At almost every pivotal moment, in the last century of the struggle for civil rights, Rep. John Lewis was there. Rest in Power to a giant among men. This past Fourth of July weekend, as we all reflected on the beginning of the United States of America, the Declaration of Independence, and the ideals upon which the document was written, “John Lewis: Good Trouble” arrived at the Music Box Theatre virtual cinema.
The belief that “all men are created equal,” penned by Thomas Jefferson on the parchment signed by the Founding Fathers on July 4th, 1776, is more theory than practice today. As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain momentum, it also spotlights the egregious disparities than exist within our society. Thus, Dawn Porter’s documentary spotlighting the life and career of the legendary civil rights activist and Democratic Representative from Georgia is more timely than ever.
When Lewis passed on July 17, Americans of all stripes and in various arenas paid homage, including the sports world. Looking at all the sports codes in the us, basketball was first and foremost with Lebron James, Bill Russell and Kareem Abudul-Jabbar recognizing the meaning of making #GoodTrouble, but so did some leading figures from baseball like Hank Aaron and Sean Doolittle. It was truly an example of game recognizing game.
Via interviews and archival footage, the film chronicles the life of John Lewis and his more than six decades of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, gun control, health-care reform, and immigration. The core issue to which he is dedicated, and therefore the central focus of the film is voting rights.
Porter explores how Lewis is inextricably linked with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, how today’s Republican party gutted it, and the work that John Lewis and company have done to restore it. As the film shows, Lewis was on the front lines, fighting for social justice at almost every major moment of the struggle for racial equality: the March in Selma, the Montgomery bus boycotts, the Freedom Riders, the lunch counter sit-in strikes, and more.
The film’s title comes from this specific Lewis quote which arrives early in the film: “In 1955, the action of Rosa Parks and the leadership of Martin Luther King inspired me to get into trouble, what I call neccessary trouble, good trouble.”
The film includes a Lewis speech in which he says that he was arrested 40 times during the 1960s, and five more times since he became a member of Congress.
Now 80 years old, Lewis has truly lived a long and illustrious life, which began on a chicken farm in rural Georgia, as the son of a sharecropper. In addition to interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter’s cinéma verité film includes interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues, and others who figure prominently in his life. It’s a long list that’s a who’s who of today’s progressive moment including: Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TV, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Now and SB Nation.
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