Chardonnay Beaver, Creator of WOW by Char (Words of Wisdom), University of Washington student, and public speaker.
The Facts Remembers Representative John Lewis: A Greater Sense of Direction “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have” ~ John Lewis
Last October I visited my best friend in Washington DC for the weekend. This weekend was historic. My first time visiting Washington DC, simultaneous to Howard University's homecoming celebration, and my unexpected interaction with the heroic John Lewis.
Unknowingly, that weekend is reminiscent of a time where my studies, as a political science major, came to life. Weeks of studying, weekly papers, lecture halls, and office hours with my professors came to life in Washington DC (more specifically the National Mall). Therefore, I decided to dedicate one of my days to exploring the National Mall. That same day I spent fours hours at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The basement of the museum was curated to display artifacts of slavery and the commemoration of Black scholars who defied horrific systems of oppression. I do not encourage anyone to walk through this section of the museum hungry, like me! However, the knowledge and interactions amongst myself and other Black Americans visiting the museum was enlightening… which helped me forget about my hunger.
That same weekend I recall getting an alert on my phone about Atatiana Jefferson (28) being murdered by police in her Fort Worth, Texas home in front of her nephew. Hearing about Ms. Jefferson’s death provoked a conversation in my Lyft ride to the National Mall. In our 20 minute ride to the mall my best friend, Lyric Harris, and I ordered a shared car where our driver, who so happened to be a Black man named Paul, facilitated a conversation about the details of Ms. Jefferson’s death and tactics used in policing. Ironically, Lyric and I shared the back seat as a white male passenger tuned in (front row) to our conversation as we expressed our disgust with the legal system. Paul, our Lyft driver, got us to our stop safely and encouraged us to continue pursuing education. The sense of community and togetherness expressed in that Lyft ride was remarkable. In short, my trip to DC granted me a better sense of direction.
Furthermore, one experience that will NEVER leave me was when I met Representative John Lewis in the John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport. My weekend in DC had come to an end and it was officially time to come back home to Seattle. I had arrived at the airport early and had witnessed several white people walking in groups trailing behind these two Black men. Initially, I had disregarded their behavior and began to walk towards TSA. However, I looked closer and recognized that one of those Black men was John Lewis! The group of white people stopped when they saw me and made room for me to be the first go up to speak with Representative Lewis. I walked up to him and said “hi Mr. Lewis, how are you? My name is Chardonnay Beaver and I am a first-year college student attending the University of Washington in Seattle. Is it okay if we take a picture together?”. He calmly and assuringly replied “Hi i’m well and of course! sure!” he notioned at the male traveling with him, “Chardonnay, this is Micah”, Micah shook my hand then took our photo. Then I thanked him for all of his service, from his early activism resulting in the 1965 Voting Right Act, to his dedication as a legislator, and his presence in the Black community. He was very soft spoken and warm spirited, reminding me of his southern roots . After our photo, he even attempted to remember a few legislators in Washington state that he had met. Visiting the museum gifted me with the stories of the past; the determination and fight to achieve and break barriers.
The death of Atalitana Jefferson reminded me of the present matters in which my peers and I are exposed to; the significance of education and the fight for Black preservation is critical. Lastly, meeting John Lewis represented what I could become; he was audacious. Determined to transfer his skills and knowledge as a civil rights activist to becoming an American politician representing the people of Georgia is remarkable. I encourage all of our readers to research Bloody Sunday, Barack Obama’s speech at the 50th anniversary of the Selma march , and the work of the late John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. All in all, to honor their legacy please VOTE! You have until August 4th to turn in your ballot!