In our first local Town Hall of the NBC Learn "Finishing the Dream" series, panelists talk about how the Rev. Jesse Jackson won economic concessions for blacks in Chicago and the work he has done for civil rights over the past 40 years.
How did Jesse Jackson PUSH the Civil Rights Movement Along?
LESTER HOLT: The Reverend Jesse Jackson is at the forefront of the struggle to reduce violence in Chicago schools and on the streets, but he has always been known as a leader, especially in this community. As the founder and head of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, he worked with other ministers and city leaders to empower communities. It’s works he’s used to doing, it's work he started more than forty years ago.
JESSE JACKSON: [IN CLIP] I am …
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … I am …
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] …Somebody…
CROWD: [IN CLIP] …Somebody….
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] …Respect me…
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … Respect me….
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] … Protect me …
CROWD: [IN CLIP] … Protect me …
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] We don’t know how powerful we really are. We don’t know how beautiful we really are.
REPORTER: [IN CLIP] “He’s Back,” say the headlines, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson returned to warm welcomes as he took back the helm of the organization he founded 24 years ago.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] PUSH is going to demand economic justice as we always have. The Rainbow is going to defeat Newt Gingrich in 1996.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] If you run, you might lose. If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed to lose. When you’re behind you gotta run, you really got to run.
CROWD” [IN CLIP] Run, Jesse, run! Run, Jesse, run!
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] It’s about dignity. It’s about determining our choice of leadership.
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] Wherever crime exists, those who know must expose it, and the law must work for the common people.
MARION BROOKS: I want to start with you, Reverend Janette Wilson, who’s a special advisor to Reverend Jackson. What do you think, in totality, has he meant to not just the city of Chicago, obviously, he’s done a lot here, but for the nation and for the movement?
REVEREND JANETTE WILSON: I think he took the Doctor King movement to the next level. He fought for economic justice and empowerment. And so, while the early the Civil Rights Movement fought for just the legal right to go in places, we fought to own the places, build the buildings.
BROOKS: You two young reverends, let me ask you: what does Reverend Jackson mean to you? You are both pastors, so you may relate to him in a way as a pastor as well.
PASTOR PATRICK D. SHAEFFER, CITY OF FAITH CHRISTIAN CHURCH:
I think one of the things in that footage that was alluded to that some of the young people don’t understand or may not know is Reverend Jackson ran for President. And it was that speech he gave in 1988, I don’t think we had seen African-American have that kind of political engagement.
BROOKS: At the Democratic National Convention--
JACKSON: [IN CLIP] When my name goes into nomination, your name goes in nomination. I was born in the slum, but the slum was not born in me. And it wasn’t born in you! And you can make it.
SHAEFFER: And he does it within the sacred rhetorical framework, as a pastor, that I can appreciate. The idea of rhetoric and how rhetoric from Doctor King, going back to Frederick Douglas to Marcus Garvey – there is a thread, and he continued that thread. Then we see Barack Obama, who is a wonderful rhetorician. And so, he still is using that bully pulpit that he established years ago to speak forth the change that needs to be in our society.
HOLT: And, no pun intended, but he is capable, we’ve seen so many times, of “pushing.” And I’m going to bring you this, Ms. Hartman, because we know that businesses sometimes will do the right thing, but a lot of times they’ll do the right thing, especially if it's good to them. How is he able to spread this notion of economic empowerment by getting to businesses and helping them understand that it’s not only the right thing to do, but good business to spread the wealth?
HERMENE HARTMAN, PUBLISHER, N’DIGO MAGAZINE: Let me say this, Lester. A lot happened post-Doctor King and a lot happened pre-Barack Obama and that was Reverend Jesse Jackson, in between, that bridge, that transition, if you will. In Chicago, what Reverend Jackson did is, when he first came here, is he pulled together the black business community and organized it and structured it and took us beyond Ma and Pa, took us beyond our neighborhood and said, let’s go broader, let’s go wider, let’s build our communities. He did that, and I think the economic development, and as you may know, Chicago is mecca for black business community. And that’s because of him.
HOLT: But he got white businesses to meet those black businesses. How did he do that?
HARTMAN: To do business, to say we spend, McDonalds, a lion’s share of your dollars come from our community. You should do business with us, we should be able to work in your stores, and you should contribute to our community in ways. He made that model. He really kind of made that model.
WILSON: And I think he did from the spiritual side, he was the one person that gave the church a very public platform, and he said to the church, follow in the King model. We have an obligation, a moral obligation, to do what Jesus says, in Luke 3:18. So he began to organize what would be like a church on Saturday, except every Saturday, we were demonstrating.
BROOKS: Let’s hear from a student now.
ASHLEY MOORE: Hello, my name is Ashley Moore and I attend Providence St. Mel High School. Going back to what you guys said, I’m aware that Jesse Jackson ran for President, and I just want to know what specific role that he play in Obama’s election?
HARTMAN: Historically, the role he played is he opened the door. Historically, that’s the role that he played. I don’t know if you’re talking about a specific something that he did for Barack Obama as Barack Obama ran. But historically, he laid the groundwork and he knocked down the door.
LESTER HOLT: But let me drill down a little bit here and, Reverend, maybe you can answer this. In pure mechanical sense, correct me if I’m wrong, Reverend Jackson did not play a very large role in the campaign for Obama and many thought that was for good reason. Was there a method to that?
HARTMAN: Yeah. Let me tell you that.
WILSON: Well, well I think he did.
HARTMAN: Janette, the method was they kept him out. Now, let’s tell the truth. Let’s not be –
HOLT: Who’s “they”? [applause]
HARTMAN: The Obama administration. No, this is important.
WILSON: Well, let me say that.
HARTMAN: No, no, Janette, be quiet. [laughter] Here’s an important point. This is this generational mess that we got going on, is that if you marched and with you was with Doctor King and you been out here getting head whipped, you are of one generation. So now the new generation, and they don’t want to relate. That’s the disconnect that we keep talking about in these relationships. Okay? The reason Reverend Jackson wasn’t more active in the Obama administration is because they didn’t want him.
HOLT: In the campaign?
HARTMAN: Yes. However – go ahead.
WILSON: Reverend Jackson did work for the election for Barack Obama. He spoke about it –
HARTMAN: Voter Registration …
WILSON: -- every place he went, he did voter registration.
HARTMAN: But they locked him out, Janette.
WILSON: He campaigned at his own expense, at the expense of the organization –
HARTMAN: And they locked him out, Janette.
WILSON: -- to support Barack Obama.
BROOKS: We do have another student that would like to ask a question of our panel.
EMANUEL MORRIS: Hi. My name is Emmanuel Morris. I’m a junior at Hales Franciscan High School. Actually, I’m an intern at Operation PUSH. [applause] And the question I have today is, what is Rainbow PUSH Coalition doing to engage and bring awareness to young people regarding the 21st century civil rights issues, such as the matter in Arizona?
PASTOR CHARLES JENKINS, FELLOWSHIP MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: Yeah, I think that Operation PUSH is speaking, I don’t know if our generation is listening. I think that Reverend Jackson continues to be on the cusp of the cutting edge. The organization continues to be at the forefront of issues that affect all generations.
WILSON: And I think Reverend Jackson is open and willing. I think your generation has to make yourself more available, and you will see a beginning, a shift in the broadcast where you see more young people participating and speaking. We’re going to have to have more dialogues like this. But I think we have to look at how we do it so that you’re prepared to just take charge and move. But, you also got to start moving. Because nobody forces you to move.
HARTMAN: Please know Reverend Jackson's on Facebook and has – tweets. Check him out.
In early 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made Selma, Alabama the focus of its efforts to register black voters in the South. That March, protesters attempting to march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were met with violent resistance by state and local authorities.
Jesse Jackson, Chicago, Reverend, Civil Rights, Blacks, African Americans, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, Activism, Community Organizing, Social Justice, Self-Determination, Self-Sufficiency, Boycotts, Business, Employment, Contracts, Presidential Elections, Democratic National Convention, Rhetoric, DuSable Museum, Janette Wilson, Patrick D. Shaeffer, Hermene Hartman, Charles Jenkins, Ashley Moore, Emmanuel Morris