candidate talks down to African Americans and he would like to dismember a certain part of Obama’s body. While that crude comment hurt Jackson’s standing among African-Americans excited about the prospect of electing the nation’s first Black president, it does not alter the fact that Obama would not be in the White House without Jackson’s presidential campaigns.
Sharpton was uncharacteristically diplomatic in how he addressed the relationship between Obama and Jackson, noting that after Dr. King had helped Carl Stokes become the first Black mayor of Cleveland, he was excluded from the victory celebration.
“The misnomer is that students watching think because you weren’t at the party that you had nothing to do with the achievement,” Sharpton said. “Don’t get confused by the invitation list to the party with those who created what you are celebrating.”
At the tribute to Jackson, he was celebrated for developing a long list of leaders, including Sharpton, former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, political strategist Donna Brazile, activist Marcia Dyson, Assistant Agriculture Secretary Joseph Leonard, Black Leadership Forum Executive Director Gary Flowers, ACLU Washington Director Laura W. Murphy and Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association For Equal Opportunity (NAFEO).
Rev. Freddie Haynes of Dallas, in what he called an oratorical thank-you note to Rev. Jesse Jackson, spoke about the impact of Jackson’s presidential campaigns.
Looking at Jackson, he recalled: “After your speech I was in the barber shop – and you know how we kick it in the barber shop in the ‘hood – and some brothers were talking about, ‘Did you hear Jesse?’ Jesse. Jesse. Jesse. And I wasn’t feeling them disrespecting Rev. Jesse Jackson like that. So I said, ‘Do you know Rev. Jesse Jackson?’ And the brother jumped right back at me and said, ‘I don’t know Jesse, but Jesse knows me.'”
Sharpton said Jesse Jackson led the way in urging children to spend less time in front of TV, curbing violence in the Black community and getting youth to believe that “I Am Somebody.”
Sharpton stated, “In many ways, I would say that from the economic fights from the end of the decade he started in the ’70s to the political empowerment that resulted in the first Black attorney general and the first Black president to the whole concept of coalition building, he has defined the last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century.”
Michael Eric Dyson put it this way: “Like Muhammad Ali, he shook up the world.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.