Picture: H/T The New York Times
By: A’Breya Young
October 17, 2019, may seem like just an ordinary date. But, it was on this day a trailblazer gained his wings and flew up to the blue sky. People were understandably shocked and in disbelief to hear the dreadful news that Elijah Cummings had passed. He demanded no pity and sympathy for his condition. Like a soldier, he endured sickness and pain in silence. He didn’t want us to get distracted from the real issues at hand. Congressman Cummings will be remembered for his wisdom, generosity, bravery, sound character, advocacy for civil rights, and selflessness to our nation and to his community. Even though Baltimore was his home, Congressman Cummings was known and respected worldwide.
An Early Start
Cummings grew up in the segregated city of Baltimore. In elementary school, he unionized with a group of African-Americans with the motive of integrating swimming pools in his community. However, an angry mob wasn’t having it. Young Elijah and his peers were pelted with rocks and bottles when they decided to enter the pool. One would think this violent act against him would cause him to shrink and retreat; On the contrary, this single act ignited a spark of advocacy within him that no one could ever snuff out. Cummings crossed all stereotypical racial lines by attending and graduating from Harvard University with a law degree. He knew he’d have access to the courtroom to fight for change within African-American communities. Elijah Cummings would later become the first black speaker in the Maryland State Assembly and represent his state in the House of Representatives.
Cummings for the House
Cummings served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 7th congressional district, from April 16, 1996, until his death. Injustice was an abomination to Elijah, which is why he spent all of his adult life advocating for justice and civil rights. People tend to use violence as an outlet to express their feelings, but not Congressman Cummings. His words were a force to be reckoned with. Cummings advocated for the rights of all people, including immigrants. As the horrific conditions of the Immigration Detention Center began to surface in the public eye, Cummings addressed Kevin McAleenan, acting head of Homeland Security.
Cummings: “You feel like you’re doing a great job right?”
McAleenan: “doing our level best.”
Cummings: “What does that mean? What does that mean? When children are sitting in their own feces, and can’t take a shower? Come on man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position.”
Cummings’s reaction precisely demonstrates how passionate he was for the rights of people who could not speak up for themselves. He was the voice crying in the wilderness crying, “Let my people go!” He stood firm and unshakable in the faces of those in authority, even to the President of the United States.
A Meeting at the White House
In March 2017, there was a meeting held in the White House about the prices of prescription drugs, but Cummings also used this time to address the President on his alleged comments about the black race. Trump allegedly referred to inner cities, including those in Baltimore, as a “rodent-infested mess.” When confronting the president, Cummings stated, “I want you to realize that all African-American communities are not places of depression, where people are being harmed.” It is stereotypical that African-Americans who live in so-called “sketchy” neighborhoods are all gang bangers with their pants hanging below their waist and a gun in their hand. The overtures made by the President not only perpetuated racism, but also contributed to a longstanding stereotype. Cummings fought to invalidate these stereotypes until he took his last breath.
Crossing the Finish Line
The passing of Elijah Cummings was very sudden, as many people were oblivious to his illness. The world lost a man a valor, a gentle spirit, and a king amongst kings. On October 25, 2019, people such as former President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary Clinton, paid tribute to this great Man-of-God. Representative Elijah Cummings fought until his last breath to make a brighter tomorrow. He will forever be an inspiration to others as well as myself for generations to come.