John Lewis, Activist-Public Servant.
By Mabel Pais
“The word ‘Satyagraha’ in Sanskrit means two things ‘non-violence’ and ‘insistence on the truth’….. And that is what John Lewis was all about.”
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker – US House of Representatives
He Always ‘Insisted On The Truth’
‘The Conscience of the Congress’
‘When He Spoke,  People Listened When He Led,  People Followed’
‘One Country, One Destiny’
‘Living Example of Courage and Faith and Action’
Among Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement

At the funeral of Civil Rights Icon Congressman John Lewis held on July 30 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of John Lewis, “when he spoke, people listened; when he led, people followed.” She also said that ‘Satyagraha’ is what John Lewis was all about.

He said to Pelosi, “ In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and non-violence is the more excellent way. Answer the calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe in.” Pelosi went on to say, “Non-violently he insisted on the truth wherever he went: in Nashville, in Selma, in Washington D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial; and he insisted on the truth in the Congress of the United States.”

John Lewis, Voting Rights Demonstration
USA. Selma, Alabama. October 7, 1964. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized “Freedom Day”, an attempt to get residents registered to vote. John Lewis being arrested.

John Lewis died on July 17, 2020.

Inspired and mentored by Rev. Martin Luther King and his visit to India, in 2009 Congressman John Lewis led a congressional delegation visit to India in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to India.

Inspired by his own visit, Congressman Lewis started the Gandhi-King Exchange Act to seek to apply the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to conflict resolution efforts and current policy challenges.

The Congressional committee on July 29 honored the two icons (King and Lewis) of Civil Rights by passing a bill written by the late American Civil Rights leader John Lewis (and co-sponsored by Congressman Ami Bera). The Act would establish an exchange initiative between the United States and India to study the work and legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.


“She’s (Dawn Porter, Director) dedicated her career to giving voice to the voiceless, and I like to think of my job as an ally, fighting for her vision.” – Laura Michalchyshyn, Co-Producer

“Dawn Porter directed this documentary and she brilliantly puts the spotlight squarely on Congressman John Lewis. Good Trouble is his show. – Erica Alexander, Co-Producer


JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dawn Porter (TRAPPED, GIDEON’S ARMY), chronicles the life and career of the legendary Civil Rights activist and Democratic Representative from Georgia. Using interviews and rare archival footage, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE chronicles John Robert Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Using present-day interviews with Lewis, now 80 years old, Porter explores his childhood experiences, his inspiring family and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957. In addition to her interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter’s film also includes interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues, and other people who figure prominently in his life.

In Porter’s film, John Lewis gets the opportunity to tell us about his life, in his own words. His story. And it’s a good story.

A Profile in Courage and Principles: Persistent Yet Calm

‘It’s going to be okay, because right always wins,’ he told co-producer Erica Alexander “to keep my eyes on the prize and never give up, never give in. Don’t become bitter and hostile.” She learned from John Lewis how to be young, gifted and black in American politics when she campaigned with him and other supporters in Georgia. “Mr. Lewis was the perfect teacher and a patient host. He was also a gentleman, who opened our doors and helped us up the steps. It was heaven. I didn’t know then that that real-world work, and access, would lead to making the congressman’s documentary.” Alexander said.

John Lewis with peaceful protestors, Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.

Early Life

Now we get to know what it was like for him growing up a black sharecropper in Alabama in a large, loving family. He honed his fiery, oratorical skills, by preaching to the family’s chickens. He tells us how he met Martin Luther King and began his work as a student activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), traveling through Jim Crow south as a Freedom Rider. As the young chairman of the SNCC from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was one of the ‘Big Six’ Civil Rights leaders of the era. This all leads to the fateful day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge (Selma, AL), where white policemen stormed their peaceful march and cracked his skull open, nearly killing him. In his appearance on national television that afternoon, bloodied and bruised, Lewis called for President Lyndon Johnson to intervene on behalf of voting rights. Until his last, he still bore scars from that brutal encounter.


The Conscience of the Congress

But John Lewis not only survived all of that, and more, he thrived and became a husband to his beautiful wife and political partner, Lillian Miles, a father to his son John Miles Lewis, and was elected to the Congressman from Georgia who earned the respect of his red and blue state peers, who lovingly call him, “The conscience of the Congress.”

“To young legislators, he demonstrates that you can live your principles and get things done, while still being true to yourself. To his seasoned colleagues, he’s a consistent and loyal friend. So, my goal was to include the kinds of voices that would speak to each of these different experiences,” Porter said.

A Timely Topic

John Lewis: Good Trouble explores a variety of issues that are associated with Lewis but pays particular attention to one that is perhaps most closely associated with the Congressman’s tenure in politics: the Voting Rights Act. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made the comment that John Lewis can’t be separated from the Voting Rights Act, and she’s absolutely right,” says Porter. “Many of his early activities were centered on gaining access to the vote, so we really wanted to highlight what that battle has been like for both him and the country. And considering how much voter suppression we’ve seen recently, that subject speaks volumes right now.”

Key Credits

Dawn Porter: Director

Laura Michalchyshyn, Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander and Ben Arnon: Producers

Jessica Congdon: Editor

Tamar-kali: Music

Length: 1h 36m

Release Date: Currently running


(Mabel Pais writes on Social Issues, Spirituality, The Arts and Entertainment, and Health & Wellness)


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