Remembering John Lewis (1940-2020)

Dear Harvard Chan School Community,

Just a little over a week ago, I heard news of the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Since that time, in honor of his legacy, his funeral procession continues, travelling through various locations around the United States to allow people an opportunity to mourn his passing and remember his life. His accomplishments are many and his impact on matters of race, civil rights, and social justice will be long-lasting.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, at Wadsworth House, Harvard University.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, at Wadsworth House, Harvard University. File photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

I can never forget the words that John Lewis often spoke: “good trouble.” For me it is a reminder that doing the right thing often involves going counter to the status quo. It means doing things that have not been done before and showing up in ways that challenge the previous ways of doing things. We have seen many throughout history embody this reality, showing us that the fruits of social justice cannot be harvested without having to push against the weight of all that is the status quo. It means that we must be disruptors—that we must be willing to learn and grow, willing to act, and willing to be changed in some way.

The diversity, inclusion, and belonging work that we do in our office builds on the work of those who came before us. It builds on the lives of those such as John Lewis. Although I never knew him, there is much in my life that is a result of his blood, sweat and tears. And similarly, as members of the Harvard Chan community, we will do work in our lifetimes that will lay the groundwork for future generations.

I ask that we honor the life of John Lewis and the many others who are no longer with us by taking action in the many spaces that we occupy. There is much ahead of us this academic year. Our commitment to racial justice cannot stop. And it cannot be dictated by what others are doing or not doing. We are in a pivotal moment, and history has shown that moments can fade. So I remind us to carry on the spirit of what John Lewis’s life has meant in this country and to be ready to face what awaits us: new ideas, difficult conversations, change, innovation, and—where needed—good trouble.


Amarildo “Lilu” Barbosa
Chief Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Officer