Representative John Lewis is still going strong, now approaching age 77 in February 2017. He is still very much a foot soldier for democracy in America. His decades of work arguably equal the effort of many thousands of citizens who pitch in, yet he marches on. It would seem he has no intention of ever stopping. The work is that vital. The front line is that volatile. The opportunity to engage fresh generations is that necessary. A long day and decades of soldiering seemed to weary his face in the evening hours of Sunday, October 23, 2017, …but his feet, his voice and his story powered on at the book signing sponsored by the Friends of the Gwinnett County Public Library to promote Rep. Lewis’ graphic novel trilogy, March, co-authored with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions, publisher). His relentless spirit only made me appreciate him more.
Andrew Aydin is the Digital Director and Policy Advisor to Rep. Lewis. Mr. Aydin shared that his colleagues have labeled him “Comic Boy,” all in good fun, since he frequents Comic-Con Conventions when session is out on The Hill. He even has a comic edition of the X-Files to his credit (affiliate link). Civil rights, comics and science fiction? Andrew Aydin is good people in my book!
The star of the evening, however, was the amazing graphic novel trilogy, March. Rep. Lewis was delightful in his childhood recollections of preaching the gospel to his charge of chickens on his family’s farm; Many parents understood, particularly with today’s concerns, his mother’s urges that he “stay out of trouble” when he questioned, “Why [segregation]”? The audience was breathless as he spoke of the violence heaped on protestors in the movement. His stories have been painstakingly dialogued and humanized using sound effect call-out bubbles and graphic illustrations, frame by frame. Mr. Aydin expressed how he “couldn’t do nothing,” knowing the sacrifices that have been made to make equal representation for all. He described himself as “white-ish,” a native Atlantan whose father happened to be Muslim. His mother urged him, also, to “stay out of trouble.” He has responded to recent fears of Muslims, by growing his beard, to not avoid genetic expression of his heritage. Rep. Lewis and Mr. Aydin have both excelled at getting into “good trouble,” the kind that does something positive in the world.
The room swelled with people, becoming stuffy and hot. My daughter wanted to get comfortable in my lap. The speakers’ words enraptured every adult, but droned over many of the children’s attention. The need for a medium to engage children is what made Andrew Aydin diligent in proposing the idea of a comic, to make history come alive for kids. He was spot on! When my daughter got the actual book into her hands, she didn’t want to look up. The comic book style of the book held her attention effortlessly. She realized she had just met a living legend. She has been reading and asking questions since. Stay tuned for updates to this post as we read through each volume. It’s a keeper, and a perfect resource for school lesson plans!
CLICK BELOW FOR A C-SPAN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHORS
Rep. Lewis makes his residence in Atlanta. Click here to read an October 4, 2016 press release on Rep. Lewis’ and his colleagues’ advocacy for an inclusive and transparent search for the next President of the Reserve Bank of Atlanta, to protect economically vulnerable communities still feeling pangs from the Great Recession.
Andrew Aydin is currently on a leave of absence from his position while he supports Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President in Georgia.
I’d like to give a parting word of thanks to the Friends of the Gwinnett County Public Library. A handful of its volunteers successfully hosted several dozen citizens in an intimate engagement with an icon of American democracy, and helped spread civic engagement to an up and coming generation of Atlantans. Events like these are much harder to come by without people who care. The Friends of the Gwinnett County Public Library is actively seeking new volunteers.
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