Monday, January 15, 2007

Rev. Jesse Jackson

I grew up in the sixties, a very explosive time in our country's history. My parents were very active in the community and the Civil Rights movement. My father was involved in the self-help housing program, the PTA, the NAACP and of course the church. There is an unconfirmed rumor that he was a member of the Black Panthers.

Our home was the hub of activity. Local leaders such as Dr. Austin Meade were frequent guests in my home. Trips to the distant city of Washington D.C. were a common event for my Dad. He participated in these activities and held down his gig at the local steel mill. My mother took care of us while my Dad was trying to save our community.

My folks made sure that black reading material and the recorded versions of the King speeches were available to me and my brothers. The radio was always tuned into the local black radio station. All of the national figures and events were debated at the dinner table. Racial injustice, the loss of King and the Kennedys and the Vietnam War were the notable topics. Lectures by Alex Haley, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Andrew Young and the eyewitness to history, Rev. Jesse Jackson were family field trips. Looking back, my Mom was more militant than my Dad. She preferred Malcolm X over King's non-violent style.

It has been over a decade since I have sat in the audience to listen Rev. Jackson speak. I grew up in the church, so he spoke to me on so many levels. He was smart and passionate. He looked like me and was someone other than family who moved me to be proud of my beautiful brown skin.

I loved it when he managed to make changes through economic boycotts of commonly used products. How awesome was it when he brokered the release of hostages? As I matured, and the good Reverend was in the middle of stuff, I began to question, sadly, his motivations. The recent Michael Richard rant comes to mind.

Is he a historical figure whose place is that of elder statesman? Is he still relevant? These questions are the foundation of my personal intellectual struggle with Rev. Jackson. The mere mention of his name evokes a response by everyone.

Rev. Jackson is on speed dial for what "they" have deemed black issues. I guess it is less sexy when he speaks to working class issues such as education, poverty and lack of jobs. These topics may show a less divisive side of his message. Maybe that is the point.

It makes me crazy when "they" say pick a leader.

Or begs the question, why are we as black people entitled to just one leader? How come we can't have at least two? Is this the same faceless group of people who have taken snippets of Rev. Jackson and made him a caricature of himself? Why doesn't the MSM reach out to less flamboyant leaders in our community? I guess that would require some effort on their part. These are the same folks who waved their flags while this administration lied us into a senseless war.

I read Chris Rabb's post this morning which reminded me of Rev. Jackson's good works.

Maybe it is time for me to spend more unfiltered time with Rev. Jackson.

Thanks for the reminder Chris.

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