The Soraya joins CSUN's Tom & Ethel Bradley Center in honoring the legacy of Congressman John Lewis.

The Soraya joins CSUN's Tom & Ethel Bradley Center in honoring the legacy of Congressman John Lewis.

[L to R] Rev. Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, and Bayard Rustin

A Message from Keith Rice, Tom & Ethel Bradley Center
The staff and stakeholders of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center are saddened by the passing of civil rights hero and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. We admire John Lewis for unselfishly getting the job done behind the scenes. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, everyone knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the face of the movement. But there were many more lesser-known faces taking the hits and bruises in order to propel the Movement forward in the name of justice. Quite often it was John Lewis on the front line receiving those blows and bruises so that other people would not have to. John Lewis’s bravery and tenacity has been documented in history. His legacy will live on long after we are all gone. At the Bradley Center, we don’t mourn his passing, instead, we celebrate a life long-lived in service to others.

Congressman John Lewis appearing in John Kouns' photographs and images from the opening reception of the exhibit From Selma to Montgomery: The Voting Registration Campaign of 1963 and 1965.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and Bayard Rustin (Photo: John Kouns)
John Lewis (3rd from L.), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (center), Ralph Abernathy (2nd from R.), and Andrew Young lead the march from Selma to Montgomery (1965) (Photo: John Kouns)
[Right] John Lewis (Photo: John Kouns)
Donzaleigh Abernathy shares her stories and reflections of attending the Selma march at the opening reception (Photo: Luis Luque)
Guests at the opening of the exhibit (Photo: Luis Luque)
Jason Moran performs to his score of "Selma" (Photo: Luis Luque)
Evening Sponsors Ryan and Melissa Clinton, Ava DuVernay, Jason Moran, and guests (Photo: Luis Luque)
Donzaleigh Abernathy with (From Left) CSUN Vice Presidents Colin Donahue and Dr. William Watkins, CSUN Deans Dr. Shari Tarver-Behring, Dr. Yan Searcy, Mark Stover, Dr. Farrell Webb, event sponsors Melissa and Ryan Clinton, Executive Director Thor Steingra (Photo: Luis Luque)

A Message from The Soraya's Executive Director Thor Steingraber

Thor Steingraber offers a toast to Jason Moran[L to R] Jason Moran and Thor Steingraber

Beyond his tireless fight for Voting Rights and Civil Rights, Congressman John Lewis was also an outspoken proponent of the arts. He often exclaimed that the Civil Rights Movement without music would be like a bird without wings.

The Soraya makes a concerted effort to support artists who put social justice at the center of their work, and there is nothing we value more than the educational value that these programs bring to the CSUN campus. In February, we brought Jason Moran, Ava DuVernay, and the live score of the film Selma to our stage as part of a cross-campus collaboration with CSUN's Tom and Ethel Bradley Center. That memorable evening now seems like lifetimes ago, but The Soraya’s gallery walls today still feature the photography exhibit that was installed for the occasion, prints of the original John Kouns photographs taken in Selma, Alabama.

In the days after the murder of George Floyd, I visited the empty gallery at The Soraya. In more ways than one, it feels like a time machine now: the moment that the world stood still, halted by a pandemic, and poignantly, in the midst of the largest demonstrations in our nation’s history, the photographs of the courageous men and women who stand as examples to the generations that followed them. Two among their ranks died on July 17 — Congressman Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. While Lewis is well known, Vivian will be remembered as the man who confronted authorities on the steps of the Selma courthouse, one of the most memorable scenes in the film.

Among the photographs exhibited at The Soraya is one of the musicians Peter, Paul, and Mary performing at one of the rallies. The courage of my convictions is enhanced when I think of Lewis’ words. When COVID-19 retreats, the arts must continue to play a pivotal role in shaping our post-pandemic world, one in which social justice is center stage.

For more information about The Soraya’s activities for Black History Month, please click here.