In 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Civil Rights icon Congressman John R. Lewis. I remember having a busy day at work, and on my way home, my cellphone rang. On the other end of the phone was the former chancellor of Fayetteville State University, James A. Anderson. He told me that Lewis was visiting FSU and asked if I would like to interview him on my TV show, “Let’s Talk with Shanessa Fenner.” I immediately agreed and hung up the phone, thinking about the carefully constructed questions I would ask him. I wanted to have an informative interview that would serve as a rich history lesson for everyone to learn and reflect upon. I knew that I wanted to discuss the tragic events surrounding the demonstration known as “Bloody Sunday,” as well as the plight of the Black male, the Civil Rights movement and the reason why the Black race has always been disliked.
The day of the interview, I was a bit nervous. I arrived at the TV studio to prepare and got my emotions together. He walked into the studio and introduced himself. We began to talk a little before the interview. I immediately took notice that he was a very humble man with a forgiving spirit. His mere presence was captivating, and during the 30-minute interview, I was in awe the entire time. I looked in his eyes as he talked and hung on to every word. When he talked, he took you back to the time and the place of the event, and it made you feel like you were there experiencing it with him.
When the interview was over, I felt like I had been sitting in a history class because he shared many things that had happened to him, including the many times he was beaten nearly to death. He spent his entire life fighting for equality.
I feel this is the perfect time for the interview to circulate, during this time of tragic events in our country. One disheartening thing is that our younger generation does not know who John Lewis is, so we have to do a better job of educating them about this great man and his powerful journey — even though they have the ability to conduct research on their own. They need to know about these historical events because history has a way of repeating itself, and it sets the tone for the path to move forward. My favorite quote from him is, “There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”
I have had people tell me that after they watched the interview, they cried. They shared their experiences of racism and the utter disdain of being mistreated because of the color of their skin.
Some shared that the interview made them ask themselves if are they doing all that they can to make a difference in the lives of others.
I am elated that I was given the honor of a lifetime to interview a Civil Rights icon on my TV show.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Lewis Family. You are blessed to have had a strong icon in your family. He is a rich part of history. We will continue to ensure his legacy lives on. May he rest in peace.
Search “Let’s Talk with Shanessa Fenner” episode 7 on Youtube to see the interview.