Following the death of Rep. John Lewis in the summer of 2020, and in the light of students’ desires to become more informed and involved in social justice issues, President Zulma Toro called together a small group charged with developing a program to honor his legacy. Rep. Lewis passed in the middle of a series of events that brought into stark relief the persistence of inequality and racism in American society. The novel coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout fell more harshly on people of color and the poor than on others. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others seemed to awaken many to the brutality and violence of racism. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, and while those protests inspired Rep. Lewis, he knew change takes sustained effort.
His clarion call to young people, for decades and through the summer of 2020, was to urge them to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble” in order to advance the cause of social justice. It is in that spirit that Central Connecticut State University founded the John Lewis Institute for Social Justice. We must provide the means and the methods for a new group of leaders committed to fulfilling John Lewis’s final request:
"When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."