This week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. led hundreds of civil and economics rights enthusiasts to center of political action, Capitol Hill, where he and members of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition reiterated their message: to chart a new a future for African-American youth in the wake of the emergence of Donald Trump.
Taking place at the Rayburn Building, the gathering marked the 10th annual year of the conference and served as a way to paint a futuristic outlook on Black America, where Jackson vehemently noted, “The work is not done.”
“We do not have the right to do less than our best and expect the best,” Jackson said. “This Christmas, let’s not just give our children a basketball, encouraging sports, but also a laptop to encourage the ever-changing technology. There is nothing that students accomplish in India or Asia that we can’t do. The only thing that is different is the priority. We prioritize basketball and football and we do it quite well. But we must change the priorities and teach our children in the way that they should go.”
As part of the conference, students from the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts received a unique opportunity to accompany Jackson and take notes while he addressed social, political and educational concerns before members of Congress, including Congressmen G.K Butterfield and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. Jackson asked them to share some of their experiences with the criminal justice system for those young scholars interested in pursuing policy development.
“With the criminal justice system you have a choice . . . and once you make the choice, the rest is easy. That choice is the purpose of your legislation. If your purpose is to reduce crime and save money, then you know what to do. And if the purpose of your legislation is to codify a bunch of simple-minded slogans and soundbites to help you get elected, then you know what to do,” Scott said.
After the meetings at the Rayburn Building, participants gathered for the Inaugural Ministers Luncheon, held at the AT&T Forum on Technology, Entertainment and Policy building where the civil rights leader, his son and a host of ministries encouraged greater intentionality within the Black community, resetting priorities and, of course, voting.
“I hear a lot of people tell my dad, ‘I love your messages, but back during civil rights times’ … and my father always listens politely. Then, he withdraws his hand and walks away shaking his head,” Jonathan Jackson said.
“‘What do they mean, back during civil rights?’ he’d always say to me. ‘We are in civil rights now,'” the younger Jackson said. “And that is because we are more in need of civil rights now than ever before. Don’t just sit and talk about the legacy my father and countless others have created. Go out and create your own.”
Before the afternoon concluded, the elder Jackson also stated that Black Americans remain abysmally low when it comes to those who exercise their right to vote. He pointed to the numbers of Blacks who voted last week in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where only one in five voted.
He then invited the former pastor of the District’s historic Metropolitan Baptist Church, Senior Servant Emeritus the Rev. Dr. H. Beecher Hicks Jr. to give the final call to action.
“We thought our battle was over, but no, no. Just as God spoke a word to Isaiah, so now is our time. People had been calling Isaiah a prophet and a preacher but God said he now needed a watchman because the nation was in trouble,” Hicks said. “So as our nation lays in peril under the guise of a man down the street who wishes to put up walls and only bring in his friends and people who look like him, we need a watchman. I believe God has ordained some of you to stand up and speak out with high moral and courage. The solution to our problems lie only in our own hands, so I ask, ‘Watchman, What of the Night?'”