Rep. John Lewis Memorial

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Thrive Collective’s executive director Jeremy Del Rio was asked by The NYC Mayor’s Office to reflect on the intersection of faith and justice at an online Memorial Service for Rep. John Lewis on September 15. Jeremy’s remarks follow.

🎨 Mural by Damien Mitchell for Projectivity

📷 by Sold magazine

John Lewis Memorial Service

September 15, 2020

My name is Jeremy Del Rio, from Thrive Collective. We create hope and opportunity through arts and mentoring in and around public schools. It’s an honor to be here to celebrate the life and legacy of a hero.

We’ve heard a lot about “good trouble, necessary trouble” tonight.

The Honorable John Lewis’s legacy is also about thriving. Just weeks before he passed, in response to George Floyd’s murder, Representative Lewis remarked:

“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.”

Congressman Lewis was also a minister. The faith tradition we share teaches that Jesus’ birth was scandalized by injustice. Mary’s unwed pregnancy was an unprosecuted, capital crime. The birth itself in a stable surrounded by animals, was unsanitary. His arrival was celebrated by shepherds and astrologers, not innkeepers and priests. Refugee Jesus survived genocide by King Herod, triggered by his birth. As a preteen he moved to a neighborhood with a reputation for producing nothing good. Then as a carpenter, Jesus dared believe the Hebrew prophet who wrote:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Minister Lewis gave his life in service to this expansive vision of justice. He understood that the Good News Jesus preached promised deliverance from poverty (economic justice), freedom for prisoners (criminal justice), blind eyes that could see (healthcare justice), freedom for the oppressed (social justice), and the “year of the Lord’s favor” (Jubilee justice) for all.

Born to sharecroppers and raised in Jim Crow’s Alabama, John Lewis bequeathed to us an America where Barack Hussein Obama could be, and in fact was, elected President twice; where Chadwick Boseman could elevate our sense of possibility; where the phrase Black Lives Matter could be artfully memorialized in front of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse at Foley Square.

Thank you, Representative John Lewis, for advancing Jesus justice until the very end. We’ll continue instigating “good and necessary trouble to redeem the Soul of America,” so that thriving is possible for all.

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