Following the historic election of the first Black president of the United States of America, and more Black millionaires, entertainers and television personalities than ever, challenges remain for the Black community. Blacks suffer disproportionately in the areas of unemployment, health, crime and violence. With the worst economic downturn in decades, access to higher education for many Black teenagers remains elusive and Black families and neighborhoods are reeling from the foreclosure crisis.
With that as a backdrop, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizen Education Fund held its 38th annual conference in Chicago June 27–July 1 themed “A More Perfect Union–Targeted Stimulus: The Key to Reconstruction.” The Final Call’s Ashahed M. Muhammad spoke with the civil rights leader.
The Final Call (FC:)The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is legendary and your work and outreach is as well. What are some issues that you want to have addressed as part of the agenda coming out of the conference?
Jesse Jackson (JJ:) The Supreme Court just ruled against Affirmative Action. Many Blacks who have contracts will lose them; many who do not have them will not get them. That was a big blow to equal opportunity. We must be prepared to fight legally and legislatively to revive affirmative action.
The Stimulus is getting to the banks but not getting down to the people. The banks have been bailed out, the neighborhoods have not been bailed out. We must fight now to get the money down to the roots and not just to the leaves. Thousands have come from around the world this week and we’ve hit the ground running.
FC: President Obama over the past few months has been allowed to do certain things, but some of his political opponents have tried to hamstring him in certain areas. Do you have an assessment?
JJ: Well the National Rifle Association is trying to hamstring him, they insist upon having easy access to semi-automatic weapons which is making us to look like the most dangerous nation on the earth. The 25 most dangerous communities in America of poverty stricken and poor are in Chicago. Jobs are out; drugs and guns in, that’s a big deal.
FC: This past weekend, I heard you speak a little bit about your meeting with the family of Michael Jackson, are you prepared to say anything further as it relates to that right now?
JJ: Well let’s pray for them. The family is in mourning. They have not had time to mourn focusing on the bizarre behavior of the doctor who has not called them, he didn’t talk to the coroner, who hired a lawyer; an inquiry became an investigation. We should give the family the comfort of our prayers and support.
FC: Some have questioned whether the Civil Rights struggle is relevant. With yourself, Reverend Al Sharpton, other civil right leaders on the front line, is it?
JJ: Of course it’s relevant. We need equal opportunity. Equal access. Jobs and justice continuously.
FC: Thank you.
(For more information regarding the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s upcoming social, economic and political initiatives, go to www.rainbowpush.org.)