happening a lot and it’s time for this to stop. I am very pleased to learn about the work that your organization does. I would love to become a volunteer, or an advocate at any time. Please contact me to advise me of ways that I can get involved and make a difference. Thank you for all you hard work and effort. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I am writing this letter to let you know that I support the marriage between same sex couples. I believe this is a civil rights issue. Since you have always been a supporter for civil rights I hope you believe this way, too. Discrimination against same sex couples is wrong. Same sex relationships are just as beautiful as opposite sex relationships. As a homosexual male myself, and not only that, but I’m being raised by a same sex couple I want to honor myself and my family. My mother and her fiancé’ are doing a fantastic job raising me and my siblings. What can opposite sex couples teach kids that same sex couples can’t? This topic is really sensitive for me because I’ve recently come out. I’ve been teased and discriminated against on more than one occasion. I think that treating someone differently just because they like something different from you is borderline mean. It bothers me that it’s a huge million man march when a “homie” from the hood gets killed. It’s all over the news and everywhere. But when a transgender is slain with a slit throat at a bus stop, people say absolutely nothing. Maybe you get a “this is a sad world we’re coming to” and then someone flips the channel on the television, or the page in the newspaper is turned. Legalizing gay marriage would be a giant move to help people accept homosexuals as equals. People need to wake up and realize that there are people in the world who are born differently. What would legalizing gay marriage mean for me? This movement means the world to me. I know of your history with civil rights. I believe that you can offer me sound advice on how I can make same-sex marriage a reality in my lifetime. I hope that you will contact me with information. De’Quan Barclift 9th Grade

Arianna Marsh 9th Grade Student

I am passionate about ending world hunger and helping needy children. I really appreciate the work that has been done by your organization. I feel that UNICEF is one of the greatest organizations supporting children today and I would love to be a part of it. UNICEF is over 50 years old but it is still needed today because every year, 15 million children throughout the world die from hunger. Current data suggests that even in America, 1 in 4 children are at risk of starvation. UNICEF is an organization that not many teenagers around me know about. But now that I know more about it, I feel as though I should inform others. World hunger is something that really affects young people in over 150 countries around the world. From my research I learned what UNICEF really stands for. I learned that UNICEF is a global humanitarian relief organization providing children with so much to keep them alive like; healthcare, immunizations, clean water, nutrition, food security, education, emergency relief and so much more. That really inspired me to want to help children whose parents can’t afford to feed them, or take them to regular doctor visits. I’ve always wanted to help people that didn’t have much in life and to find out that this organization helps children in over 150 countries really makes me want to be a part of something so significant. If you think about it this organization is saving lives of young people every day. Even though there are still 21,000 children that still die each day from preventable causes, with organizations like UNICEF, this situation will get better. I would love to participate in the fight to feed and protect young people all over the world because it is something that needs to be done. During the past four years, our economy has more families in poverty and more children suffering. Every day I think about what I can do to help others. Please write to me and let me know what I can do to get involved. Sincerely,

Akiya Kent 9th Grade Student

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The desire for a better tomorrow comes naturally…

Mistress of Ceremonies, Taylor Thomas , WHUR News-Steve Harvey Morning Show, looks on while The Washington Informer’s Advertising Marketing Director Ron Burke makes a few remarks at THEARC, Thursday, April 19. The Washington Informer presented A Conversation with Civil Rights Icon-John Lewis, Thursday, April 19. / Photo by Shevry Lassiter

LEWIS continued from Page 21 make a victory statement [after winning the California Democratic nomination]. He never came back.” And Lewis said he cried when he saw the MLK Memorial from the air. “I spoke on the day of the March – 10 of us spoke. I was sixth and King was 10th,” Lewis recalled. “Of all the 10, I’m the only one still around. He [King] preached that day and turned those steps into a modern-day pulpit.” “When I was flying out of National Airport, I looked down and saw the King Memorial. I cried tears of happiness and joy knowing the distance we’d come.” For almost three hours, guests met, shook hands, hugged, chit-chatted and took pictures with the civil rights symbol. They also witnessed a sit-down with Rolark Barnes and were able to ask questions themselves. The evening included a special reception in the theatre lobby; a sparkling short set of three songs by theThe Oxon Hill High School Choir which wowed the audience with its rendition of In Bright Mansions; with one of the highlights being the presentation of the first Washington Informer Humanitarian Award to Lewis at the conclusion of the program. WHUR’s Taylor Thomwww.washingtoninformer.com

as served as MC and sponsor representatives brought greetings and spoke of the importance of putting their support behind such a program. Every guest received a copy of Lewis’ book “Walking in the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.” The man of the hour appeared to enjoy himself, exhibiting charm, self-deprecation and a dry, keenly honed sense of humor, all with a straight face. “On my father’s farm, we raised corn and peanuts and raised chickens. It was not an easy task,” he explained. “My calling, mission and obligation was to care for those chickens. [I didn’t always do as good a job as I should have] which was not moral, loving or the nonviolent thing to do. I wanted to be a preacher so I preached to the chickens … some chickens bowed their heads, listened and prayed. They did everything, but say amen.” They listened better than many of the colleagues I work with.” The pair sat in armchairs facing each other on stage, a small table with a bouquet of flowers provided an intimate addition to the setting. Rolark Barnes told guests the event was made possible because Lewis suggested, and then kindly offered, to participate in the program because he wanted to use this as a vehicle to reach young people. D.C. resident Julian Kiganda was awed by what she’d expe-

Fulfilling it takes work. Washington Gas understands that our responsibilities don’t end with serving our customers. We’ve made a commitment to help enhance the quality of life throughout the entire community. That’s why we’re proud to work with local organizations that improve people’s health, promote a cleaner environment, support efforts to better educate our youth and as a result, enrich lives today and for generations to come. To learn more about how Washington Gas is helping create a healthier, more vibrant community, visit washingtongas.com.

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Change requires great energy. We proudly salute the energy and courage of The Honorable John Lewis.

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Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), sat down with Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes at the THEARC Theatre for a conversation about his childhood, his experiences in the Civil Rights movement and his hopes for future generations during “A Conversation with Civil Rights Icon” John Lewis. Hundreds attended the event at the THEARC in Southeast on Thursday, April 19. /Photos by Khalid Naji-Allah and Shevry Lassiter

“In 1955, I heard King. The voice was powerful, the delivery of his message LEWIS continued from Page 23 rienced. “I thought it was incredible for me as a woman of African descent to see the relationship with the movement to Africa as we sought to get away from colonialism,” said Kiganda, president and creative problem solver with Vibrant Design Group and a Ugandan native. “I didn’t have any expectations; I just wanted to hear what he had to say.” “I wish more young people were here to hear this. We need more dialogue. The National Urban League is where I learned about the Civil Rights movement. It was a movement of young people. He was only 23 when he gave his speech [at

so great. He said he was more concerned about Montgomery, not Heaven, the here and now.”

the March on Washington]. We have no excuse.” From Alabama Farm Boy to the Hallowed Halls of Congress Lewis grew up under humble circumstances in Troy, Ala. The

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third of 10 children, Lewis’ parents were sharecroppers. “I grew up in a wonderful family, a wonderful family with six brothers and three sisters,” he said. His father bought a 110-acre plot of land for $300 which The Washington Informer

Lewis and his siblings toiled on from dawn ’til dusk. But the young Lewis wanted more and he said he hid under the house porch and them sprang out and sprinted for the school bus each morning. “I really wanted an education. I wanted more,” was Lewis’ simple explanation. He said his grandfather lived about a mile away and would give his grandchildren newspapers to read. He excelled academically despite being transported to classes in a run-down school bus, using hand-medown books at a system that only thought blacks capable of performing manual and menial tasks. Lewis credits one of his elementary school teachers with encouraging him to read. The family also listened to the ra-

dio, which is where he first heard King. “In 1955 I heard King,” he recalled. “The voice was powerful, the delivery of his message so great. He said he was more concerned about Montgomery, not Heaven, the here and now.” Lewis studied at the American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University, both in Nashville. He was deeply influenced by Jim Wilson, who instilled in Lewis, Diane Nash and other students the deepest tenets of non-violence. Lewis first ran for elected office in 1977. He won a seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981. He defeated longtime civil rights activist Julian Bond in a run-off election See LEWIS on Page 25

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Among his many accomplishments, Congressman John Lewis is the author of Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Arrested more than 40 times, Congressman John Lewis’ uses his book to give readers a rare look into the Civil Rights movement during the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Following his conversation at THEARC, Congressman Lewis held a book signing for happy attendees. Photos by Shevry Lassiter, Roy Lewis and Khalid Naji Allah

LEWIS continued from Page 24 in 1986 and has served in Congress since then. A Date with Destiny It is well known that the Civil Rights movement owed its genesis and considerable energy to determined and ideological young men and women who braved the rage of the beneficiaries of a dying system which sought to keep African Americans under the heel of segregation, racism and discrimination. High school and college students and others braved police dogs, fire hoses, police truncheons, beatings and other physical dangers as they stood down those who sought to maintain the racial status quo. www.washingtoninformer.com

Inspirational music was performed by Oxon Hill High School Choir under the direction of Dr. Emory Andrews. Their rendition of In Bright Mansions wowed the audience. / Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

King, for example, was only 26-years-old went he leapt onto the national and international consciousness as the leader of the 381-day Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that brought down segregation in public transportation in the heart of the Old

South. Nash, a friend and colleague of Lewis was only 22 when she became the leader of the sit-ins in Nashville, Tenn., which led to the desegregation of lunch counters, theatres and supermarkets. She was also instrumental in helping create

the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, helped organize the Freedom Rides and played important roles in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that included serving as an organizer, strategist, instructor and fieldworker. Lewis said he chafed against the bonds that held black people captive and refused to accept a system that robbed African Americans of their dignity and self-respect. “Fifty years ago, we couldn’t vote. We had to count the number of jelly beans in a jar,” he said. “… People had to pay poll taxes and interpret sections of the Alabama Constitution. So many institutions participated in this vicious, evil system. I saw it growing up.” Lewis recounted his involvement in desegregating lunch

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counters in Nashville, Tenn., and taking part in the harrowing bus rides as Freedom Riders into the South to challenge a law that relegated blacks to use separate and unequal facilities and forced them to the back of the bus. He vividly recalls the mobs of white men – faces distorted with rage – attacking him and the other young college students with fists, crowbars, baseball bats, chains, anything that could inflict pain. And on the sidelines, white women with countenances knitted in raw, naked anger, spurred on their men. He spoke of the “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” signs, segregated water fountains, libraries, restrooms, restaurants and buses – all graphic See LEWIS on Page 26

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Honoring a Giant It has been said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” And by giants we mean extraordinary people who, through hard work and sacrifice, accept the challenge to stand for that which is right. Individuals who make a commitment to initiate and maintain transformational change for the benefit of all people, and not just the privileged few. The Honorable John Lewis is such a giant. He is a living legend with a legacy of dedicated service and commitment to his constituents. Industrial Bank is both honored and proud to sponsor “A Conversation with John Lewis.”

Industrial Bank (202) 722-200 www.industrial-bank.com Member FDIC

Congressman John Lewis autographs his book—Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. /Photos by Khalid Naji-Allah

LEWIS continued from Page 27 reminders of the centuries-old tradition and customs that segregationists said “were in the best interest of both races.” “There was a lot of danger fighting a system that didn’t want you,” said Lewis. “For several weeks we were trained to accept the beatings and violence. We had the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’: sit up, look straight ahead, remember the teachings of King, Gandhi …” “There were mass arrests in Nashville … They had a profound effect on people, especially women. People turned in charging plates, what you call credit cards. We just kept sitting-in and sitting-in. My first arrest was on Feb 27, 1960. I was satisfied. It felt so free, I felt so liberated. It felt like I crossed over. You arrest me. What can you do to me? Nashville became the first southern city to desegregate lunch counters [and] theatres.” Lewis said that as an 18-yearold, he wrote King because he was so inspired by King’s

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words and actions and also because he sought King’s help in getting him into Troy State University. King sent him a bus ticket to join him in Montgomery, Ala., instead, and that act led to Lewis’ involvement in the Civil Rights struggle, a life dedicated to seeking justice and equality for the poor and the underdog, and an unerring desire to change the racial paradigm of the United States. “I heard that young preacher with a voice that burned with change,” Lewis said. “I was inspired to write a letter to King. I was ‘tracked down’ to play a role. I often wonder about that. In March 1958, I boarded a Greyhound bus and met Martin Luther King. It changed my life … freedom was a possible dream.” Reaching Out to a New Generation Following Lewis’ letter writing example, a number of journalism students from the Richard Wright Public Charter School in Northeast wrote letSee LEWIS on Page 27

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LEWIS continued from Page 26 ters to individuals and organizations seeking their help in attacking social ills such as child hunger, bullying, gay rights for young people, and racial profiling, as evidenced by the recent murders of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and Kenneth Chambers, Sr., a 68-year-old former corrections officer and U.S. Marine, who was fatally shot in his home last November by police in White Plains, N.Y. Ninth-grader Akiya Kent is one such writer: “I am writing this letter to you because I am passionate about ending world hunger and helping needy children,” she wrote to Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF House in New York. “I really appreciate the work that has been done by your organization. I feel that UNICEF is one of the greatest organizations supporting children today and I would love to be a part of it.” “UNICEF is [more than] 50

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years old but it is still needed today because every year, 15 million children throughout the world die from hunger.” Obama’s Promise A close friend of Hillary Clinton, Lewis first endorsed her run for the White House in 2008 before formally switching to Barack Obama. “Obama’s run was in keeping with the spirit of the movement,” Lewis explained. “When I heard Obama’s [acceptance speech], I cried. I jumped so high I didn’t think my feet would ever touch the ground.” Gloria Ravenell and her husband Jerry stood in line after the program to get Lewis’ book. “I read his book and had a lot of background,” said Ravenell, 68, who is retired but serves as outreach coordinator for the Capital Area Food Bank. “I found him to be humble, knowledgeable and a prayerful person.” Her husband agreed. “What intrigued me most is that he is so human; he’s not

tainted,” said Jerry Ravenell, 64, an adjunct professor of Social Sciences in Wilmington, Del. “He has been able to keep that with all his gifts and resources. He’s still that humble, God-fearing person.” Despite the hard-won and often bloody gains Lewis, King, Ella Baker, C.T. Vivian, Fannie Lou Hamer, Nash and others of his generation made to advance the cause of civil rights, Lewis laments the fact that America remains in denial about race. “I don’t buy the feeling that we live in a post-racial America,” Lewis asserted. “The scars and stains are still deeply embedded in America. We need to talk about race. We cannot sweep it under the rug, push it in a corner. In the AfricanAmerican community and in the majority community we’re afraid to talk about it, bring it out.” “The fact is that we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to achieve a multiracial, democratic society. We had a powerful coalition [before] and we need it again.” wi

Partners and sponsors made a conversation with Congressman John Lewis possible. A special thanks to: (Left-Right) Hermond Palmer, Industrial Bank; Patricia Mitchell, Industrial Bank; Donna Cooper, Pepco; Beverly Perry, Pepco; Michael Golden, Wells Fargo Bank; and Karen Price Ward, Southwest Airlines. / photo by Shevry Lassiter

Congressman John Lewis, center, with students from Richard Wright Public Charter School in Northeast, Thursday April 19, at THEARC, in Southeast DC. / photo by Roy Lewis

The legacy of leadership Great leaders leave a mark on the communities they serve. They bring people together, create a consensus and work hard to make positive change. What is accomplished today can last for generations. We proudly salute Congressman John Lewis. Thank you for creating a lasting legacy of success. wellsfargo.com

© 2012 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. (712889_04710)

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4/4/12 2:47 PM

Apr. 26, 2012 - May. 2, 2012

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By “Mickey” Thompson Content provided and photos owned by Social Sightings • www.SocialSightings.com

A Conversation with Civil Rights Icon Honorable John Lewis The Washington Informer Newspaper hosted a book signing and discussion with the civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis at THEARC Theatre in Southeast Washington. Ms. Taylor Thomas (96.3 WHUR, News - Steve Harvey Morning Show was the mistress of ceremonies. Atty. Denise Rolark Barnes (Publisher of the Washington Informer Newspaper) presented the honoree with The Washington Informer Humanitarian Award. Mr. Lewis’ book “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement was discussed and a viewing of his documentary film “John Lewis: An American Hero” was enjoyed by all. FAME (The Foundation for the Advancement of Music & Education, Inc.), Pepco, Southwest Airlines, Wells Fargo Bank , WashingtonGas, Industrial Bank, Capital Entertainment Services, Inc. , Mahongany Books and “Mickey” Thompson publisher of Social Sightings - The MagaZine & The CoLumn were sponsors. Music was provided by Ignatius Perry.

The Honorable John Lewis (C) stands beside Michael Goldman (President Wells Fargo Bank DC Region) & members of his team from Wells Fargo

Event Sponsors of “A Conversation with Civil Rights Icon” John Lewis

L-R Edmund Fleet (Ex. Dir. THEARC) , Atty. Beverly Perry (VP Pepco) , Atty. Maudine Cooper (CEO & Pres.Greater Washington Urgan League), Michael Golden (Pres. Wells Fargo Bank DC Region) & Karen Price Ward (Southwest Airlines).

Ms. Patricia Mitchell (Industrial Bank) with her son watches as the honoree autographes a copy of his book “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movementt:”.

(L-R) Michael Golden (Pres. Wells Fargo Bank DC Region ) with Ron Burke (Advertising & Marketing Dir. Washington Informer) & Atty. Denise Rolark Barnes (Publisher Washington Informer Newspaper)

The honoree Lewis (C) between Doris McMillon (McMillon Communications) with her husband.

Doyle Mitchell (President of Industrial Bank far right) with his sister, Patricia (4th left) and his wife (Ronda Far Right) surround Congressman John Lewis with the Mitchell children.

Trenda Smith Picknettjust justtwo twoof ofthethe many came Dorinda Smith&&Dr. Dr.Leo Leo Picknett many whowho came outtotolisten listen and and purchase purchase books John Lewis out booksfrom fromCongressman Congressman John Lewis

Ms. Misty Brown (Writer & Artist) with Congressman John Lewis

Kurt Pommouths, Sr. Photographer * Photo Enhancer * Graphic Designer

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John Lewis Special