By Clare Bratten
NASHVILLE, TN — The Reverend Jesse Jackson, noted civil rights activist and political leader, met this week with church groups, legislators, and Tennessee State University students arguing the urgency of getting out the vote among the Black Community.
“I said today to the legislators that across the south today, there’s no Bull Connor to stop us, there’s no George Wallace, and yet there are four million blacks unregistered –2.2 million were registered and didn’t vote. That equals Trump,” said Jackson at a gathering at Capers Memorial CME Church.
Jackson, age 76, was diagnosed this past fall with Parkinson’s disease so this mission has particular urgency for him.
“Every high school senior should come across stage with a diploma in one hand and a voter card in the other. It can be done –we just need to do it. Students at Fisk and TSU who want liberal wages ought to be able to vote for it,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that at a meeting at Lane College in Jackson, TN he registered all the students there – 1,001 students.
Jackson tied the issue of low voter turnout and building relationships and coalitions across color lines with the lack of legislation to address the pervasive poverty that extends across Tennessee.
“Fifty-four percent of the [U.S.] budget is spent on the military. And yet we have 25,000 soldiers on food stamps. Looking at Tennessee, you’ve got so many poor white people in the Smoky and Appalachian Mountains. We cannot give up on relationships. We’ve got people here in these mountains who have never had medical care before. A coal miner dies every six hours of black lung disease. Every six hours today, “ Jackson said.
“And [some of those] people are fighting against Obamacare–but they want Affordable Health Care. Anybody fighting Affordable Care but don’t want Obama Care, wants an omelet but don’t want the eggs.”
Jackson urged people to join the Rainbow PUSH [People United to Serve Humanity] coalition and work with varied constituencies. He wants to establish fifty key communities to start activist meetings and voter registration drives to address the issues of poverty, health care, and equity which have gotten worse under the current administration.
“The fewer and fewer got more and more and the more and more got less and less,” he said.
“You’ve got to meet people and build relationships. The key to the kingdom is relationships. People do business with people that they know, trust and like. Don’t know you, don’t trust you, don’t like you. No business,” he said repeating with the audience in a call and response with Bishop Henry M. Williamson, Sr., Presiding Prelate of Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church.
“We have work to do. This year is the year of great possibilities — 2018. I’m really convinced that we can take the House and Senate back this year. But we will not inherit it, we’ve got to work and make it happen,” Jackson said.