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John Lewis Fellows Reflective Essays 2017: Introduction



The 2017 John Lewis Fellowship was Centered on an exploration of contemporary challenges facing and opportunities available to the City of Atlanta. Building on themes developed in the first two years of the Fellowship, the 2017 program adopted a restorative justice lens through which to examine both Atlanta’s rich and complex past and its promising and dynamic future. The framework for all three years has been the 1960’s Appeal for Human Rights, authored by Dr. Roslyn Pope, which serves as both a list of demands that capture the form and substance of human rights entitlements and as a manifesto advancing an agenda marked by progressive inclusion and modes of empowerment. This historic document spawned a movement for human and civil rights in Atlanta and beyond, and it inspired a generation of activists in 1960 to change the status quo and to create greater opportunities and improve the quality of life for those victimized by the system of American apartheid known as Jim Crow.

The fact that the Appeal was written by Dr. Pope at the age of 21, was of particular importance because the John Lewis Fellows are in the same age range, and it reflects the value and power of youth in diving and creating a more equitable path forward for all. e Georgia Governor’s response to the 1960 Appeal to Human Rights was introduced to the John Lewis Fellows to highlight the ways in which calls and demands for justice were distorted, diminished and dismissed by those in power wishing to protect and preserve their privilege. John Lewis Fellows were also introduced to a more recent response to the 1960’s Appeal, which is the New Appeal for Human Rights, co-authored by Atlanta activist students and civil rights veterans in 2017. is New Appeal, which is an intergenerational charter, highlights contemporary civil and human rights challenges and opportunities for progress. is New Appeal and its authors provide a concrete example of how young human rights advocates, like the John Lewis Fellows, can chart the path forward for the protection and advancement in civil and human rights in today’s compelling political, economic and social environment.

The contents of this program booklet map the experience of the John Lewis Fellows in the program. It begins with Dr. Pope’s prescient Appeal and the Fellow’s response to her Appeal, which they crafted to express what a constructive and promising response should have been at the time the document was presented to the public. Next, the booklet turns to the 2017 New Appeal for Human Rights, followed by collective responses to the New Appeal and the Fellows’ individual statements about how their visions and work has been informed, inspired, challenged and transformed by the experience of contemplating restorative justice approaches to addressing human rights priorities. The booklet closes with the biographies of the Fellows and several poems by Fellows describing their colleagues and their collective experience of exploration and transformation during the fellowship program.

I am grateful to the Mellon Foundation for funding this 3-year project in the advancement of human rights. It has truly been a humbling and rich experience to plant seeds in these amazing young people who I am confident will carry forth the best traditions, advocacy and conscientious activism of the fellowship’s namesake, Congressman John Lewis, and who will be among the next generation of human rights champions across the globe!