Civil rights icon leads march through con­ven­tion in San Diego

John Lewis headed a panel dis­cus­sion about “March,” his tril­ogy of graphic nov­els.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Sandy Co­hen

SAND DIEGO» Civil rights leader John Lewis led a march through Comic-con on Satur­day.

About 1,000 peo­ple joined the Ge­or­gia Demo­crat on a march through the crowded San Diego Con­ven­tion Cen­ter fol­low­ing a panel dis­cus­sion about his tril­ogy of graphic nov­els, “March.”

Some chanted “No jus­tice, no peace” as the group wound its way past cos­tumed char­ac­ters and mys­ti­fied con­ven­tion­eers. Those who rec­og­nized the con­gress­man stopped to greet him and shake his hand. One man con­fessed that he was near tears at the op­por­tu­nity to meet some­one so in­stru­men­tal in the fight for so­cial change.

“Thank you for all that you’ve done,” the man said.

Lewis was wel­comed with a stand­ing ova­tion when he and his co-au­thors, An­drew Ay­din and Nate Pow­ell, walked into the room for their pre­sen­ta­tion. Scores of el­e­men­tary school stu­dents were seated in the front row.

In his com­mand­ing style, Lewis was al­most like a preacher as he urged stu­dents to re­main op­ti­mistic and to believe in their power to con­trib­ute.

“Dr. King in­spired me to get in trou­ble: What I call good trou­ble, nec­es­sary trou­ble,” he told the au­di­ence. “Now more than ever be­fore, we all need to get in trou­ble. When you see some­thing that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obli­ga­tion, a mis­sion and a man­date to stand up, to speak up, to speak out and get in trou­ble.”

The “March” se­ries tells the story of Lewis’ child­hood and how he be­came an ac­tivist for civil rights. It de­tails the move­ment’s non-vi­o­lent protests, from sit-ins at lunch coun­ters in the South and the bus boy­cott in the mid-1950s to the marches in Selma, Ala., and Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The book is be­ing used in schools across the coun­try to teach young peo­ple about the his­tory of civil rights, “March” edi­tor Leigh Walton said. One woman who stopped Lewis to thank him for all he’s done said she teaches the books in her classes at Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego.

Lewis hadn’t set out to be­come a comic-book hero, but he was re­cep­tive when Ay­din, who worked on his cam­paign, ap­proached him with the idea.

Lewis had told his young aide a story about a comic book he read in 1957 about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ay­din ended up do­ing his grad­u­ate the­sis on that pub­li­ca­tion. He thought his boss’ story could have the same power to in­spire.

“I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a John Lewis comic book?’ ” Ay­din said.

He in­ter­viewed Lewis for hours to cre­ate a man­u­script of more than 600 pages, which il­lus­tra­tor Pow­ell brought to life in images.

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