Angela Lewis, daughter of slain activist, at MLK Prayer Service
By Claire Maher and Colette Minton
Claire, Avery, and Colette had the special opportunity to interview Angela Lewis at the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prayer service for the Tiger Times. She is the daughter of James Chaney, one of the three Civil Rights Activists who were sadly killed during the Freedom Summer. She never got to meet her father, who devoted himself to working towards equality, but she has spent her life doing the work that her father did.
During her interview with us, Mrs. Lewis gave us lots of advice. One thing she said really stayed with us: “Forgiveness has the remarkable ability to bring upon change,” an idea she shared with the whole school. She said forgiveness is something that comes with practice and that becomes more natural the more you practice. Angela Lewis taught us that forgiveness is all you need to find the love within anyone’s heart. In our interview with her, she told us with certainty that forgiveness and love can be achieved by everyone.
The first question we asked her was if she had any advice for those who were struggling with forgiveness, and she replied with an open-minded answer for everyone to interpret. She said that she had encountered people before who were struggling with the task of forgiveness for whatever reason, but that she saw each and every one of them had that ability to forgive. She also gave us some advice on how to work with those who were having a hard time forgiving, and how to help them possess that trait saying, “… the more you show them your love and forgiveness, the more it (forgiveness) becomes a part of them as much as it is a part of. You have to begin by practicing and it’s not easy, but the more you are able to practice the more that it becomes you. Forgiveness is a choice to make, and it’s a choice to bring it to become a part of you. It’s not anything that you can force upon anyone.”
Another question we asked her involved how to change the mindset of people wanting to take an approach from a violent angle. She was ready to answer this question as if she had been waiting to answer it, and her words are as inspirational as they are meaningful. She replied saying, “Through education and sharing your view and why you choose to love, you show your love to other people, and that helps them to want to learn forgiveness and to love those who they want to show violence towards. Once violence has shut down and you can bring back the love inside everyone, you can show them love just through education and teaching them your love.” And with that answer, we knew that there was a recurring theme and a certain trait that was obvious in Angela Lewis, something that we all aspire to be: forgiving.
While this might be obvious, she is forgiving in a way that we often can’t imagine being, or that we haven’t had to be. How I came upon this was during the reflection she gave during our prayer service, when she spoke of one of the men that contributed to the death of her father was sentenced to death in 2005. She was content knowing that she would receive the justice that she deserved after her father’s death, but she told us that she could feel the pain that came from that man’s family after they had to lose someone just as she lost her father. She was empathetic towards someone that nobody would expect her to be, but she carries the love and forgiveness within her that allowed her to feel for the family and the man who plagued her life with sorrow and the lack of a father.
Angela Lewis was someone who both Colette and I were honored to interview, and hope to learn from as do all students. She holds such love and forgiveness that she has taught herself and so many others to be forgiving, and to understand a message that is one of the most famous legacies of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Angela Lewis left us with a few words that embody all she taught us and all that she shared with us during the Martin Luther King Jr. prayer service, “You always have to believe that there is something coming and that there is a greater good.”