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ByGene Kansas

FeaturingU.S. Congressman John Lewis


MLK, Jr. Historic District
171 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30303

ASSIGNMENT: Landlord Representation

When Gene Kansas | Commercial Real Estate was hired to market and lease Renaissance Walk, the area was questionable and the building virtually empty. The work of many community leaders helped pave the way for revitalization.

The importance of being part of a movement helped attract U.S. Congressman John Lewis to headquarter his re-election campaign on the property. Efforts between his campaign, Gene Kansas, and the super talents of The Loss Prevention resulted in a 70-foot-high mural of this Civil Rights icon, transforming Renaissance Walk from an address into a Landmark.

We’re honored to have spent a few minutes discussing freedom, preservation, and history with Congressman Lewis.

Q: You had your re-election campaign headquarters on Auburn Avenue. What does the historic preservation and success of Auburn Avenue mean for the future and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement?

Congressman John Lewis: Well I felt that it was fitting and appropriate to have my re-election campaign office on Auburn Ave. to send a strong message that this place, this community, this piece of our history, must be preserved for generations yet unborn and that we must save it to inspire others. It’s important that we get people to recognize the progress we have made and the progress we have yet to make. I believe that those symbols and signs, the buildings, the stones, the institutions along Auburn, they’re all important.

Q: I think just the feel of being on Auburn Ave. with the historic buildings, and it’s evident when you’re walking or driving by that you’re in a place that has history. Given your past with the area, how do feel whenever you return to Auburn Ave.?

Congressman John Lewis: When I walk up and down Auburn or go into certain buildings, whether it’s walking on the sidewalk- you have this feeling that there is something very special, almost sacred about Auburn Ave. And there are so many other historic sites in the city of Atlanta but I think Auburn Ave. is something very special, it’s a gem, it is something that we must come to appreciate and we have to get our children, our young people and others to understand. Especially people that move to Atlanta that haven’t grown up to understand what they’re living among and to understand it’s history, to take it in, to absorb it, let it become a part of them.

Q: What did your parents think when you got involved?

Congressman John Lewis: When I was much younger, as a teenager, I heard the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. on my old radio, it seemed like he was speaking directly to me. I heard about Rosa Parks, I was deeply inspired by what I had heard Dr. King say about what Rosa Parks did. And reading the stories of so many other people not just in America, but around the world, and I wanted to do something about what I saw. When my mother and father heard that I was sitting in at lunch counters they thought I was going to get hurt or maybe killed, and they told me to not to get into trouble, “Don’t get in trouble”, but I got in trouble, it was a good trouble, it was necessary trouble. To help make our country a better place, to free America, and I think because not just what I tried to do but hundreds, thousands, millions of citizens, black and white, Latinos, Asian-Americans, native-American, tried to do our country is a better country, a freer country. But we’re not there yet, we still have work to do.

Q: In your re-election campaign you used your mug shot with the caption “Getting into good trouble since 1960.” Will there always be a cost to be free?

Congressman John Lewis: There will always be a cost, a price to pay, to be free. Freedom is not free, you have to pay a price. You become free but you never become truly free because there is always a threat to freedom and you have to continue to struggle to maintain that sense of freedom, not just for yourself, but for others. Because there is always some force or some group trying to take away your freedom.

Q: I know that you were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, and I wanted to ask “What does it take to be a voice for freedom?”

Congressman John Lewis: The only thing it takes to be a voice for freedom is to be prepared and to be willing to speak up for the freedom of all humankind. When you see something that is not right, something not fair, not just. When you see people being mistreated, people being held down, because of their class, their race, their religion, their national origin, you have a moral obligation to do something, to find a way to change things. And sometimes you have to use the Bill of Rights, the right to protest, the right to speak up, speak out. The right to just be a voice, be a source of inspiration to others.


Keywords | U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Civil Rights, Auburn Avenue, MLK Jr. Historic District, Landlord Representation
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