The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, in partnership with Declaration for American Democracy, hosted a rally on Saturday to honor civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis on the first anniversary of his death.
Over 150 community members attended the "Good Trouble" rally, which was held at the Carrboro Town Commons. Ceremony leaders encouraged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act.
Lewis was one of the youngest people involved in civil and voting rights advocacy in the 1960s.
Diane Robertson, vice president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, said she was in middle school when the March on Washington took place, which was her introduction to both civil rights and Lewis.
“His life work was to advance justice, and the foundation of that was voting rights,“ Robertson said.
She said Lewis served as president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee while he was in college and helped organize the March on Washington of 1963 through that role, which demanded voting rights for all Americans, particularly Southerners.
Pro-democracy activist Jennifer Bremer, one of the organizers of the event, said she is a strong supporter of legislation that protects voters, and she wanted to celebrate Lewis’ life in a meaningful way.
“We cannot bring John Lewis back, but we can restore the Voting Rights Act, and that's what we need to do,” Bremer said. “We need to have those protections in place — we are not done with racism in the state, and we are not done with suppressing the Black vote."
Speakers at the event included Robertson, Judge Wanda Bryant and the Raging Grannies, who performed an original song.
Bryant, who retired in December after serving on the N.C. Court of Appeals for almost 20 years, said she was happy to be a keynote speaker.
“I was so inspired just by being there and so inspired by the crowd,” Bryant said. “But as I mentioned in my speech, it's astounding and disheartening that several years later, we're back to fighting the same fight that folks like John Lewis fought all those years ago.”
Robertson emphasized the importance of political involvement. She said the call to action at the event was to remind people to contact their senators daily and ask for them to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act.
Although some senators have said they do not support the legislation, Robertson said constituents can call their senators to advocate for its passage.
“It really was a moment to remind everyone we live in a little bit of a protected area here where we don't feel the worst aspects of some of the rules and laws that are being passed, but it was a good reminder for us to come together that we needed to be present,” Robertson said.
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