Jordan Thompson, the director of Black Lives Matter Nashua, says late civil rights icon John Lewis has always been a “household name” in his home.
“His passing had a deep impact on me and my family,” said Thompson, 21, of Nashua. “I grew up in a household with parents and grandparents that were active in the fight for racial justice. So I always knew who he was.”
Since 1987, Lewis served as a US representative from Georgia. As a civil rights leader, Lewis said he was arrested more than 40 times. In 1965, he suffered a fractured skull by police during a voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama.
Lewis died last Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.
A series of funeral events will take place across several states, beginning with a celebration of life in Lewis’ hometown of Troy, Alabama on Saturday.
Tonight (Friday) at 8, at Derryfield Park in Manchester, Thompson and other leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement will host an outdoor film screening of “Good Trouble,” a new documentary about Lewis, to honor his life.
Thompson says he once had the opportunity to meet Lewis at a conference in Washington, D.C.
“It was a really great opportunity. They always say don’t meet your heroes, but I did and it was wonderful,” he said.
For Thompson, the person keeping Lewis’ message alive is his grandmother, Gloria Timmons. Timmons is president of Nashua’s NAACP.
Now 68 years old, Timmons said she was just a teenager during the 1960s civil rights movement. Through Lewis’ work, she learned the importance of speaking up against injustice.
“I believe we have an obligation like John Lewis said to condemn speech that is racist, bigoted, anti-semitic or hateful,” Timmons said. “And I find that to be the case here in New Hampshire.”
This is a lesson she said she has passed down to her family.
“I have taught all of my grandkids that if they see an injustice anywhere and they’re quiet about it then they’re condoning that injustice,” Timmons added.
Over the last week, civil rights heroes like Rev. C.T. Vivian and Charles Evers, the brother of Medgar Evers have also died. Timmons said these leaders have guided many racial justice organizers who continue to tread a path in the Granite State.
“We’ve got leaders everywhere,” said Thompson. “We’re leaders as well and fight for the same things they fight for within our communities.”
Thompson says he pays tribute by honoring the leaders that came before him.
“They continue to sacrifice so much. I still have living family members who were directly impacted by Jim Crow.”
He added, “We have to honor their sacrifices and learn from their wisdom.”