“It is only because of John Lewis that we can be here today,” said Kelley Gipson, 43, who drove to the District from Philadelphia with her mom and daughter.
Gipson had long planned the trip to Washington, she said, but it felt especially poignant after the world lost two civil rights leaders: Lewis and C.T. Vivian, an early adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Vivian died Friday at 95.
The three generations of women stood side-by-side as they walked down H Street NW, passing pictures of Breonna Taylor and a whiteboard that outlined “Protesters Rights.” They stopped at a small placard that rested against barbed wire. Beneath Lewis’s name and birth and death dates, it held a message from the late activist and congressman: “I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get into trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Nae’mah Roane, Gipson’s 12-year-old daughter, learned about Lewis’s “good trouble” for the first time Saturday. Her mom explained that the civil rights leader had been focused on young people, urging them to fight for justice, even if it meant disrupting the status quo.
“It was pretty inspiring,” she said, adjusting a mask that stuck to her face in the scorching heat.
“This, right here, this is the time of good trouble,” Gipson said to Nae’mah before they turned away from the fence and walked down Black Lives Matter Plaza, lingering near where Lewis posed for a picture June 7 with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
Bowser, who named the street near the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” expressed gratitude and reverence for Lewis.
“The fearlessness with which he sought justice and fairness must serve as a constant reminder that we should each be much more afraid to do nothing when we know we must do something,” she said on Twitter. Bowser also shared a picture from last month showing Lewis standing tall with a cane and a mask atop the black-and-yellow asphalt.
At that same plaza Saturday, Tony Mathis, 65, of Florida, was determined to help carry the torch of the movement that Lewis inspired.
“We can’t stop the fight because of the people like him who started it,” he said as he gazed through the fence to the White House, where the U.S. flag billowed at half-mast. “Because of John Lewis, I can vote without any happenstance or hindrance.”
In his 47 years of voter eligibility, Mathis said he has never missed an election.
His wife, Mary Mathis, 62, said she felt chills shoot through her spine when she realized Lewis had recently seen Black Lives Matter Plaza.
“This is what he lived for, without a doubt,” she said, gesturing to the yellow letters on the pavement. “And because of him, I was able to give my kids the best education.”
As leaders across the country shared tributes to Lewis, street musician Tony Covay had his own idea of how to honor him. Positioned beneath a bus stop on H Street, Covay reached for his microphone and began to sing.
“Darling, darling, stand by me,” he belted in a voice that cut through the muggy air, catching the attention of people on bicycles who pulled their phones out to record. “Stand by me, stand for justice,” he continued.
As he stood near the plaza, throwing peace signs in the air, Covay thought of the moment a few years ago when he sang the same tune outside Nationals Park. He had looked around mid-song, and to his surprise, he said he made eye contact with Lewis.
“He looked at me, and he smiled,” Covay said. “So now, I am singing this song for him. And I am singing it for justice and for peace, and I am singing it for love.”