USPS stamp unveiling ceremony in Saint Albans honors the legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis

Meeks,Lt. Gov. and Guests
Rep.Meeks, Lt. Gov. and Guests
Photo provided by the office of Rep. Meeks

The United States Postal Service held an unveiling ceremony for a stamp of the late civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis in Saint Albans on Monday, Feb 27.

The ceremony, held at the Robert Ross Family Life Center on Linden Boulevard, was a part of a Black History Month event USPS hosted with Rep. Gregory Meeks and Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado. Hundreds of people including community leaders, Divine 9 sorority members, clergy members and residents packed the center for the unveiling.

Lewis, who was born in Alabama in 1940 when the south was segregated, was known for his commitment to nonviolent civil rights protests that made him coin the phrase“good trouble.” He had a lengthy political career, spanning over three decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he defended and built upon key civil rights achievements, before his death in 2020. Lewis’s commitment to civil rights extended beyond the House, where as a college student he was the face of the Nashville Student Movement, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and an original Freedom Rider.

The ceremony began with the smooth sounds of the Bartlett Contemporaries jazz band, followed by opening remarks from the moderator Natasha Padmore. Padmore introduced Jamaica’s VFW color guard that marched in line to present the American flag to the solemn crowd. Following the color guard ceremony, the National Anthem and Black National Anthem was sung and a prayer was led by Reverend Eli Wilson III.

Rep. Meeks at Podium with Lewis on ScreenPhoto provided by the office of Rep. Meeks

Dermot Tuhoy, the postmaster of the Jamaica Queens USPS branch, spoke of the impact the stamp unveiling had on the community.“ One of the most important goals of our stamp program is to raise awareness and celebrate the people, places and things that represent the very best of our nation. The postal service has a longstanding tradition of celebrating Black history. Last year on July 31, we issued the John Lewis stamp and the unveiling was at Morehouse College. Our event celebrating the stamp was one of the most heavily attended events in the history of stamp events in the postal service.” he said.

Meeks, who served in the House with Lewis for over 22 years, spoke of his legacy and their close-knit relationship over the years. “I could tell you that John Lewis was known as one of the big six civil rights leaders, I could tell you that he was born in the segregated south. I could tell you that he played a big role with Dr. King in the 1963 historic march on Washington, I could tell you that he almost lost his life on the Edmund Pettus bridge in the march from Selma to Montgomery. For some, you would say that after he went and did all of those things he could sit down and rest.. but that wasn’t John Lewis,” Meeks said.

Rep.Meeks with guests.Photo provided by the office of Rep. Meeks

Meeks revered Lewis as a living legend, who represented a level of humility and selflessness that he had never seen before. “From the time that I entered the House of Representatives, the most humbled individual I ever met was John Lewis. Good trouble started when he was young, when he wrote that letter to Dr. King, watching Dr. King, who in his own right was only 23-years-old. [They were ] Young people who decided they loved the United States so much that they were going to make it live up to its creed of becoming a more perfect union, and started marching in the streets in a non-violent way,” he said.

Following Meek’s speech, Lt. Governor Delgado spoke passionately about meeting Lewis and the immense aura he gave off. “Congressman Lewis…produced love at a level beyond the mind’s comprehension. We owe so much to the heart of John Lewis, and we owe it to Mr. Lewis to continue to meet the moment,” he said.

The ceremony closed with a final performance by the Bartlett Contemporaries, as Meeks, Delgado and community leaders revealed a life-sized rendition of the stamp to the public.

The John R. Lewis stamp is available for purchase at the post office or online, HERE.

Guests at the event holding image of stamp.Photo provided by the office of Rep. Meeks