SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Saturday marked a year since civil rights icon John Lewis died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 80.
Communities across the country, including right here in Salt Lake City, have held candlelight vigils in his honor and rallied for congressional lawmakers to pass John Lewis’s Voting Rights Act. Lewis fought tirelessly, walking the streets and fighting in Congress for equal voting rights throughout his life.
One of the most notable events in Lewis’s life was when he was beaten by police as he walked for the franchise on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Yet, he continued to advocate and lobby for the Voting Rights Act, which was eventually passed by the House and Senate, and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He then served 17 terms in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District from 1987 until his death in 2020.
The anniversary of his death comes amid a controversial national debate over whether electoral laws should be changed, as 17 Republican-controlled states are considering or have already passed laws mandating when and where citizens can vote. Supporters say it is a response to allegations of electoral fraud, repeatedly made by former President Donald Trump in the months following his presidential defeat. However, opponents say the claims are false and unsupported by evidence. They also say the laws make it more difficult for marginalized communities, which already have low turnout, to vote.
Over the past week, House Democrats from Texas traveled to Washington DC to pressure congressional lawmakers to enact new federal rules for holding an election that would override any action by the State. Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty was arrested after participating in a suffrage protest in Washington DC Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar called her Senate Rules Committee hearing in Atlanta on Georgia’s new electoral law. Republican US senators refused to attend the hearing and Georgia Republicans called it a “circus,” saying their bill actually makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.
A panel of civil rights leaders and community activists joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on CW30 News at 7 p.m. to discuss Lewis’ legacy and the work that remains to be done in the equity and equality movement. . Guests were Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch; Darlene McDonald, author and social activist; and Betty Sawyer, President of the Ogden NAACP.
The panel discussed how Lewis inspires and influences the work they continue to do today, what are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles in the struggle for civil rights, the current state of the movement in the States- United, the significance of what happened in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, and their thoughts on the national debate on changing electoral laws.
To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Williams, McDonald and Sawyer, click on the video at the top of the article.
Watch IN FOCUS chats with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on weeknights on CW30 News at 7 p.m..