The world lost two civil rights giants on Friday, in Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian. Speaking on Boston Public Radio Monday, Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III reflected on the two figures' ties to faith, and the value of their work in the context of the current nationwide reckoning with racial inequity.
"I feel very unmoored today, and I’m very sad, because of the one-two punch of C. T. Vivian — who I had the pleasure of meeting — and of John Lewis,” Monroe said. "I don’t want to separate the two of them ... because both of them preached to me as I understood it, and I think Emmett would agree with me, they preached and lived a theology of activism [and] of good trouble."
“During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, he was one of the young guys,” Price said of Lewis. "He was actually one of the ones driving [the Civil Rights movement], like our young people today who are saying, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not willing to be as patient as you older folks have been.’ … And so he was really one of the engines that kept the motor pushing.”
Monroe agreed, and called the two civil rights leaders "biblical figures.”
“They’re biblical figures because they’re like the prophets: Every time they open their mouths, it was ‘Jeremiah,’” she said.
Price added that he hopes mourners take their deaths as a signal to keep pushing for racial justice, and not just "pontificate with empty tweets and social posturing."
“As we wait for the House of Representatives to pass police reform here in Massachusetts, [let’s recognize] this is all connected,” Price said. “And so rather than honoring Congressman John Lewis’ legacy, let’s honor his life, and complete the work that he was endeavored to do."
Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail and a visiting researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology. Price is professor of worship, church & culture and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Together they host the All Rev’d Up podcast, produced by WGBH.