Mississippi students learn about real-life ‘superhero”

Clarion Ledger

Jerry Mitchell

The Mississippi Center for Justice is distributing copies of a new graphic novel on the life of Congressman John Lewis to 4,000 students on the Coast, Delta and the capital city.

The deed coincides with Lewis delivering the keynote on Oct. 16 at the Jackson Convention Complex to the organization’s Champions of Justice Dinner, where advocate Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald and journalist Bill Minor are being honored.

“Oleta, as director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office, has pursued justice in education, including early childhood education and children’s healthcare access,” said Reilly Morse, the Justice Center’s president and CEO. “She also has done vital work in ending the cradle-to-prison pipeline, which plagues communities of color.”

Minor is being honored for his work as a journalist in Mississippi since 1947, exposing abuses, exposing corrupt officials and covering the civil rights movement.

“His reporting through the decades was powered by bravery and a hunger for the truth,” Morse said.

Ellen Ann Fentress is working on a documentary on Minor and is hoping to raise $10,000 to complete it this year.

Here’s my interview with Andrew Aydin, who along with Nate Powell, has told Lewis’ life story in a graphic novel.

Q: What made you decide to do this graphic novel?

A: It was a comic book called “Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story” that was used to help inspire some of the earliest sit-ins. Having felt for a long time that Congressman Lewis’ story was the most inspiring for young people today struggling with their own sense of power and capabilities, it seemed very natural then to take up this medium that had been used at the height of the civil rights movement. I’ve been a comic fan just about as long as I can remember so when Congressman Lewis told me about how “Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story” inspired him and people he knew during the movement, I just started asking, “Why don’t you write a comic book?” Eventually he said, “Ok, lets do it, but only if you write it with me.”

Q: What has been the reaction?

A: The reaction has been incredible. The book is in its 39th week on the NY Times Best Seller list. Schools in more than 30 states have added it to their curriculum and just last summer more than 15,000 college freshman at Michigan State University, Georgia State University, and Marquette University read March: Book One as part of their first year reading program. March: Book One also became the first graphic novel ever to receive a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

Q: So many graphic novels have become movies. Will this be one, too?

A: I hope so. John Lewis’ story is so important. Young people today need role models that they can relate to, that show them how much power they have if they are disciplined and orderly. They need to see that its ok to be a little bit maladjusted and want to change things. Its good, its necessary, its important to us as a society that these young people are able to express themselves and explore their power. Its the only way we can all move forward as a nation.

Q: When is Book Two coming out?

A: January 2015.