Jesse Jackson inspires Democratic foot soldiers

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Jesse Jackson speaking to crowd of engaged volunteers. Picture by Naari Honor.

“We don’t have to sit in the back of the bus,” Reverend Jesse Jackson said. “We won that battle”.

“We can sit here side by side, black and white together; we won that battle.”

“We can vote; we won that battle.”

“We can early vote; we won that battle.”

Jackson sat in the main room of the Guilford County Democratic Party office in Greensboro on Oct. 28, to speak to a diverse crowd of volunteers prepared to go out into the field to aid North Carolina residents in the process of early voting. Sitting on a stool, he shared an experience from his travels that helped to reinforce the need for individuals to register to vote.

“I spoke to a group a youth down in Ferguson, Mo. after Michael Brown had been killed,” Jackson said. “I said, ‘Let’s vote,’ and one said, ‘I’m not going to vote because I’m not into the system.’ I said, ‘Would you like to be in the jury box when the killer comes to court?’ And he said, ‘Sure.’ I said, ‘Only those registered to vote can serve on juries.’”

Jackson, known for his ability to inspire a crowd with his wordsmithing prowess proceeded to lead the crowd into an impromptu call-and-response chant.

“Only those who are registered to vote can serve on juries,” Jackson said, and the audience repeated.

While the main purpose of Jackson’s visit was to motivate the volunteers and staff of the Democratic office, he took the opportunity to also remind the crowd, who poured out into the hallway of the office building to hear him speak, what they were voting for.

“Racial justice masters,” Jackson said. “Affordable healthcare matters. Gender equality matters.”

However, Jackson’s visit was not solely a campaign for early voting, but a plea to North Carolinians to support presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In an earlier phone interview Jackson shared his candid opinion of presidential candidate Clinton.

“Her commitment to protect our voting rights is a step in the right direction,” Jackson said.

But has Clinton earned the African American vote?

“Yes she has, given the choices we have,” Jackson said. “When I first met her, it was in Delta Mississippi giving legal help to the poor. When I met her again, she was a governor’s wife in Arkansas opening the doors of the mansion to black people for the first time. She worked for the Children’s Defense fund with [Marian Wright] Edelman. She at least raises the right questions. She is earning the vote of those who care about progress and change, and that certainly includes African Americans.”

Why does Jackson, who ran for president as a progressive Democrat in 1988, support Clinton, whose husband launched a successful bid for president four years later on a more centrist platform?

“I support Hillary because she is in the tradition of Dr. King and Mandela,” Jackson said. “She supports to protect the right to vote. She is on the right side of history. The crown rule of democracy is to protect the right to vote, and she says the vote of protection is paramount. Trump says it is a fraud.”

Before Jackson turned to leave the crowded room, he led the audience in a spirited chant of, “Hillary will win!”

“Vote with your hope and not your fears,” Jackson instructed. “And when you vote it’s not the perfect choice but it’s the sound choice.”