I recently gave a talk at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, IN on how multinational corporations, major media companies, and the two major political parties in the United States coalesced to create explicit bias against Jesse Jackson, and in doing so, played off the implicit bias of the audience. Citing Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s seminal, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, I explained how in the interest of manufacturing consent, media companies “demolish dissent,” using the work of Jesse Jackson as an emblematic example.
Here is a video of the discussion that took place on May 24th for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History with Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and me. A couple of disclaimers are necessary:
1. The museum director, in his introduction, said that my book, “I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters,” is a memoir that Rev. Jackson and I wrote together. The director, clearly, did not even look at the title of the book, or the museum’s own advertisements for the event. While the interviews Jackson gave were crucial, and provide the heart of the book, “I Am Somebody” is my biography, independently written, of Jesse Jackson.
2. There were numerous technical difficulties. Therefore, if you watch, you might notice a few abrupt and awkward cuts.
Despite these unfortunate errors, it is a great discussion. Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke with characteristic brilliance and inspiration about human rights, progressive politics, and his own battles for genuine democracy. Our moderator, Aaron Bryant, showed some wonderful photographs from the museum’s archives of a young Jesse Jackson leading the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.
One of the great gifts of my life is the development of a relationship with one of the world’s leading human rights leaders, and one of the United States’ leading dissidents, Jesse Jackson. The product of our six year conversation is my new book, from publisher I.B. Tauris,I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters. A blend of biography, political analysis, and journalism, I Am Somebody offers a bracing examination of Jackson’s momentous life, and a thorough dissection of American politics – from racial injustice to foreign policy.
In his foreword, Michael Eric Dyson calls I Am Somebody “brilliant.” Political scientist extraordinaire, Christina Greer, writes that it is “for anyone interested in presidential politics, Black American political history, and the link between the civil rights movement and modern political uprisings.”
James Felder, a historian and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, argues that I Am Somebody belongs in “every home and library.”
The most moving and informative assessment came from Jesse Jackson himself. He said, “It is the best and most thorough thing ever written about my work.”
Jackson and I had a wonderful conversation for the How To Academy in London:
Jackson and I also appeared together on “N’Digo Studio,” a television program hosted by Chicago journalist and media pioneer, Hermene Hartman, who also interviewed me for N’Digo magazine.
For Patheos‘ feature on the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma – the real birth of American democracy – I interviewed Rev. Jesse Jackson about his Christian faith, the history of the religion, and how he applies his own spiritual devotion to his political activism and civil rights leadership.
From the essay:
The central problem of American politics and culture predates the country’s existence by nearly two thousand years. It is the same conflict at the heart of a close cousin to the American experience.
Sitting in the office of Jesse Jackson, whose political activism and civil rights leadership often cause people to forget he was first and is still an ordained minister, easily becomes a church experience when he launches into a sermon. All I needed to do was remind him of the topic of our interview (religion in America), and he transformed his desk into a pulpit and my chair into a pew, giving a homespun homily connecting religion with politics, theology with culture, and the past with the present.
Read Rev. Jackson’s profound insights and the rest of the essay at Patheos.
I recently had the pleasure and honor of spending Jesse Jackson’s birthday with the civil rights leader and his staff.
Following him from event to event at Chicago’s poor public schools, and discussing a wide variety of issues, gave a perfect demonstration of the layers of discrimination and obstruction that exist in American culture.
Jackson said that “we must have the courage to reimagine our struggle.” The reimagining requires that we see the layers at the lowest level, but also the highest level in corporate America and the world of high tech.
I recently had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying a two hour conversation with a hero of mine, Jesse Jackson.
I told Jackson that the work he did, along with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and others, not only freed black people in the United States from a brutal system of apartheid, oppression, and exploitation (work that continues), but also saved me – a white man born in 1985 – from inheriting the role of occupier, oppressor, and executioner. Albert Camus wrote that people must aspire to live as “neither victims or executioners.” The “Parks-King-Jackson” injection of freedom and justice into American democracy empowered all people to enjoy such aspiration.
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, however, I do not write about the civil rights movement, but the electoral extension of the civil rights movement – the Presidential Campaigns of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and ’88.
Important and liberating, Jackson’s campaigns deserve much more attention and celebration than the Democratic Party – often ungrateful – and the mainline media – often stupid and destructive – gives them.
In my new essay, I’m happy to, I hope, begin the reversal of such an ignorant trend.