Editor: I write this in memory of John Lewis and James Baldwin for the purpose of helping us all rise to our best selves in this country. It’s incredible to me that as we mourn the passing of John Lewis that the words and works of James Baldwin would also ring so powerful in my head.
I am not your negro, so I will cause good trouble.
John Lewis and James Baldwin both invaded my consciousness on the same day and I cannot remain silent about what it means.
I never had the honor or pleasure of meeting either man but I know deep down I was very connected to both. The self-actualizations of our blackness happened at very early ages and helped define the paths that we were destined to take and our purposes became intertwined by intergenerational destiny.
The death of John Lewis and the meaning of his legacy for me goes far beyond an appreciation of his many good works, it is a strong reminder that causing “Good Trouble” requires me to have courage to stay true to my convictions using my faith as my moral compass.
The writings of James Baldwin has had more meaning than a literary art form, the reading his works over many years has been a deep dive into my soul and has revealed for me the reasons for my passion to be a free black man. I am not your negro and will never be.
I never met John Lewis or James Baldwin, but I knew them as they spoke to me in very meaningful ways in my life. As I reflect on the life of both men, I pledge to use their legacies to help address the local issue of combating voting rights violations and political membership pledges that deny the inclusivity of all voices that must heard as we debate freedoms for a more civil union.
I have been struggling with how to share the story of the local democratic committee that has chosen to deny my membership based on lies and reckless accusations because my voice and my behavior is not compliant with how a good democratic negro should behave.
James Baldwin would say that the public story behind the denial is not related to the reason for the denial and that the missing question is “what would happen to the organization if too many free thinking negroes were actually granted membership”? The 2016 James Baldwin documentary“I Am Not Your Negro,” is an examination of the lives of Malcom X, Medgar Evans and Martin Luther King Jr. All three of these men were assassinated and James Baldwin who knew all three, explores the tensions that these men created on the American political and social landscape. John Lewis would call this “Good Trouble.”
John Lewis would advise me to continue to talk about what can no longer be denied and that the right to have a voice and a vote cannot be withheld in order for some to keep power that justly belongs to all. He would say don’t attack the organization attack the message.
John Lewis would say to me keep causing “Good Trouble.”
I am more inspired today as I remember these men, even as my wife and I visited Black Lives Matter Plazain DC, even as I led the Leesburg Silent March on May 31, and even as I see the intergenerational and interfaith responses in our community that encourages us all to be our better selves as we live, work and learn together.
I am firmly planted in the spirit of John Lewis that we all must never allow our disagreements or the deliberate acts of discrimination to turn us away from our purpose or change who we are.
The local democratic membership denial actually sets me free to work aggressively to cause “Good Trouble.”
Agree or disagree with my issues about the local Democratic committee membership pledge, know this about me, I am appreciative of all who supported me and worked to get me elected but at this local level I am ultimately accountable to put people over politics.
At the end of the day, I identify as an African American elected leader in this community and it would do some good to remember that all black voices and lives matter.
Remember and honor the legacy of John Lewis.
Read the works of James Baldwin and become even more courageous than you are today.
Local Democratic Committee please refund my membership fee and I remain proud to be free to cause “Good Trouble.”
May God continue to bless us all.
Ron Campbell, Leesburg