Am I my brother’s keeper?

John-Lewis-speaks-at-USF-on-a-book-tour-2016-by-Johnnie-Burrell-1, Am I my brother’s keeper?, Culture Currents
John Lewis visited San Francisco and spoke at USF on a book tour in 2016. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

by Lin Robertson 

To deny with a lie. To not take responsibility. To want to be chosen and resentful when we are not. We as a people today must ask ourselves whether we want to be like Cain, i.e. whether we are willing to let our brother suffer and die because we believe in that moment that we would benefit. 

We search today for reasons to care for our fellow man, when none are needed. It is just the right thing to do. It is why we aspire to rise towards the light, to achieve a Christ-like character, our innate Messiah – our gift from God. 

Today we witnessed the funeral of a man who chose to be his brother’s keeper from the moment he heard a sermon by Martin Luther King for the first time. He was just a teenager and could have shrugged it off or decided not to pay any attention to what would bring sacrifice over and over again from an early age. 

By the time he was 23, however, he would already be a legend and the youngest soul invited to speak at Lincoln’s feet, long before we would have to chant again in 2020 that Black Lives Matter. Presidents, statesmen of all stripes, and worshippers came to his funeral with masks and heavy hearts to remember who he was one last time. 

Our time has come, and as we remember John Lewis, let us also lift each other up and continue to get in that good trouble together.

But before the soldiers folded that American flag in his honor, he would find a way to remind us again in his own way – in writing in the New York Times – that the torch is ours now to carry on and do the right thing. Care for one another, he said, and above all love your brother no matter what. 

John-Lewis-speaks-at-USF-on-a-book-tour-big-crowd-2016-by-Johnnie-Burrell-1-1400x933, Am I my brother’s keeper?, Culture Currents
A big crowd welcomed the Civil Rights hero. – Photo: Johnnie Burrell

Do that even if they try to choke you with tear gas or beat you with those batons in Portland, Houston, Chicago or our own San Francisco. To honor him and ourselves, also protest with your vote this November and every single time we can exercise that privilege thereafter. It is what he and others like him fought for during the Civil Rights Movement, a fight that would continue for decades. 

“We shall overcome some day.” If you truly believe that, then you know that our hope also comes with the conviction that states “Yes we can.” We can choose righteousness, justice, peace and prosperity in equal measure for all. We can choose to be kind when someone needs us to cover their backs, feed them, house them or simply speak up against what is clearly evidence of evil and mean-spiritedness against our “disadvantaged.” 

Our time has come, and as we remember John Lewis, let us also lift each other up and continue to get in that good trouble together. To vote is the ultimate way to honor our hero. If you cannot mail in your vote, then wait in line six feet apart. Stand your ground and never give up. Help those who cannot drive to the ballot box themselves. Step up and give them a ride on election day. 

John-Lewis-speaks-at-USF-on-a-book-tour-for-‘March’-3-volume-graphic-novel-on-Civil-Rights-Movement-2016-by-Johnnie-Burrell-1-1400x933, Am I my brother’s keeper?, Culture Currents

Until then, march peacefully if you can. Keep the faith, and don’t give your power away. Let’s show up for each other, brothers and sisters, today and every day. And as we send our “Able” to the promised land to reap the rewards for all his long sacrifices that he suffered so that we can truly live that American dream one day, let us embrace his message of hope and commitment to do what is always right for all of us. 

Good night, John Robert Lewis. God bless you. 

Lin Robertson began her career by launching the Aruba Foreign Investment Agency in her native Aruba, a Caribbean island nation off the coast of Venezuela. Coming to California in 1998, she worked with the San Jose Office of Equality Assurance and in 2005 founded The Labor Compliance Managers, where she is managing director. She is also senior producer for International Media TV. Lin can be reached at