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Clarence Page, a Washington-based syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, often appears on television talk shows and follows no party line. A column of his in the January 23 Newsday was titled: "Jesse's Work Goes On, With or Without Him."
Citing a very pertinent point, Page wrote: "As some raise the question of whether Jackson can recover [from the disclosure that he has fathered at least one child out of wedlock], another question comes to my mind: Why should we care? Whether Jackson's profile is high or low, the issues he addresses live on. Leaders tend to appear out of the masses when they are needed most. Leaders come in all colors, but black America certainly has no shortage of them these days. We have leaders today in walks of life where blacks could not even find employment opportunities a few short decades ago."
In recent weeks, I have been speaking often with Joe Madison, formerly a national board member of the NAACP and now a widely listened-to talk show host on Washington, D.C.'s WOL-AM. Mostly, we talk about how to get George W. Bush and the press to pay attention to slavery and genocide in Sudan. But Jesse Jackson has come into the conversation.
"You remember," Joe said, "how in the old cowboy movies, once they killed the chief, all the other Indians went home? We African Americans have to get away from that. In the '50s and '60s, our leadership was so narrowly defined because our opportunities were narrowly defined.
"But now," Joe Madison continued, "there are many prominent black leadersin business, in the media, in the churchesand there are 40 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. We're past being concerned with a single Indian chief. It's the white media that creates a Jesse Jacksona chief of usand now they're involved in appointing a replacement. We're past that."
Joe Madison is himself a case in point. For several years, the new American abolitionist movement has been trying to get Jesse Jackson to at least publicly condemn slavery in Sudan. Madison and others felt that since Jackson was a key force in focusing public consciousness on apartheid in South Africa, he would be of great help in combating the enslavement and gang rapes in Sudan that I've been writing about in this column.
I left messages for Jackson, which were not answered. So did close friends of his. But Joe Madison is no longer interested in enlisting Jesse Jackson's aid. Joe himself went to the south of Sudan, talked to liberated slaves, and now speaks about them on the air, as well as in newspaper and magazine interviews. He is currently deeply involved in trying to get action from the Bush administration, and he does not rule out the kind of civil disobedience that awakened national outrage about South Africa's apartheid.
In Boston, Reverend Eugene Rivers, who is head of a group of 20 black ministers, has been effectively engaged in a wide range of civil rights actionsas well as intimidating drug dealers out of the neighborhoods, at some peril to himself. Rivers told the January 19 Boston Globe:
"There is a whole new era of black politics. Jesse represents the last major figure of the civil rights era that began in 1950 in Montgomeryit was a 45-year run." Unlike Jackson, Rivers does not believe in total dependence on the Democratic Party to get actual, abiding change for blacks. And he has also been directing his considerable energies to raising consciousness about the AIDS crisis in Africa.
Meanwhile, a Republican, the Reverend Dr. Christopher A. Bullock, of the Progressive Baptist Church, is the new president of the South Side Chicago chapter of the NAACP. It is, The New York Times reports (January 13), "the oldest NAACP chapter in the country, but one that has shriveled to a shadow of its former level of influence."
"As black people," Bullock told the Times, "we are not a monolithic people. I think the new generations of black leaders will bring a different style of leadership."
While involved in such issues as police brutality, Bullock is also concerned with accountability for predators within the black community. "We have presided," he says, "over the demise of our communities. George W. Bush is not slinging crack on the South Side. Mayor Daley is not breaking into our homes and stealing our TVs."
Bullock, the Times notes, "still favors affirmative action and supports the NAACP's federal lawsuit against Florida election officials claiming widespread disenfranchisement of black voters in that state."
Among the reasons he left the Democratic Party, Bullock says, were "the failure of public housing and the fact that the black vote was taken for granted."
Meanwhile, there has been some revealing investigative reporting on Jesse Jackson's Wall Street Project.
The most extensive story appeared in the February 4 Chicago Sun-Times ("Jackson's Protests Benefit His Family, Friends"). The investigation begins: "Faced with objections and protest threats from Jackson, American multinationals have pledged millions of dollars to Jackson's charities and multi-million-dollar deals for his designated minority businesses. Some of those deals go to companies with business ties to Jackson's own family."
The abundantly detailed story has names and dates, but, as of this writing, has not been picked up by The New York Times. (Is the Timesafraid of being called racist?) Additional details were on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, on February 1. Bill O'Reilly's program also provides a transcript on request.
In New York, Peter Noel has covered some aspects here, but the reporter who has been consistently on the case is the New York Post's Rod Dreher ("How Jesse's PUSH Is Pulling In $$$" on February 4, and most tellingly, "Does IRS Let Jesse's Group Violate Tax Law?" on February 7). Again, as of this writing, the Times has been silent. And The Wall Street Journal's reporters have so far missed much of the story.
Anyway, while Jackson still receives adulation at public gatherings, his time is running out. Next: Jackson is not leaving a vacuum.