By Yussuf J. Simmonds, Managing Editor, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –
(NNPA) This year marks the 13th Annual Rainbow PUSH Citizenship Education Fund awards dinner.
In addition to a Leadership Luncheon Forum focusing on Jobs, Business and the Economy, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH Citizenship Education Fund (CEF) will hold the 13th annual awards dinner to celebrate his 70th birthday and 50 years of service.
Rev. Jackson has often taken the lead in challenging America to do in deeds, what it says in words - to provide positive action to its pretty-sounding words. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he has sought to be inclusive and to establish just and humane priorities for the benefit of all people together on common ground across lines of race, culture, class, gender and belief.
The consistency of his work, in providing for the downtrodden, is a hallmark of the Reverend and Rainbow PUSH CEF. In addition to his work in human and civil rights, and nonviolent social change, Rev. Jackson believes that education is a leveling force and through the CEF, he helps students to realize their dreams.
According to PUSH CEF's website, "A hallmark of Reverend Jackson's work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities and correctional facilities encouraging excellence, inspiring hope and challenging young people to study diligently and stay drug-free." And to that end, CEF is a force in helping accomplish those goals.
The Sentinel spoke with Rev. Jackson about the two upcoming events and he said:
"We've come full circle from where Dr. King left us. Dr. King last movement was about the 'Poor People's Campaign;' we occupied the mall in Washington and we called it ' Resurrection City .'
"Today, they're occupying Wall Street and really, the agenda is the same: economic justice; we're free but not equal. Too few people have too much concentrated wealth made possible by government gifts and breaks. Too many people have too little and are neglected by government policy."
He emphasized the theme of the upcoming leadership luncheon - jobs , business and the economy - and his focus seemed to be a prelude of what's-to-come at that leadership forum.
"There are too many expensive unnecessary wars; plants are closing and jobs are leaving. Therefore, we must now restructure our economic priorities.
"The coming election will be a big deal and will determine whether the nation goes forward or backwards. The right wing is trying to restore the Tenth Amendment about state's rights to undermine voting rights and workers' rights to collective bargaining.
"Meanwhile, the issue of racial justice must be put back on the front burner because Black people are usually the last hired and the first fired. So here we go again - lost the most jobs in the recession; the most foreclosed homes; number one in infant mortality; number one in short life expectancy ... so we must use our strength to fight against these odds."
Then speaking briefly on the possible second term of President Obama, the Reverend continued, "It (the possible second term) must produce some targeted focus on the disparities in healthcare, and employment, and denial of access to capital ... and more of our youth in jail. There must be some targeted focus."
At the upcoming awards dinner, celebrating Rev. Jackson's birthday, the 2011 honorees will include Al Davis (posthumously); Jenifer Lewis - Actress, Aunt from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Soul Food, The Brothers; Hill Harper - CSI New York - actor, motivational speaker and author; Tommie Smith - Mexico City Olympic Champion; and Harry Johnson - CEO King Memorial Foundation.