U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and state Sen. Lori Berman are praising the late John Lewis’ life as they continue a local discussion series on racial injustice.
Frankel, Berman and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay have been hosting virtual panels to discuss the topic following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Those panels feature local women leaders — both elected officials and community leaders — working to improve race relations.
McKinlay was absent during Friday’s panel meeting to help prepare for Hurricane Isaias as it threatens landfall in Florida this weekend.
“We truly lost a hero in the civil rights movement this week and we’re all mourning his loss,” Berman said Friday. “But he left us an unbelievable legacy to carry on.”
Frankel, who served with Lewis in the U.S. House, echoed that sentiment and called it an honor to know Lewis during her tenure.
“Everything you hear about him is true,” Frankel said. “He was one of the most humble, inspiring, lovely people I have ever met in my life.”
Friday’s panel was the third in the series and featured Delray Beach Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson, Executive Director of CROS Ministries Ruth Mageria and Chief Operating Office of Manifest Church Charlotte Wright, among others.
The panels are designed to foster a conversation around race relations. Wright started the conversation with a message to the White community as advocates continue pushing for additional racial reform measures, particularly regarding policing.
“We’re not holding you accountable for what your forefathers did, and we’re not asking you to fix it,” Wright said. “What we are holding you accountable to is to stop it.”
“I truly believe that this platform is one of those ways of stopping it,” Wright added. “Why do I say that? Because there’s a phrase that I live by that says, ‘When you know better, you do better.'”
Added Commissioner McKinlay in a statement released ahead of Friday’s event: “Our nation is hurting. Our Black community is hurting. Our other minority communities are hurting. We knew this [panel] was only the first step and I am honored to partner with my colleagues to continue providing a platform for this long overdue conversation.”
Mageria, of CROS Ministries, discussed the importance of recognizing individuals’ different life experiences. She had a bit of a rebuke for White allies who aspire to “not see race.”
“For many people who are non-Black, our White friends, I totally understand what you mean by that,” Mageria acknowledged. “You mean you see my humanity and you do not treat me differently because of the color of my skin.”
However, she ultimately said that’s not what she or many in the minority community are looking for.
“I want you to see color because when you see color, you acknowledge that my experience is different from yours and you see me.”
Berman said the goal going forward would be to meet once a month to further discuss racial equality and ways to bring the community together.
“We want to see action happen, and that’s why we are going to continue to have this group meet,” Berman said.
Frankel also said Lewis would encourage the activism on display by local leaders.
“I will say this about each of you, he would be so proud because you are all in very good trouble,” Frankel said. “No question about it.”