John Lewis

I will always remember the talk I had with John Lewis eight years ago. Our Congressman, Rush Holt had brought him to Trenton, where he gave a thoughtful civil rights address to about 100 people. 

I spoke to him alone after his talk. 

I told him, “I have relatives down in your congressional district, but I reckon they may not be supporters of yours. Many of them are rednecks…

You might be interested in my story. My father’s father was a racist Klansman from the Alabama-Georgia border, who moved up to Akron, Ohio to work in the tire factories. 

My mother, on the other hand, grew up in a family that was the first Catholic family in their community in Akron. As a little girl, she had to hide in the closet when the KKK burned crosses in their yard. Although they were white, they were the first Catholics to move in, and the Klan threatened to tar and feather my mother and her siblings. Traumatized, they grew up to be Klan fighters. 

She and my father met in high school and married. I grew up with these opposing forces. I just want you to know Congressman, that I, the next generation, choose to do anti-racism, community development work in Trenton’s almost all Black and Latino communities.  

You should know that some of us are learning”.   

He took a step back and said, “I’m really glad you told me that story.  I tend to only hear about all that is undone…Tell me about Isles…”

Marty Johnson