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Rep. John Lewis & Andrew Aydin: 2016 National Book Festival

Rep. John Lewis & Andrew Aydin: 2016 National Book Festival


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC.>>Michael Cavna: Is
everybody ready? All right. [ Applause ] Thank you guys for coming out. My name is Michael Cavna with
the Washington Post the Comic Riffs blog. I’m a cartoonist columnist
and I Trojan horsed my way into the Washington Post, and
now they run Comics in a Blog. And that’s what I do. You know, first of all, thank you
for coming to Graphic Novel Night. This is the third Graphic
Novel Night. The first time we’ve had a sitting
congressman and a civil rights hero, so thank you, Congressman. [ Applause ] You know what? Yeah.>>Rep. John Lewis: Thank you.>>Michael Cavna: And thank you. And thank you, Andrew Ayden. So you didn’t have much going
on this morning, did you?>>Rep. John Lewis: Not much.>>Michael Cavna: Open a
little museum on the mall, and>>Rep. John Lewis: Yeah, yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Sigh
and tuck a little bit.>>Rep. John Lewis: Yeah.>>Michael Cavna: Well,
thank you for making it out. You know, this is a joy, a
passion for all of us who do this. So we’re so thankful to
the Library of Congress. We’re thankful to all the sponsors
you will find your program. Thankful to the Washington
Post, which is a charter sponsor of this event since Laura Bush had that idea 16 years ago saying
Texas has a book desk full. Why doesn’t America? You know, we want to
thank Small Press Expo. They helped some of this talent
come in, so we’re very thankful to Warren Barnard,
and just everybody, you know, look at that panel. You know, a little story, I mean, by
the way I should mention one thing, I’ll plug this event wherever I go,
and I do the comic strip Warped, and so if you go to
GoComics.com tomorrow, I have put in a car my
comic strip is warped. You will see an author joke. You don’t get a lot of author
jokes on the funny pages. The first person to send an email to me
[email protected] gets the original art
of this author strip. So just email me. Just email the name of the author. It’ll go up tomorrow morning,
so you know, thank you. Now the reason part of what’s so special here three years ago my
young relative came home from school and said my teacher says
Graphic Novels aren’t books. My daughter had been reading Mouse,
and then so I went to the principal. This was a cause. And I said Graphic
Novels aren’t books? She said Graphic Novels
aren’t books. And so I spent a year
researching it. And the first person I went
to was Congressman Lewis with “March: Book One” right here. If you haven’t read it,
start with this with Selma. And pretty soon you came to
town to a small press expo. I brought my young relative, and
you gave her a civics lesson. And what you said to her, you
said Graphic Novels are books. So can I just hear it once?>>Graphic Novels are books.>>Michaela Cavna: Okay,
this has to make it out north of here to the principal. Just one more time. I haven’t forgotten. Long memory. One more time.>>Graphic Novels are books.>>Michael Cavna: Thank you. This is about power. This is about perception. There are many kinds,
we have a diverse night. You know, this is more diverse than I would say a
basket full of skittles. Any way you want to cut it. Take that any way you want. The whole night, and I
encourage you to stay. Noelle Stevenson, our political
cartoonist, Michael Ramirez, Darrin Bell, Gene Yang
the new ambassador for young people’s
literature for the library, Berkeley Breathed the whole
line of Ed Piskor family tree. It’s an incredibly diverse line up. But first, I want to
say three years ago, I got to moderate this
man, awesome kind. Everyone was cosplay. Next door they were cheering
for Hercules, TV Hercules. The other room Superman, and I said in this house you have
the biggest hero in the whole hall, no disrespect. You have the man who was
preaching to the chickens, and he said they listened to him
more than the members of congress. You have the man who was reading
comic books as a young man. Reading about Rosa Parks
and Martin Luther King in the Montgomery story,
and the ways of Gandhi. He got this from comic books. At a time when congress was trying
to stop comic books in the fifties. This a man, he’s the youngest
speaker at the March on Washington and continued through
Selma to this day. He tells me he’s still
getting arrested, and he plans to get arrested a few
more times to make good trouble. A few years ago, his
staffer Andrew Aydin, right here said I’m
going to Comi-Con. The office teased him. They said you’re going to
San Diego to go to Comi-Con. You’re a geek. And the Congressman said, hold up. Comic books got me
to where I am today. Comic books led me to
non-violent protests. So they teamed on March. The Congressman said to Andrew
I’ll do it if you write it with me. Two years ago, at the time
75 year-old congressman, dressed up in what he
wore to Selma in 1965. You got the backpack out. You got the coat. You got the apple and
the toothpaste in being because you knew you might
spend the night in jail. You couldn’t find an orange in
San Diego, I don’t know why. But you dressed and you led through
the hall dozens and dozens of kids because you are reaching the
next generation with these books. Please give a hand to
these two men and March.>>Rep. John Lewis: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Rep. John Lewis: Hello everybody.>>Hello.>>Rep. John Lewis Hello everybody.>>Hello.>>Rep. John Lewis:
My name is John Lewis. Thank you. Michael, thank you
for those kind words of introduction my friend,
my brother, thank you. Now some of you know from
reading March, that I didn’t grow up in a big city like Washington,
DC, or Baltimore, or Silver Spring, or Buffalo, or Detroit,
or Philadelphia, or Montgomery, or Birmingham. I grew up in rural Alabama 50
miles from Montgomery outside of a little place called Troy. My father was a share
cropper, a tenner farmer. But back in 1944, I was 4 years
old, and I do remember when I was 4. My father had saved 300 dollars. And for 300 dollars, a man
sold him a 110 acres of land. My family still owns
this land today. On this farm, we raise a lot
of cotton, corn, peanuts, hogs, cows, and chickens. I know some of you have
read March: Book One. Know that as a little boy,
I remembered when I was 4. I remembered when we moved to
another house with my brothers and sisters, and my
wonderful mother and father. And got to know my first
cousins who lived nearby, but on the farm it fell in
my lot to raise chickens, to care for the chickens. We raised hogs and cows. We grew peanuts, cotton, corn, we
had a garden, but my responsibility on the farm was to
care for the chickens. And I fell in love raising
chickens, but I never dreamed that one day I would be at the
National Book Festival sponsored by the Library of Congress talking
to all of you book collectors, and readers about raising chickens. So I’m grateful to be here
and grateful for the Library of Congress, and for
the new librarian. [ Applause ] My late wife was a librarian. She grew up in California,
attended LA High, UCLA undergrad, and USC Graduate School
of Library of Science. She went into Peace Corps and spent
two years in Nigeria, came back and worked at the Central
Library in LA, she got a job in Atlanta in 1965. We met in 1967 and
got married in 1968. She taught me a great deal about
books, because when I was growing up in rural Alabama, we had
very few books in our home. And I remember on July 5, 1998
by this time I’m in the Congress, that I went to the local library
in Troy, Alabama for book signing, and they gave me a library card. But I had first gone there in 1956
when I was 16 years old with some of my brothers, sisters and cousins
trying to get a library card, and we were told by the
librarian that the library was for whites only and not for colors. So I never went back there
until July 5, 1998 for a signing of my first book Walking with
the Wind, and hundreds of blacks and white citizens showed up
and they gave me a library card. It says something about
the [inaudible] and the progress that was made. But I want to go back to
the chickens for a moment. Andrew would tell you that
when I was a little boy, when the setting hen was set,
I would take the fresh eggs, most of you don’t know anything
about raising chickens, do you? Some of you like to eat chicken, but you don’t know anything
about raising chicken. How many of you know anything
about raising chicken? Oh, a few of you. Why don’t we compare notes? Where when the setting hen was set,
I’m going to take the fresh eggs, mark them with a pencil, place
them under the setting hen and wait for three long weeks for
the little chicks to hatch. Some of you may be asking, now John
Lewis, why do you mark those eggs with a pencil before you placed
them under the setting hen? Well, from time to time, another
hen would get on that same nest, and there would be more fresh eggs. Had to be able to tell the
fresh eggs from the eggs that were already under
the setting hen. Now you don’t follow me, do you? So when the little
chicks were hatched, I would fool the setting hens, I
would cheat on the setting hens. I would take these little
chicks and get them to another, or put them in a box with a lantern,
and raised them on their own, get some more fresh eggs, put
them under the hen and wait for three long weeks for
the little chicks to hatch. I kept on fooling and
cheating on the setting hens, and when I look back on it, it
was not the right thing to do. It was not the moral thing to do,
but it’s not the most loving thing to do, but it’s not the most
non-violent thing to do. It was not the most
democratic thing to do. But I was never quite able to
save 18 dollars and 98 cents to order the most inexpensive
incubator, a hatcher from the
[inaudible] store. Any of you old enough to
remember the [inaudible]. No. Don’t fool me. You don’t remember that catalogue. That big book. Some people called
it an ordering book. Other people called it a wish book. I wish I had this. I wish I had that. So I just kept on wishing. But as a little child, about
eight or nine years old, I wanted to be a minister. So with the help of my brothers
and sisters and cousins, we would gather all of our chickens
together in the chicken yard like you are gathered in this hall. My brothers and sisters and
cousins will line the outside of the chicken yard, but along
with the chickens, they helped make up the audience, the congregation. And I would start speaking and
preaching, and when I look back on it, some of the chickens
would bow their heads, some of the chickens
would shake their head. They would never quite say amen. But I’m convinced that the great
majority of those chickens tended to listen to me much better than
some of my colleagues listen to me today in the congress. [ Applause ] As a matter of fact, some of those
chickens would just little more productive, they would produce eggs. Well, that’s enough of that. When we visited the little town
of Troy, visited Montgomery, visit Tuskegee, I would see
those signs that said White Men, Colored Men, White Women, Colored
Women, White Waiting, Color Waiting. To go downtown on a Saturday
afternoon to a movie, to see a movie, all of us
little black children had to go upstairs to a balcony. Upstairs to watch the movie. And all of the little white children
were downstairs to the first floor. I would come home and ask my
mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, why? They would say that’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble. But in 1955, 15 years old in the
tenth grade, I heard of Rosa Parks. I heard of Martin Luther King Jr.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr., the leadership of Dr. King, the
action of Rosa Parks inspired me to find a way to get in the way. I got in trouble, but I call
good trouble necessary trouble. March: Book One, Book Two,
Book Three, are same in effect to young people and
people not so young. When you see something that is
not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to
stand up to speak up, and speak out, and get in good trouble,
necessary trouble. I’m going to be very brief so
Andrew will come up and speak. Andrew has become like a son, and he will tell you how
he got on this journey. But in 1957, at the age
of 17, I applied to go to a little college
called Troy State College. Not only Troy University,
submitted my application, my high school transcript. I never heard a word from the
school, so I wrote a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. I didn’t tell my mother, my father anything, and my sisters,
my brothers, any of my teachers. Dr. King wrote me back and
sent me a round bus ticket. And invited me to come to
Montgomery to meet with him. In the meantime, I had been accepted at a little college
in Nashville, TN. An uncle of mine gave me
a hundred dollar bill, more money than I had ever had. First part of September in
1957 gave me a foot locker, one of these big upright
trunks, that you could open up, bring it back together, had the
drawers, the drapers, the curtains, which you could hang
your clothing on a rack. I put everything that I owned in
that foot locker except the chickens that I had raised a took a
Greyhound bus to Nashville, TN. And after being there
for about three weeks, I told one of my teachers
that I had been in church with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This teacher had attended Morehouse College with Dr. King, and later
he came to Howard University for graduate studies, went
back, and became a pastor of a church in Nashville. So he informed Dr. King that I was
there, and Dr. King got in touch with me and said when you’re home for spring break, to
come and see him. So I took a Greyhound bus from Troy
to Montgomery in March of 1958, at this time I’m 18 years old. A young lawyer, I’d never seen
a lawyer before black or white, by the name of Fred Gray who was
the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and the Montgomery movement, became
our lawyer during the Freedom Rise, and during the march
from Selma to Montgomery. Met at the Greyhound bus
station, drove me to the church, asked about Ralph Abernathy, a colleague of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr., and ushered me into
the pastor’s study. And I saw Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy
standing behind a desk. And Dr. King said are
you John Lewis? Are you the boy from Troy? And I said, Dr. King, I am John
Robert Lewis, I gave my whole name. And he started calling
me the boy from Troy. He told me that if I
pursued my interest and going to Troy State College, not
Troy University, my mother and father would have to file a suit
against the Troy State University, Troy State College, against
the State Board of Education. Our home could be bombed or burned. We could lose the land. I went back home and
had a discussion with my mother and my father. They were so afraid. They didn’t want to have
anything with my attempt to attend Troy State College. So I continued to study
in Nashville. And it was in Nashville that
we started studying the way of peace, the way of love. Studying the philosophy
of the non-violence, and we started sitting-in. And when you visit the new
African American Museum of History and Culture, you will see a
long rural, a bunch of kind of people sitting on stools similar
to what we faced in Nashville, where students face, and in North
Carolina, and it reminded me today when I was walking
through the museum as I did a few days
ago of what happened. We were sitting there
in orderly, peaceful, non-violent fashion,
waiting to be served. Black and white college students
and some high school students, and some would come up to spit on
us, and put a lighted cigarette out in our hair, down our backs
pour hot water and coffee on us. And one day while we
were sitting in, I heard that we may be
arrested and go to jail. And if you notice, in March: Book
One, Book Two, and Book Three, when I was being arrested
or going to jail or marching for the most time, I
was sort of dressed up. But during those days we would
sit in or go on a demonstration, young people wanted to be what
some people would called clean, sharp, or fresh. I wanted to be fresh, but
I had very little money. I was a very poor student
in term of having resources. So a day or so before
the next sit-in, I went down to a used men’s
store, and bought a used suit. You know how much I paid for? And a vest came with the suit? You know how much I
paid for this suit? I paid five dollars. I still have the suit today,
and I probably could sell it on eBay for a lot of money. This young man did some research. Andrew Aydin. He located a copy of the photograph
of me being arrested, had it, blew it up, and I tell you,
I look good in that suit. [ Applause ] But the first time that I
was arrested, I felt free. I felt liberated. I felt like had crossed over,
and I have not looked back since. So during that six years
I was arrested six times, and since I’ve been in
congress, five more times, and I’m probably going
to get arrested and go to jail for something else. So I know some of you saw this
is Sunday March, but Andrew, maybe the next book
we’ll have to include it. A group of us came together to try
to do something about gun violence. [ Applause ] We wanted to get the majority
party to bring a bill to the floor to do something about gun violence. We lost too many of our children,
too many of our mothers and fathers, too many of our young people. We have to stop it. So people came to me and
said what should we do, John? I said we should find a
way to dramatize the issue. Make it real. Our leadership didn’t even
know we were going to do it. So we made some one minute
and some five minute speeches, and the time came to
enter my speech. I said it’s time for action. And I took a seat on the
floor, and everybody else. First time in the history
of our country that a group of members would occupy
the will of the house. We had to do something. We’re trying to get young people all over America, and all
over the world. When you see something, stand
up, speak up, speak out, and do it in a peaceful,
non-violent fashion, and never give up, never give in. Keep the faith. I first came to Washington in
1961 when I had all of my hair and a few pounds lighter to go on
something called the Freedom Riot. Just think in 1961, the same year
that President Barak Obama was born, that black people and white people in this city could leave here
seated together on a Greyhound Bus, or Trail Way Bus to travel through
the south, testing the decision of the United States Supreme Court. Arrested, beaten, beaten in
Rock hill, South Carolina. The buses weren’t bombed and burned
between Atlanta and Birmingham. The Greyhound bus. Those on the Trail Way bus
were beaten in Birmingham. We were beaten Montgomery,
left bloodied and unconscious. Over the summer of 1961, more
than 400 people were arrested and jailed in Jackson, Mississippi. We filled the city jail, the county
jail, and later they transported us to the State Penitentiary
at Sunflower. But President Kennedy and
his brother, Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, intervened
and got the interstate commerce to issue an order bringing down
those signs that said White Waiting, Colored Waiting, White Men, Colored
men, White Women, Colored Women. Those signs are gone. The only place that our children and their children will see those
signs today will be in a book, in a museum, or in a video. So when will people tell me
that nothing had changed? I feel like saying, come
and walk in my shoes. I will show you change. [ Applause ] So we went through the sit-ins,
the Freedom Riot, the whole fight to right to vote, and Andrew
would tell you the March: Book Three is really about
the voting rights act effort in Mississippi, the
bombing of the church in Birmingham, the
March on Washington. We’re coming a distance,
we’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re not there yet, but
we will get there as a nation and as a people, and maybe with
the help of March, the new museum, we get there, we will serve as a
model for the rest of the world. And I said to the young people here,
never become bitter or hostile, keep the faith, be
hopeful, never hate, for hate is too heavy
a burden to bear. Okay? Thank you very much. [ Applause ] Thank you.>>Michael Cavna: Great Job.>>Andrew Aydin: How
do you follow that? My name is Andrew Aydin, and
I serve as Digital Director and Policy Advisor in the
Congressman’s congressional office. It means I tweet for a living. You might not recognize me. The last time I was here,
I had a clean shaven faced. And so let me come
out and tell you why. Several months ago, almost a
year now, someone started talking about why we should not have
Muslim immigrants in this country. My father was a Muslim immigrant. Granted, he left my
mother very young. I was raised by a single mother. But when I got to be a teenager, my mother would always
say, you need to shave. No, no. I’m serious. Get that hair off your face, and I
listened to her my whole life until, until I heard these
things being said. My mother was right. She didn’t want to make
it harder for myself. I’m from Georgia, the
congressman has been my congressman since I was three years old. Georgia is not a friendly place. When I was a kid, I
actually grew up in the midst of a terrorist bombing
campaign committed by a Christian fundamentalist, and yet they’re worried
about the Muslims. And so when I heard
these things, I had, I felt like I had to do something. If I was going to spend the last
ten years of my life working for John Lewis, I could
not do nothing. So in my small way, I grew a beard. Because I wanted the people
who are on Capitol Hill, who are my colleagues to be
sensitized to who the children of Muslim immigrants are. It is a non-violent act. It is a simple act of education. It is not hard or difficult. Maybe some people look at me
differently, but I am totally aware that I am using my
privilege as a six foot three, whitish looking male, so
that for someone else, for whom it is a little bit more
difficult or a lot more difficult, they will have an easier
time being themselves. So that’s why I grew my beard. Now, [ Applause ] What a day to be on
stage with John Lewis? You know when he started pushing for
the museum, the Smithsonian Museum of African American
History of Culture, everybody thought it was
going to be too hard. Everybody thought telling that
story to the American people in that way was impossible. People have been trying for a
hundred years to make it a reality. And yet John Lewis tried any way. Just like eight years ago, I came to
him with an idea about a comic book. Everybody thought it was nuts. They all laughed at me. And yet John Lewis believed in
it, and he helped, and he pushed, just like he pushed and
pushed to get the museum done. And so here we are on a single
day celebrating the opening of a National Museum of African
American History and Culture, and celebrating March: Book
Three being on the long list of the National Book Award [ Applause ] So let me give you a brief
summary of what I have learned, because I noticed we have a lot
of teachers, and we have a lot of students in here, right? How many of you all are teachers
or educators or librarians? That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good. How many of you are students? That’s very good. Oh yeah, somebody brought
their class. So let me tell you the three
things I learned in doing March. You take this with you. You tell them Andrew Aydin told you. Like that will make a difference. First of all, show your work. All right. In the process of doing March,
I had never written a book. You guys hold up March: Book One. People talk about it
like its cannon. That is the first book I ever wrote. I did not know what I was doing,
but the thing that stuck with me is that over and over and over again
as I interviewed the congressman, as I read these books, as I took
notes, I kept showing my work so that I had a full notebook
of everything I needed to know, and so when your math teacher tells
you you have to show your work, and you say but the answer is seven! Why are we debating this? I’m telling you, it’s because
you need to build that skill. You need to build that habit so one day you may be doing
something completely unrelated and it will save you. So show your work. Number two, don’t be
afraid to be laughed at. From the very moment I mentioned
that I enjoyed going to Comi-Con, and yes, I love going to Comi-Con. My colleagues on the hill, a
very uptight, professional, political operatives,
they laughed at me. And every time I had a crazy idea,
John Lewis you should join Facebook. That’s silly, why would
you do that, you nerd? And they laughed at me over
and over and over again. Well, who’s laughing now? [ Applause ] And number three, question
your sources. I think, yeah right. Yeah. Yeah, how about have sources? But that’s another battle. Over and over and over again, I
was able to defer to John Lewis for an answer, because what I
found is some of the works that are in our classrooms, that
are in our libraries, they don’t really have
all their facts straight. And we’re very lucky, because with
March, and the creation of it, we experienced the
first digitization of SNCC’s primary records. And so when we had a question, and
John Lewis didn’t know the answer, and we couldn’t find it in a
book, or there were more often than not conflicting accounts
in two different books, we went to the after action reports. We went to the Watts line reports. We went to the meeting minutes. In fact, there’s a long scene
in Book Three that you’ll read about where they decide the fate
of Mississippi Freedom Summer. Nate has dubbed it
the Council of Elrond. Lord of the Rings. But it is that moment. And people ask me, well, how
did you know what they had to say on that in that meeting? And I say well I had
the meeting minutes. So I just wrote down what they said. It’s not very hard. If you do those three things,
you’re off to a good start. But as I mentioned in the beginning,
I was raised by a single mother. I’ve been on scholarships
since the fourth grade. Another couple years of
this best seller status, I might pay off my student loans. But out of it all, the greatest gift that I got was a father,
was John Lewis. [ Applause ] I didn’t know it when I
started answering his mail that was my first job. There was a lot of Dear John
letters, but if you work hard, if you do what you believe in, if
you’re not afraid to get laughed at. If you’re able to do the work, and find primary sources,
anything is possible. So I ask each and every
one of you join us. March. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Michael Cavna: So we should at least show the cover
so they can see it. Can we at least get the cover up? And then, but any way, well,
that’s our time for this evening. Thank you guys so much. You know, you first time we sat
down, you told me this was going to be like the Star Wars
Trilogy, three books. And true to the Star Wars Trilogy, and I guess Darth Vader
was Bull Connor or Bull Connor I mean,
or make it a new one?>>Andrew Aydin: I don’t know. Vader became good at the end, right?>>Michael Cavna: Oh yeah.>>Andrew Aydin: I don’t think
I could be that generous. He’s more Java the Hut.>>Michael Cavna: We need more Java. Oh, I won’t touch that any ways. But now, like Star Wars, we’re going to get I hope future
books, future entertainment. Maybe JJ Abrams reboot? Who knows? But you know, you’ll keep marching. You guys will keep
telling your story. Please keep telling it because it
needs to be heard in these times, in this era when many
people want to be divisive, all across the line we need people
who remember what it’s like to try to bring people together. Thank you guys so much. Congressman Lewis, Andrew
Aydin, a big hand please. Please, please stay in your seats. They’re going to do a long
march down the right side, and the signing will be
in about half an hour. Thank you. A huge hand, Congressman
Lewis, Andrew Aydin. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at LOC.gov.

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