A Letter to John Lewis by Nikky Finney.
Dear John Robert Lewis,
There was a colossal sweetness about you that some mistook for weakness. A
sweetness that seemed to power your actions and your life. Seems to me it was a
particular kind of sweetness that was perhaps given to you, taught to you,
perhaps by your large and loving family, and also taught again, perhaps, by all the
tambourine-ing and lightning-bolt words you soon discovered in those second-
and third-hand books in that small, segregated schoolhouse in Pike County,
Alabama. Those same books that you soon learned were the perfect size for
marching off into battle with.
John Robert Lewis, this sweetness I speak of continued to be nurtured in you,
even as you grew from a Black boy, stowed away in a corner of the American
South, to a Black man walking the halls of Congress for thirteen terms, from the
5 th District of Georgia. Even as men who did not know your powerful sweetness
charged at you on bridges with nightsticks and bully punches, intending to beat
the love out of you—the love that fragments of which might have been found
inside some of those books you always kept close in your backpack. It was never a
secret how much you adored books and how they gave you the power to love
people back—no matter what.