Remembering Van Lewis

Van Lewis Memoriam
Vol. 9
No. 1
James Loewen
Mon, 06/20/2011
Van Lewis presenting at a NOCIRC Symposium, Washington, DC, 2002
Van Lewis presenting at a NOCIRC Symposium, Washington, DC, 2002

Van Lewis made a powerful first and last impression on me! At a NOCIRC conference, at Georgetown University in Washington, Van strode into the room with an enormous bright red sign, carefully hand painted, which read, INFANT CIRCUMCISION IS A SEX CRIME, ABOLISH IT.

Van told his story, explained that this sign was a replica of the original that the Tallahassee police had destroyed, when they arrested Van and his brother Ben, for protesting infant circumcision outside hospital in 1970.

Despite the grim subject matter at the core of his presentation, Van brought warmth, wisdom and humor to the issue. Around the room people listened intently, we were all spellbound. He finished to thunderous applause.

Van Lewis protesting infant circumcision outside of the University of Washington, 2002
Van Lewis protesting infant circumcision outside of the University of Washington, 2002

I imagined photographing Van with his vivid sign up against some classic Washington monuments, ideally in front of the Lincoln Memorial or the Supreme Court, if that were possible. That busy afternoon we were too far from the mall and time wouldn’t permit so we went outside and we made some photos in front of the University buildings.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Van again and we taped a video interview. You can see what a marvelous storyteller his was, and how passionately he dedicated himself to the issue of human rights to genital integrity.

Van Lewis was a great human being. He inspired me and I will miss him greatly.