The annual March on Washington Film Festival kicked off in D.C. on Thursday night with House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) receiving the John Robert Lewis Lifetime Legacy Award

The 81-year-old lawmaker was recognized for his work advancing the dignity of all humans through championing rural economic development and elevating Black heritage at the opening gala for the five-day event, which was started in 2013 to commemorate the March on Washingtons 50th anniversary.

Clyburn had known Lewis, who died last year, for decades, meeting him as a college student in the midst of the Civil Rights movement before serving in Congress together for more than 17 years.

John LewisJohn LewisTo fight voting restriction efforts in Texas, the Senate must pass voting rights billArizona Democratic Party passes resolution criticizing Sinema on filibuster, reconciliation Debt ceiling fight pits corporate America against RepublicansMORE was very special to me, Clyburn said. I adopted the philosophy of non-violence as a tactic John Lewis internalized it, and he became everything that philosophy is all about.

Clyburn, who took the stage at Union Market’s Dock5 to a standing ovation, said much is left to be done towards achieving racial justice, and that the award encouraged him to “renew” his life-long commitment toward the cause.

These kinds of events just remind me about what this journey is all about, he told The Hill an interview. But Im always quick to remember that its not a linear track.

Presenting the award, Rep. Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodClyburn: ‘UnAmerican’ not to prioritize Medicaid expansion in spending packageKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in HouseOvernight Hillicon Valley Hacking goes globalMORE (D-Ill.) said Clyburn has been her fierce ally since she was first elected in 2018 as the youngest Black woman to serve in Congress.

It was Whip Clyburn who provided invaluable guidance as I moved to my new role as a representative, she said.

Underwood said Clyburns work elevating an inclusive history, including preserving buildings at historically Black colleges and universities, has shown that good policy starts with good representation.

She applauded his work nurturing Black leaders in Congress by convening meetings between the Congressional Black Caucus and top appropriators.

Even now as an appropriator myself, Im still putting those lessons into practice, Underwood said.

The crowd also heard performances by urban jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet, known for his work with Prince and Stevie Wonder, and the Shiloh Baptist Church Gospel Choir, featuring songs including “Oh Happy Day” and “This Little Light of Mine.”