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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Remembering John Conyers: A Legacy Beyond Legislation

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Image credit: Dawn Uhl-Zifilippo/WDET

John Conyers’ legacy goes so far beyond what bills he might have sponsored or voted on, stretching to his championing of human rights and social justice.

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Detroit is mourning the loss of political titan, John Conyers, who passed away over the weekend at age 90.

The congressman was instrumental in passing the Voting Rights Act and was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. His tireless fight for equality and storied career was not exempt from controversy though. Conyers’ time in Congress came to an abrupt end nearly two years ago, following allegations that he improperly used the power of his office to suppress a sexual misconduct claim with taxpayer dollars.

He was really a national member of the House of Representatives.” - Ken Coleman

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who represents Michigan’s 14thDistrict, and Ken Coleman, Detroit-based author and writer for Michigan Advance, join Stephen Henderson to discuss the legacy of Congressman John Conyers. 

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

He was really a national member of the House of Representatives,” says Ken Coleman, who adds that he “represent[ed] the oppressed people who did not vote for Congressman Conyers.” 

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

On the subject of reparations, Coleman notes that Conyers introduced a bill about reparations for African-Americans “in 1989, at a time when this wasn’t a conversation on Capitol Hill.”

Lawrence recalled talking to him about this very subject at Conyers’ 90th birthday celebration. ”I said to him, ‘Isn’t it ironic that after all these years we are talking about reparations?’ and he looked at me with a big smile, and said ‘Isn’t it great they are talking about it now?’” 

Click on the player above to hear Rep. Lawrence and Ken Coleman discuss the legacy of former Rep. John Conyers.


Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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