U.S. Rep. John Lewis won’t keynote Lansing MLK Day event

    U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, announced Sunday that he was recently diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has canceled a Lansing appearance scheduled for next week.

    The Dr. Martin Luther King Commission of Mid-Michigan had previously announced that Lewis would give the keynote address at its 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day luncheon on Monday.

    Martin Luther King Jr. | Wikimedia Commons

    Lewis announced in December that he would undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer. The commission held a prayer vigil for him with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and state legislators at the Michigan Capitol on Jan. 7.

    “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” Lewis said. 

    “While I am clear-eyed about the prognosis, doctors have told me that recent medical advances have made this type of cancer treatable in many cases, that treatment options are no longer as debilitating as they once were, and that I have a fighting chance. So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”

    At a young age, Lewis organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and participated in the Freedom Rides that challenged segregation in bus terminals.

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    In 1965, Lewis led hundreds of protestors seeking voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where they were attacked by police officers on what would later become known as Bloody Sunday.

    Lewis is the author of a critically acclaimed graphic novel memoir trilogy, MARCH, in which he details his role in the civil rights movement.

    Former President Barack Obama awarded Lewis the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, in 2011.