By Rev. Brittany Graves

Rep. John Lewis never stopped causing “good trouble” and fighting for justice. Rev. C. T. Vivian was a much-admired civil rights advisor, author and minister. Both were trailblazers of the civil rights movement and committed their lives to activism. We are recipients of their frontline work and dedication. Though no longer physically present with us, their legacy’s will continue to inspire for generations to come. John Lewis even had last words and action steps that he requested to be published on the day of his funeral: listen to them here.

In grieving their deaths, we can honor them by asking ourselves, “what kind of ancestors will we be?” I heard this question raised by Brittany Packnett Cunningham in a recent interview where she spoke about practicing courage as discipline. In this time where we are collectively receiving messages on how to respond to racial injustice, let us do the work to lead in ways that are true to who we are each divinely created to be, long-term sustainability and new ways to construct change.

We need more human’s proactively being than performatively doing. If you need to be prompted to respond to injustice, spend more time in self-awareness to understand why you hadn’t responded before the prompt. If your response has come from the collective’s reaction to injustice, identify ways to respond that give you space to show up and honor your innate gifts. If you’re exhausted, prioritize self-care amid responding and standing up for justice. We will all show up in different ways. The key is journeying in how to show up authentically, instead of not showing up at all.

Questions to consider:

  • How can you commit to advocacy and activism in your own way?
  • What are you doing to be present, honoring civil rights ancestors that have come before and will come after you?
  • Ask yourself: What kind of ancestor will I be?

What you can do:

  • Think about your familial ancestry and discover what you would want to learn, unlearn, unpack and heal.
  • No matter what side of history you or your ancestors have been on. We all can choose which side of history we will live into.
  • Continue to unpack your role among family, colleagues and society at-large. Strive to make the world a better place for as long as we’re living here in it.

Scripture from Matthew 16:13-16 (NRSV):

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[c] the Son of the living God.”


Creator God, in our journey of (un)learning ways to live in this world. May we always be connected and aligned with who our Divine Creator made us to be, fully tapped into who you've called us to be. Collectively and individually, let us lean into what this time is bringing up and know that we all have a part in creating a new world. May we honor civil rights ancestors that have come before us by extending gratitude and embodying their legacy. Give us the courage to look at the nuances of injustice and lead to meet the needs in today’s context. Let our hearts be open to know what is mine to do and be proactive in changing the world to leave a legacy. Amen.


Rev. Brittany Graves is associate coordinator, Public Witness & Advocacy, American Baptist Home Mission Societies. She welcomes your input at [email protected]

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