Powell, who grew up not far from Lewis’s Alabama origins, says he supports the Georgia Democrat’s actions in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 49 dead.
“I’m willing to bet that Congressman Lewis was aware that the consequence would likely be the session’s shutdown by [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan, and this would need to be incorporated into the course of action itself,” Powell says. “Is a sit-in always an appropriate response? No, of course not — but here … it was appropriate, effective and recognizable.”
Powell also spent hundreds of pages laboring over his lettering of Lewis’s dialogue during the civil-rights era, including at the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma march. Doing so, he has come to appreciate Lewis’s sense of drama.
“I love it when he speaks about ‘dramatizing the situation.’ The word ‘dramatize’ begs to be brushed off or misinterpreted, but he’s always been able to lend it such concreteness,” Powell says. Wednesday “was a perfect example of that. The session wasn’t going to be able to bring anything to the floor anyway if the consequence was the session’s abrupt cancellation, and thus the real power of the situation was in magnifying it — making it plain, laying it out in terms the nation hopefully can ignore less and less.
“To dramatize events, in his activist context, is to push them to the forefront of the human discussion, [the] unavoidable.”
To promote “March” and its messages, Powell has traveled often with Lewis and co-author Andrew Aydin. “I’ve seen Congressman Lewis speak probably more than 100 times in the last few years, and I still get chills and tears every single time from his delivery,” Powell says. “He may be an experienced professional politician and a polished orator, but when his near-unshakeable calm is replaced by the fire in his voice, by tears in his eyes, by the boom that shakes the room, we all know we’re in the presence of the real deal.
“Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s [(D-Fla.)] speech was just as moving, as was her frustration, her tears, her loss,” he adds. “I encourage everyone to lend as much attention to others’ tears as to their words.”
Lewis’s “March: Book Three” (IDW/Top Shelf) hits bookstores virtual and physical in early August.