Jean M. Gunderson: Learning lessons from John Lewis

Jean M. Gunderson: Learning lessons from John Lewis

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I carry the words of John Lewis, congressman and civil rights activist, close to my heart at this time.

In the first book of "March," he described the lived experiences of being a sharecropper’s son, segregated classrooms, “colored bathrooms,” non-inclusive restaurants, bus seating restrictions, and fear of driving across certain southern states as a family.

During the 1950s, 14-year-old Emmett Till’s body was pulled from the Mississippi Tallahatchie River and Rosa Parks refused to ride in the back of a bus in Montgomery.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the preacher from Atlanta, was also president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and led numerous bus boycotts, promoting desegregation within passive resistance and nonviolence.

John attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville and was drawn to the social gospel in which people marched for justice addressing racism, poverty and war.

The belief in peace and non-violence led him to working with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jim Lawson at non-violence workshops, department store lunch counter sit-ins and marches.

John experienced beatings and arrests in the 1960s. He described the challenge of acquiring the understanding deep in one’s heart of how to find love for one’s attacker.

We are living at such a critical time for transformation, healing and compassion.

Black Lives Matter.

Jean M. Gunderson, Winona

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