From joking about his Parkinson’s disease to blasting President Trump, the Rev. Jesse Jackson pulled no punches at the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church Jan. 28. While there, he told a full sanctuary that the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not over.
Roughly half those attending the 10:45 a.m. service were not alive when the Civil Rights activist ran for president twice in the 1980s. But that did not diminish their focus as they listened to Jackson say not even President Trump can reverse the historic gains African Americans have made in this country over the years.
“When I saw the big bad football game between Georgia and Alabama, the press just mentioned who organized it and I said Dr. King organized that game,” Jackson preached. “[George] Wallace blocked the school door, he didn’t organize it . . . It would have been illegal to play together or stay together. Our struggle made the new South possible. Michael Jordan couldn’t have gone to North Carolina . . . Bo Jackson couldn’t have gone to Auburn. Our struggle made the new South possible.”
Jackson was referring to June 11, 1963, when the former Alabama governor stood in the door of the University of Alabama to prevent James Meredith from integrating the school that was only for White students at the time.
In addition to talking about Civil Rights gains and challenging President Trump, Jackson told Pastor Grainger Browning and his members “the reason why I am not worried about the Parkinson’s situation is because I have seen a lot in my life. I went to jail when I was 19 . . . [with] seven classmates [for] trying to use a public library in 1960.”
“I saw Mandela come out of jail. I saw the Japanese rebound from being bombed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I saw the Great Wall of China, I have seen a lot in my life and time, and in all that I have seen, I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread,” said Jackson as his voice grew louder. “Job said though you slay me, yet I will trust in you. I know that my redeemer liveth. There is nothing too hard for God.”
Jackson concluded his sermon by coming down to the altar where many young people gathered. He hugged each one and at the end of the service met with Howard University students and children, who got the opportunity to ask questions.
During a press conference after the service Jackson said, “Our challenge today is to deal with the Trump era. Trump has vowed to unravel everything that Dr. King bound and everything that Barack [Obama] bound. What would he [King] do today? Number one, he would not exchange nastiness. [He would] put out fire with water, put out hate with love. It would not be a tweeting contest.”
“We have seen God do so many marvelous things in the past when we didn’t have the right to vote. Now we have power,” Jackson said. “. . . in Alabama one out of every three votes was African American . . . and across the South there are 4 million Black voters unregistered.”