Rolling Out

Rev. Jesse Jackson’s tireless PUSH, promoting MLK’s dream decades later


After he witnessed his friend and mentor’s assassination on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968, Jesse Louis Jackson became a minister. Today, Rev. Jackson, 74, is one of the foremost American civil rights activists, a community servant and a Baptist minister.

The founder of Rainbow/PUSH has worked tirelessly in the past 48 years since Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, continually campaigning for equality and at many times engaging in civil disobedience, demanding jobs, access to capital and business development for every American. Rev. Jackson is still fighting, and at times at a great personal cost.

A former politician, Rev. Jackson ran for U.S. president in 1984 and 1988 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000 from former President Bill Clinton. His consecutive bids for the Democratic nomination removed the barriers and broke the proverbial glass ceiling, making it a reality to have a successful African American presidential candidate (Barack Obama) and thus win the White House.

Rolling out had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Rev. Jackson this week, just minutes after he spoke at Natalie Cole’s funeral. With his signature rhythmic oratory and eloquent and sonorous tone, he shares his perspective on the millennial civil rights movement.

Comparatively, who are the young leaders who exemplify the ideals and practices of Dr. King?
Reverend Al Sharpton; Congressman Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District; Jill C. Morrison; Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Representative of District 14 in the Missouri Senate; Ras J. Baraka, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and Amiri Baraka’s son; Marylin Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore; and my son, Jonathan Jackson.

What are some action items and messages young people should be conveying on social media?
This year, there are 27 million Blacks eligible to vote, 17 million registered, and 10 million unregistered. If you buy more than you have and vote less than you have, that’s a formula for disaster. You must save more than you have and vote all that you have —  that’s the formula. Clearly, student loan debt makes education less and less affordable. Continue to fight police brutality and the cover-up killings of Black people. And continue the war on poverty.

What is PUSH’s five-year plan?
Expand our relations in the private sector, automotives, Silicon Valley, and the peace movement. And continue to vote. Our work in Silicon Valley is the best growing industry in America. We’re building positions, jobs, contracts and investing.

What does today’s community activism look like?
Black Lives Matter, on the one hand. More and more young people are running for office and winning, running for student council and state rep and winning. You’re going to see more activists become political leaders.

Do you think today’s activism is effective?
This year is a big test. We had the numbers to take Congress back. This year is a big test for our struggle because we’re so threatened by the right wing. They’re fighting immigration … everything we’re fighting for is under attack.

What should we know and be concerned about in the 2016 presidential and municipal elections that no one is talking about?
Urban and rural reconstruction. The gap between the rich and poor is getting wider. We’re focused on attacking each other, but we’re not attacking growing poverty and the growing prison industrial complex.

Here we’ve outlined a list of individuals who each embody Dr. King’s legacy of advocating for justice and change. Whether it is on Hollywood’s big screens or holding a political office, they raise their voices and these individuals are following in the service-driven legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

SELMA, AL - JANUARY 18: EDITORIAL USE ONLY John Legend, Common, Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, and Oprah Winfrey attend a commemorative march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on January 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures) *** Local Caption *** John Legend; Common; Ava DuVernay; David Oyelowo; Oprah Winfrey
John Legend; Common; Ava DuVernay; David Oyelowo; Oprah Winfrey attend the 50th anniversary commemorative Bloody Sunday march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. (Photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

Ava DuVernay, 43, marked her own trail on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, when she directed history. Fifty years after Bloody Sunday (March 7, 1965), DuVernay was the only director who brought the film Selma, a dramatization of the 1965 protests in Alabama led by Martin Luther King Jr., to life. The film received two Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards nominations in 2015.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Director Ava DuVernay speaks at the BlogHer15 event on July 18, 2015 at the Hilton Hotel in New York, NY. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media
NEW YORK- JULY 18: Director Ava DuVernay speaks at the BlogHer15 event on July 18, 2015, at the Hilton Hotel in New York. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media

DuVernay is working on an upcoming TV series titled “Queen Sugar” for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, which she’s set to write, direct, and executive produce.
She was honored as one of six “Sheroes” by Barbie. The honor included a limited-edition doll sculpted in her likeness. The DuVernay doll sold out within minutes of its release.

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