A Message from Keith Rice, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center
“The staff and stakeholders of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center are saddened by the passing of civil rights hero and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. We admire John Lewis for unselfishly getting the job done behind the scenes. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, everyone knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the face of the movement. But there were many more lesser-known faces taking the hits and bruises in order to propel the Movement forward in the name of justice. Quite often it was John Lewis on the front line receiving those blows and bruises so that other people would not have to. John Lewis’s bravery and tenacity has been documented in history. His legacy will live on long after we are all gone. At the Bradley Center, we don’t mourn his passing, instead, we celebrate a life long-lived in service to others.”
Congressman John Lewis appearing in John Kouns’ photographs and images from the opening reception of the exhibit From Selma to Montgomery: The Voting Registration Campaign of 1963 and 1965.
A Message from The Soraya’s Executive Director Thor Steingraber
Beyond his tireless fight for Voting Rights and Civil Rights, Congressman John Lewis was also an outspoken proponent of the arts. He often exclaimed that the Civil Rights Movement without music would be like a bird without wings.
The Soraya makes a concerted effort to support artists who put social justice at the center of their work, and there is nothing we value more than the educational value that these programs bring to the CSUN campus. In February, we brought Jason Moran, Ava DuVernay, and the live score of the film Selma to our stage as part of a cross-campus collaboration with CSUN’s Tom and Ethel Bradley Center. That memorable evening now seems like lifetimes ago, but The Soraya’s gallery walls today still feature the photography exhibit that was installed for the occasion, prints of the original John Kouns photographs taken in Selma, Alabama.
In the days after the murder of George Floyd, I visited the empty gallery at The Soraya. In more ways than one, it feels like a time machine now: the moment that the world stood still, halted by a pandemic, and poignantly, in the midst of the largest demonstrations in our nation’s history, the photographs of the courageous men and women who stand as examples to the generations that followed them. Two among their ranks died on July 17 — Congressman Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. While Lewis is well known, Vivian will be remembered as the man who confronted authorities on the steps of the Selma courthouse, one of the most memorable scenes in the film.
Among the photographs exhibited at The Soraya is one of the musicians Peter, Paul, and Mary performing at one of the rallies. The courage of my convictions is enhanced when I think of Lewis’ words. When COVID-19 retreats, the arts must continue to play a pivotal role in shaping our post-pandemic world, one in which social justice is center stage.
For more information about The Soraya’s activities for Black History Month, please click here.