CHARLES RYAN ARMOUR:

I grew up pretty sheltered just outside of Atlanta. I really didn’t know much about the civil rights movement until I got older. My mom is from Madison, Georgia, which is an hour away from Atlanta and my father was from Buckhead, which about 15 minutes away from Madison so it was pretty rural where they came from. They both knew what it was like growing up in the Jim Crow era. I was two years old when John Lewis was elected to congress, I’m 37 now and he’s been my congressman nearly my entire life. I really didn’t experience much racism in my own life, but learning the history and seeing what’s happening in our country today has really opened my eyes.

I think in light of everything that’s going on right now, I think the pandemic in a way stopped all our distractions for us—sports,  entertainment.  None of us in our lifetimes have experienced anything like this in our lifetimes I think when all that stopped, everybody, including myself began reflecting on what’s happening in our world.

With the George Floyd incident, I already knew what’s going on for decades in terms of race relations. But I think now with the pandemic, I look at it and think “Hey, hold on times have changed, but people don’t.”  John Lewis was truly a pioneer. Always fought the good battle. Always made good trouble. He’s risked his life to fight for our rights even to the day he died.

It was 55 years ago, when he went to the Edmund Pettus bridge and all that violence erupted. I visited that bridge five years ago when I was visiting that part of Alabama. Selma was very quiet when I went there. It’s a real small town. Very quiet. It was just so powerful to be there and walk over that bridge. I can’t imagine what those people went through back then.

So much of what these people were doing was about the right to vote. That’s what John Lewis was all about. We need to pick up that mantle and get out and vote in this upcoming election. Let’s do it not only for him, let’s do it for ourselves, too. Let’s do it for our families. Let’s do it for our children.

This has been a really big loss, because he was such a great leader. All I can say is, thank you, John, for your wonderful work. Thank you for so much for your sacrifice. We’ll take it from here.

Charles Ryan Armour is a member of FOR Atlanta.