A year after the Honorable John Lewis’s passing, Sherry Frank, a close friend of Lewis’s and a founder of AJC Atlanta’s Black/Jewish Coalition, believes that we must follow his legacy. She urges us “to get in ‘Good Trouble,’ just like he always said.”
Growing up in Atlanta, a diverse city with a rich history for the Black/Jewish communities, Frank felt the need to bring people together. This passion led to her 25-year tenure as director of American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s Atlanta office. In addition to creating AJC’s Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition, Frank was instrumental in creating ACCESS, AJC’s young leadership division and the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
As co-chair of AJC’s Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition, Lewis “never missed an event.” Frank recalled some of their key accomplishments, including Lewis’s idea for congresspersons to travel to the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama and walk in the footsteps of Civil Rights leaders who marched for freedom.
I recently interviewed Frank about her relationship with the Honorable John Lewis. When Lewis was an Atlanta City Council member, Frank invited him to speak at an event advocating for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1982. This led to the founding of AJC’s Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition, originally known as the Black/Jewish Coalition for the Renewal of Voting Rights.
Frank and Lewis’s relationship blossomed into a beautiful friendship when Lewis first ran for Congress in 1986. “That summer,” she said, “his children stayed at our house for what seemed like the whole summer. John Miles [his son] and Drew [mine] became good friends, so our families spent lots of time together and quickly grew close. We became one family.”
When Lewis’s wife Lilian passed away in 2013, Sherry Frank gave a speech at Lilian’s funeral. In that speech, she spoke about her relationship with the couple and the closeness she felt to their entire family.
This year, the city of Atlanta is mourning the beloved John Lewis’s loss. July 17, the one-year anniversary of his passing, was a day of service with memorials and volunteer opportunities. Friday, July 30th, several organizations held events throughout the city, including The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which opened its doors with free admission in his honor.
Frank. She was part of the decision to name the John Lewis Freedom Parkway in Atlanta, and she was asked to join a special taskforce to create an airport exhibit about Lewis.
“Freedom grows so much in his DNA, in all the work he did for justice and equality,” said Frank.
Just as Sherry Frank is committed to honoring John Lewis’s legacy, Jewish teens living in Atlanta must do our part to stay active to increase justice and equality. We must continue connecting our communities through bridge building organizations like AJC’s Atlanta Black/Jewish Coalition. We must also continue to advocate together, especially on issues that affect all of us such as voting rights. Echoing the same theme and the words of the video announcing AJC Atlanta’s new logo, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in a 1944 radio address, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote, except the American people themselves.”