On Thursday, the final night of the Democratic National Convention, John Legend and Common capped off a powerful tribute to the late Rep. John Lewis — which also included video salutes by many of the civil rights leader’s colleagues and admirers — with a stirring, choir-backed performance of their Oscar-winning Selma movie theme, "Glory." Lewis died at age 80 on July 17, just months after announcing that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
In Thursday’s Lewis homage, civil rights activist Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. described the late congressman as “the singular figure that has tried to carry out the work of our nonviolent campaigns into the halls of Congress,” while Georgia politician Stacey Abrams called Lewis “someone who has navigated thorny issues of policy, not by castigating alone, but by also encouraging people to be better than they think they can be.” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said, “From day one, John Lewis was a role model for the members of Congress, whether they were freshmen or here a long time, because he brought with him a kind of heft, a weightiness of purpose.”
Andrew Young, an early leader in the civil rights movement who was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. and later served as Atlanta’s mayor, a Georgia congressman, and an ambassador to the United Nations during the Carter administration, recalled: “Life was extremely dangerous when we were growing up. John Lewis had the respect of everybody, because he was the one who demonstrated the most courage. He’d been beaten and knocked down and he’d get up and go to find another battle. John was focused on ending voter suppression, and it wasn’t that he was a great orator, it’s that he was a great spirit — the power of spirituality and humility, and the willingness to suffer rather than to inflict suffering.”
“And all of these decades later, while [Lewis] and others of his generation achieved much, we're still fighting against police brutality and fighting for our voting rights,” added pastor and current senatorial candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock. “And so we best honor him by continuing to fight the good fights that he fought by staying in good trouble.”
Warnock’s comments segued into “Glory,” which Legend and Common wrote with hip-hop artist/politician Rhymefest for Selma, the Ava DuVernay-directed 2014 historical drama about the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches initiated by James Bevel (who was portrayed by Common in the film) and led by King, Lewis, and Hosea Williams. The anthem, which was also inspired by 2014’s Ferguson protests, later won Best Original Song honors at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes as well as Best Song Written for Visual Media at the Grammys — and it brought a winning spirit to Thursday’s DNC proceedings.
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