When Johnstown resident Jamal Lewis wore his “Make Racism Wrong Again” T-shirt and hat to a local Walmart a few weeks ago, he knew that he would be subjected to a few stares and glares, but it was something he was willing to face, for a message he truly supports.
“I’ve always been that kind of guy,” Lewis said. “I believe in standing up for what it is right.”
Lewis said he received a few “dirty looks” from some of the other shoppers, but he was also complimented and thanked for wearing the gear as well.
“There were some side-eye looks and some evil eyes, but there was also a couple people who thanked me and said they appreciated me wearing it,” Lewis said. “I just continued to shop and do what I needed to do and then went home.
“I took a couple of selfies there and didn’t think much more about it.”
While Lewis walked away from that Richland Township Walmart feeling good about making his statement to make racism wrong again, he decided to share his experience on social media.
His Facebook post has since gone viral, gaining hundreds of shares and thousands of reactions from people all across the nation.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Lewis.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything special. I just wanted to make a statement.”
The Philadelphia native’s post gained attention after being shared by the “Pantsuit Nation” Facebook page. Pantsuit Nation, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to build a foundation for a more equitable and engaged democracy, has more than 150,000 followers.
Lewis’ post on Pantsuit Nation’s Facebook page has received close to 245,000 reactions and more than 12,000 comments.
“Ten minutes after they posted it and it was already at like 18,000 likes,” Lewis said. “I feel like it quickly started a movement. I get people that message me all the time telling me how brave I am, but I’m just a regular guy.
“So if a regular guy like me can stand up, then a regular person like you can stand up,” he said.
“Your statement might be different from my statement, but if we all stand up...we’ll make noise. And with the 2020 election right around the corner, we have to start standing up now.”
While Lewis’ social media post continues to gain plenty of attention, he said the only thing that has been missing from his story is what actually led him to don the “Make Racism Wrong Again” attire.
Lewis, a single father of four, resides on Decker Avenue in Johnstown’s West End section. As he and his children sat out front of their home one evening, they shared an unexpected experience.
“For someone to walk past is a rarity, unless it’s people coming from the trail,” Lewis said. “So we all kind of stopped talking and looked – the guy had a swastika on his sleeve and a red “Make America Great Again” hat on.
“It kind of took us back a moment,” he said. “My older kids understood, but my younger kids didn’t and so they asked.
“I just explained to them that some people have different values and ideas than you do.”
This moment with his children prompted Lewis to make his own statement. It was soon after this, that he found and purchased the “Make Racism Wrong Again” gear online.
“I hope people takeaway a message of love and mutual respect for each other,” Lewis said. “That we can come together. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
“Regardless of who you are and what you are, or where you come from and how long you’ve been there – that we can all come together and agree on something and try to move forward.”