By Don Valentine
This is a picture of Reverend Jackson with his mentor, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, is second on the left, next to Martin Luther King on April 3rd 1968. This was on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated the following day. This visual imprint will last the test of time. It illustrates the impact Reverend Jackson has made on our country.
He was born on October 8th 1941, in Greenville, South Carolina. This was during the pinnacle of racial segregation in the South. He experienced “Colored’’ drinking fountains, restrooms, sitting in the back of the bus and “All Colored” schools. That cesspool of an incubator rallied his spirit!
Reverend Jackson became an activist for Civil Rights as an undergraduate at North Carolina A&T. At the university he joined the esteemed Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He orchestrated protests against segregated theaters, restaurants and libraries. His efforts would garner the attention of the national leader for Black equality, the Reverend Dr. King.
After he completed graduate school at the Chicago Theological Seminary, he went on to become one of King’s trusted young aids. Based on King’s mentoring, Reverend Jackson established and headed the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] office in Chicago. The SCLC was a product of the MIA [Montgomery Improvement Association] which successfully staged a 381 day boycott of the Montgomery segregated bus system.
The SCLC was a springboard for Jackson to lead their “Operation Breadbasket”. That was a successful project to feed our people and not rely on the government for help! From that achievement he had the momentum to create his own civil rights vehicle: “Operation PUSH” [People United to Serve Humanity] and that later evolved into the “Rainbow Coalition”.
Reverend Jackson’s greatest accomplishment, aside from being an unofficial U.S. ambassador, was becoming the first legitimate Black man to run for President.
Recognition is deserved for his predecessors George Edwin Taylor. In 1904 the executive committee of the newly formed National Negro Liberty Party asked “Judge” Taylor to be their candidate for the office of president of the United States. In 1897, the party was known as the Ex-Slave Petitioners’ Assembly. It was one of several leagues or assemblies that had formed at the end of the century to support bills working their way through the United States Congress to grant pensions to former slaves. These leagues claimed that membership in an association was required to qualify for a pension, if and when Congress passed such a bill.
Channing E. Phillips. At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago, Channing E. Phillips, a minister and civil rights leader, was nominated for President of the United States. He received 67.5 votes. Then came Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm, US Congresswoman from New York, was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination and participated in the Democratic primaries in numerous states. She campaigned in 12 states and won 28 delegates. In the balloting at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, she gained additional votes from disaffected Democrats and ended with a total of 152 delegates. That was short of the necessary amount. A candidate needs 1,991 of the 3,979 pledged delegates to win the Democratic Presidential nomination on the first ballot.
They were courageous, but Reverend Jackson was the first Black candidate to be considered seriously. In his 1984 Presidential run he won 21% of the primary vote. Then in his 1988 candidacy he won 29% of the primary vote.
There is no argument that without his pursuit of the “American Dream”, a skinny Black kid in Hawaii would not see the possibility of being President. Later his political shadow would motivate Madam Vice President Kamala Harris to run for office.
While Parkinson’s disease has diminished his public persona, his will is still strong. Jackson was an advocate of the Rainbow community, long before it became a “Posh” cause. His stellar resume for the common bond of humanity is best summed up by the French President Emmanuel Macron, who awarded Reverend Jackson with the highest honor in France.
That is “Commander of the Legion of Honor”!
Happy Birthday Reverend Jackson – “C’est Bon”!