Dear Congressman Lewis:
This letter is written in the loving nonviolent spirit of my leader and teacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we have just observed his 88th birthday. While we all appreciate the National Holiday and the many commemorative activities I am afraid that some do not understand the Man and the Movement.
As a field staff organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), I know, love and respect you Congressman John Lewis. I was among the first group in our organization to be sent into Selma to mobilize for the right to vote and was on Edmund Pettus Bridge with you on Bloody Sunday, along with Hosea Williams, Ms. Boytin, and many others. During our struggle, we marched, were beaten, and like Jimmy Lee Jackson, some died so we could have representation in government. We accomplished this using the steps and principles of Nonviolence and I implore you to revisit them.
Dr. King taught us to be committed in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. We believe that all conflicts should end with reconciliation of adversaries. Afterwards, you work together in the spirit of friendship and goodwill. He taught us that hating one’s opponents was not only immoral, but bad strategy which only creates a cycle of revenge and retaliation.
Nonviolence uses grace, humor, and intelligence to confront the other party with a list of injustices along with a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. We must look for what is positive in every action and statement. We must never humiliate our opponent but call forth the good in them.
On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President, you and several elected officials have declared that you will not attend the inauguration nor work with President-Elect Trump. I strongly disagree. The Black community is in dire straits and we cannot afford to have our elected officials absent during this transition of power.
It is your responsibility, along with your colleagues, to represent us in the halls of Congress. Across our country, the Black community is suffering. This is after we struggled so hard to secure the right to vote and elect Blacks officials throughout America. In recent memory, no prominent Black or any elected official has mentioned a plan for Black America except for the author of POWERNOMICS Dr. Claud Anderson, economist and former official in President Carter’s Administration.
To hear that you and others refuse to meet with the President-elect to address the issues facing the Black community is appalling. It is not in the spirit of Dr. King or the teachings of Nonviolence. Nonviolence seeks to develop friendship and understanding with your opponent. It does not seek to defeat it. It is to be directed against evil systems, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against a person.
Dr. King met with President Johnson during our struggle for Civil Rights and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, who led the fight for the National holiday, met with President Reagan. While today Jim Brown and Steve Harvey have been ridiculed and vilified for meeting with Trump to discuss finding a remedy for the inner cities. This is troubling when you consider that other groups, including the Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, hospital CEOs, business, union and tech industry leaders have all met Trump.
I have read President-elect Trump’s plan for Black America. I suggest that you and other Black representatives look and see if there should be anything omitted or added. Nonviolence teaches through reasoned compromise, both sides can resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Dorothy Wright Tillman
cc: Congressional Black Caucus
Dr. Claud Anderson