Getting in Good Trouble to Protect Voting Rights

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.” – Rep. John Lewis

©Miki Jourdan

Last Saturday in Black Lives Matter Plaza, hundreds gathered for “Good Trouble: Candlelight Vigil for Democracy”, an event to promote voting rights and election reform. The name of the event echoes the words of U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis and it was held on the one-year anniversary of his death.

The Speakers

Among those speaking on Saturday was Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Oh.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was arrested at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill two days earlier while advocating for voting rights.

Rep. Joyce Beatty. ©Miki Jourdan

Barbara R. Arnwine, President of the Transformative Justice Coalition; Melanie L. Campbell, the President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR); and Texas Rep. Carl Sherman. Civil rights activist Joe Madison served as emcee.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. ©Miki Jourdan

Speakers advocated for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, proposals before Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965, create national standards for voter registration and mail in voting, create non-partisan commissions to redraw Congressional districts, and other election reforms. As both proposals face an uphill battle due to potential Republican filibusters in the Senate, speakers also called for filibuster reform, and they urged President Biden to use the bully pulpit to fight for these reforms.

Clockwise from top left: Barbara R. Arnwine, Sen. Jeff Merkely, Joe Madison, Melanie L. Campbell (D-OR), and Texas Rep. Carl Sherman.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others also made the case for statehood for the District of Columbia.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. ©Miki Jourdan

The Crowd

Hundreds of people came to the vigil to promote democratic reforms and civil rights.

©Miki Jourdan

©Miki Jourdan

A singer led the crowd in songs of freedom.

©Miki Jourdan

As she sang “This Little Light of Mine”, activists lit candles in John Lewis’ memory.

©Angela N.
©Miki Jourdan

After the speeches and the songs, the crowd marched down Black Lives Plaza to St. John’s Church.

©Miki Jourdan

A year before, Lafayette Square was cleared of civil rights protesters so that President Trump could have a photo op with a bible in front of the same church. The gathering last Saturday could not have been more different.

©Miki Jourdan

Remembering John Lewis

©Victoria Pickering

In many ways, the Good Trouble Vigil was a tribute to Rep. John Lewis. The name of the event echoed his words, and its focus — voting and civil rights — was the cause to which he dedicated his life. Black Lives Matter Plaza was the location of one of Lewis’ last public appearances. And, last Saturday was also the year anniversary of John Lewis’ death.

©Karen Ramsey
©Karen Ramsey

For more on the ceremony surrounding Lewis’ funeral, see our story from July of last year.

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