There is no better film for the times than one about civil rights leader and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis, who has dedicated the past six decades of his life to the advancement of Black people. John Lewis: Good Trouble is a documentary celebrating the 80-year-old civil rights icon and his fight for justice under the law.

And, of course, two Black women are at the helm of the project.

Good Trouble comes from director Dawn Porter and is coproduced by Erika Alexander (of Living Single fame). In an interview with Tiffany D. Cross of MSNBC’s AMJoy, the women discuss Lewis’s legacy, and how this long-awaited film finally came to fruition.

Dawn Porter, director of JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Henny Garfunkel. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“I campaigned in Georgia with Congressman Lewis, Stacey Abrams and Ayanna Presley in 2016, and that was like the dream team,” shares Alexander. “We traveled around Georgia, and we learned from John Lewis—it was like young, gifted and Black in the South in American politics.”

Through this work, Alexander described it as “destiny” that later led her to cross paths with Porter to collaborate on the documentary.

The rest was history—and for good reason. The film, which was released over the weekend, has received rave reviews thus far. There’s much to discover about the civil rights icon from watching the movie, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before—literally. The producing pair were able to dig deep into never-before-seen footage and photos, including some from a lunch counter sit-in that Lewis participated in at a segregated restaurant in Nashville. 

Porter credits archivist Rich Remsberg for “searching high and low” for little-known material. “One of the greatest joys of my life as a filmmaker was when Congressman Lewis told us that he was seeing footage that he had never seen before,” she says.

She continues, “We spent a year filming with [Congressman Lewis] and it’s been a really tough year for so many of us. The thing that strikes me about him is he is still out marching and speaking and encouraging everyone. He has never lost his resilience, his fight, his ability to inspire people, and he really inspired all of us as well. It was a joy and a privilege to make this movie.”

And while we all may see Congressman Lewis as a “forceful” political giant, Porter believes that people would be surprised to know how quiet he is in person. He’s human just like the rest of us. “He is a really thoughtful leader,” she says. “That’s one of the things I wanted to highlight in this movie. John Lewis is known for being brave, but I really wanted people to focus on the fact that he is a political genius. To be 19 years old and to be one of the organizers of the sit-ins that integrated the Nashville lunch counters that had been segregated more than 100 years, I want to give him his props as the political genius he is. The strategy was so important to the movement and that’s the lasting change we have seen.”

Known for her comedic talent and as a beloved cast member on one of our favorite nineties sitcoms, Alexander describes her path to social justice and using her platform for Black advancement. She couldn’t sit silent while witnessing the injustices that were happening across this country, and for good reason—racism.

“Racism is about power,” says Alexander. “White people created the system of laws, policies, financial networks, visual narratives to control in the press African-Americans. It’s a tidy system—it works. It prevents us from creating wealth and health and prosperity and all the things that go along with it. I’d like to destroy it to its core and bring about systemic change in the democracy. It’s about voting—up and down the ballot. Especially locally, because all politics are local.”

“Don’t look at the White House or Iyanla to fix it— look in the mirror,” she proclaims. “Take action.”


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