While a student at American Baptist College and Fisk University, Rep. John Lewis began his civil rights work with lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville.
He continued this work through his final days, inspiring many others to affect change, said Metro Council member Zulfat Suara.
“There is no qualification for somebody to be able to affect change,” Suara said. “You don’t have to be old, or wise, or rich…Anyone of us can do it. That’s what I think about when I think of Lewis.”
After Lewis passed away last year, Metro Council decided to honor this legacy by renaming a portion of Fifth Avenue, which stretches from Germantown to the Nashville City Cemetery, to Rep. John Lewis Way.
This weekend, the city will finally celebrate the renamed avenue and the legacy of its namesake, beginning with a memorial service Friday night at First Baptist Church.
Saturday, city leaders, residents and other supporters will walk 1.2 miles along the street in his honor. The march will begin at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Rep. John Lewis Way and conclude at the Ryman Auditorium for a formal dedication event at 11 a.m.
“Sixty years ago, when Lewis was marching through downtown Nashville, he never thought we would be marching down a street named in his honor,” said Suara, who helped organize the events.
Suara hopes that participants will better understand Nashville’s civil rights history, the justice issues facing current and future generations and Lewis’ legacy of work, which has impacted issues like voting access, black rights and LGBTQ+ equality.
“He touches a whole lot of people, and I think that’s the beauty about him,” Suara said.